Just over a year ago I had the opportunity to represent the Meg's Miles Supporters Facebook group at the first Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago. Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team hosted the summit believing great things happen when people are in community with one another. Well, as fate would have it, I met two awesome women while I was there who've become permanent fixtures in my community. And today, thanks to the friendships we've formed since then, the three of us are going to dare to do something great together.
The story starts with Jodi Stoner. Jodi was actually attending the summit representing I Run 4. Shortly after meeting Jodi at the summit I interviewed her for my TwoTim47 podcast. I was intrigued by Jodi's devotion to a 7 year old boy named River. River has spina bifida and Jodi runs every mile of the thousands she runs to raise awareness about the disease, and to let River know just how much she loves and respects him.
I recently interviewed Jodi again after she ran the Boston Marathon for River. As I listened to her recount the challenging conditions of this year's race, and how her love for River magnetically pulled her to the finish line, I knew Jodi and I were destined to work together for the long haul to make a difference in the world.
Jodi must have felt the same destiny. Shortly after that second interview Jodi reached out to me with an idea. Every year she hosts the "Run to Jodi's House" half marathon. Friends and locals register to run a local 13.1 mile route that ends at Jodi's house in Florida. Jodi let me know this year's proceeds were going to go to my TwoTim47 mission.
The Run to Jodi's house half will take place November 11, 2018.
That's where the other friend I met in Chicago comes into the story.
Laura Baumgardner is a special needs teacher in Pontiac, Illinois. Each year she and her students host the Run for Respect 5K in an effort to eliminate the word "retarded" and replace it with the word "respect." The spring before meeting Laura I'd actually run this race virtually in Virginia to support them. Like I do when I run any race to support a great cause, I felt fulfilled.
While I was in Chicago at the summit I had a chance to meet Laura and three of her students. Hanging out with them made Run for Respect more than a cause for me. Laura and her kids adopted me into a shared vision. A shared belief. A beautiful idea that no matter who we are, no matter what labels or diagnosis get attached to us, we are all exactly the same under the beautiful principle that we all deserve love and respect.
I walked away from that meeting with Laura and her students - Mitch, Nick and Austin - knowing I wanted to be a bigger part of their journey to promote respect.
So this past April, on my birthday, I ran my longest run ever - 27 miles. For this 54 year old man, that took a big effort. But knowing each stride was for a larger than life group of kids and their hearts for loving other people the way other people deserve to be loved made it worth it.
Shortly after that run was done, I knew I'd have to do something bigger for them this year. I mean, we were in this thing together now. I had no idea what it would be. Then my friend Jodi announced she was going to use the money raised at her half marathon to support TwoTim47.
I was out running shortly after Jodi told me about her idea. I was moved by it. Then I started thinking about it. I wanted to come up with a special way to use the money she was going to raise. That's when it hit me, this natural link between Jodi and Laura and their common mission to fight for respect for the people they love. And by extension, they fight for respect for everyone.
So here we go. Here's where my running ideas often turn to running craziness. But I love what Jodi and Laura do so much. They deserve some craziness. It's a craziness that's been kindling in me since I interviewed JP Caudill on my podcast. JP ran 7 marathons in 7 days on seven different continents. I left that interview wondering if I could ever run 7 marathons in 7 days.
Next year's Run for Respect 5k is going to be on April 13, 2019. In the week leading up to that 5k, which I will run in Pontiac, Illinois with Laura and her kids, I will run a marathon on 7 consecutive days leading up to the race. One for each letter in the word RESPECT. I'll run in a city or state or community that corresponds with a letter in respect.
So on April 5, 2019, I will get my 7 marathons in 7 days Run for Respect started. The first letter in respect is "R" - so I'll get the challenge started right here in Richmond. Where does it go from there?My plan is to let Laura and her beautiful kids help pick some of the subsequent locations. I will let my TwoTim47.com Patreon supporters help pick a stop or two as well. (Learn more about supporting TwoTim47 on Patreon here: www.patreon.com/twotim47)
The good news is you can help out without having to run one single marathon. A half, maybe, but only one.
Jodi is opening her race to virtual runners. So for $25 you can register for Jodi's race, get a cool medal, and support my 7 marathons in 7 days Run for Respect. The more money raised, the bigger the possibilities get in terms of where I'll run those next 6 marathons after getting it started in Richmond.
I plan to use each of those marathon locations to spread a message of respect. Respect for those battling to end disrespectful words. Respect for those too frequently called retarded instead of being wrapped in love and respect. Respect for those battling health challenges like spina bifida.
I'm going to run 7 marathons in 7 days to promote the idea that respect starts with an internal mandate that we love and respect one another, not an external demand that others earn it. I think we spend too much time outlining, maybe even dictating, conditions under which we'll be loving, instead of shaping ourselves in the image of a God who offers unconditional love.
My goal over the course of these 7 days will be to spend a lot of time shaping myself into someone who offers that kind of unconditional love. If I can move some hearts in that direction with me, then I'll feel confident all 186.5 miles that week (7 marathons and a 5k) will run us all a lot closer to a world of respect that can outrun hate and judgement.
If you'd like to register to run the Jodi's house half marathon and support Jodi, Laura and her kids and the TwoTim47.com's mission to run 7 marathons in 7 days - all for respect, you can mail your registration to Jodi at:
To Register for the Run to Jodi's House Half Marathon
Send your name and address and $25 to:
8800 Mill Creek Lane
Hudson, FL 34667
The actually race will be run November 11, 2018. I will be running my half marathon that morning in Ashland, Virginia - the morning after I run a full marathon in Richmond - so I guess the training for 7 in 7 officially gets started in November with the Run to Jodi's House Half Marathon.
That's fitting now, isn't it?
If you're not up for running a half marathon that day, run it that week over several days. Walk it or bike it if you would rather collect your virtual miles that way. Just put in 13.1 miles, get Jodi your registration, collect a cool medal, and accept our thanks for promoting unconditional love and respect for everyone.
You can listen to my podcast interviews with Jodi Stoner, Laura Baumgardner and JP Caudill here:
Life is like running.