Yesterday, I had the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone for a good cause. I decided to take part in the Rogue Racers 24-Hour Virtual Backyard Challenge and use the miles to feed frontline workers who are treating patients battling COVID. The ultimate goal was to get to 100 miles and knowing that I had never run more than 31.1 miles in a day or 73 miles in a week it would be a challenging task.
I work for Donatos Pizza and they agreed to donate an individual pizza for each mile I ran which I would then deliver. I also committed to paying $1 for every mile I ran knowing that for every $5 we could feed another frontline worker. Co-workers, friends and family have jumped on board with their own donations including some joining me in the per mile challenge and even a few donating based on the amount of elevation I would run since I had to do a bunch of hills from my house. It has been awesome to feel the support and by making each mile and hill matter it really pushed me.
The challenge got under way at midnight. 23 of us started with at least a 4.2-mile loop each hour. We would check in after each loop on a Zoom call and while we were scattered from Ohio to California and Arizona it felt like we were together. The weather was perfect and despite getting yelled at by a dude in truck on the first loop and dodging a skunk on the second loop things started off great! I even found over $6 in change over the first five loops.
At the end of the fifth loop with nearly 22 miles completed, I started to experience the beginnings of some intestinal distress. Having never done anything like this challenge where you had to report in every hour, I knew that fueling would be tricky. I tried to keep eating and hydrating because I knew I would be burning a ton of calories (ended up burning over 9,500). However, I actually think I might have overeaten early.
The sixth loop got me to over marathon distance which was another plateau that someone had based their donation on. My pace started to slow as my stomach began to worsen, but I was 25% of the way through the challenge.
The seventh loop was nearly my last as I had to use all my determination to fight through some issues (including stopping twice to dry heave) just to get back to my house before the hour was up. I knew the next loop could very well be my last, but I wanted desperately to at least set a distance PR.
In order to make the eighth loop a little easier and to keep me close to my house in case I needed a bathroom, I decided to run back and forth in front of my house. This was monotonous and mind-numbing, but it was a good decision as I finished that loop eight minutes faster than the previous one and exceeded my previous single-day distance PR.
I did the same thing again with the ninth loop and then headed out for the tenth loop looking to break the 40-mile mark. Going into the tenth loop, I was thinking about venturing out into the neighborhood again because traffic was getting busy on my road that has no sidewalks and the endless back and forth was getting boring. However, I’m glad I stuck close to home as I struggled to finish the loop as my stomach just couldn’t tolerate moving any more. I did make it back before the hour was over with a few minutes to spare, but I couldn’t get out of my chair to start the next loop. I had made it to 43.13 miles and I was done.
As I sat there and watched the 12 remaining competitors in the challenge head off from the Zoom call to do loop 11, I had a few moments of feeling like I failed especially since I hadn’t even made it halfway. I knew that running 100 miles was a tall task especially since I hadn’t been training for anything like that AND I had never run even a third of that distance in a day before. Still, I felt like I was letting down the people working on the frontline that I was trying to support with the endeavor.
I knew I was really out of it when the hour came and went and the group started loop 12 and I was still sitting there in the chair in front of my laptop. I finally mustered the strength to go in the house and take a shower hoping that I would feel better. It did help and as the group got ready to head back out for loop 13 I decided that I could at least go for a walk and try to tack on a few miles. I live two miles from the Donatos in Mount Vernon so I decided to place an online order and walk to get the pizza since pizza was playing a big role in my motivation for this event.
It was a slow walk to get there, but once I ate the pizza I decided that instead of walking back home that I wanted to at least finish with 48 miles to match my age. Then, it turned into, how about 50 miles? I ended up walking for about the same time that it took me to run the Philadelphia Marathon (over three hours and 12 minutes) and I got to 55 miles. My feet were tired and my stomach was still having issues. I was glad to be home. I took a shower and decided to lay down for a minute.
Next thing I knew it was after 9 p.m. I had really passed out. I was groggy, but I wanted to see if anyone was still in the 24-hour challenge so I pulled up the Zoom feed. There were two guys still going and my four teammates doing a four-person relay were closing in on their finish. I thought about going out and walking some more, but it was raining steadily and I knew I would be miserable in the dark.
I was looking through Instagram messages of support from everyone who had followed along with my day. I was so thankful for all the encouragement. We push each other. Then, I noticed a note from one of my fellow M3S Sports race ambassadors, Dom Hoecherl. She had congratulated me on my day and I responded that I was briefly tempted to go walk for more miles but that it was raining. Her response? “Well, you have 2 hours…do you have an umbrella?”
After reading her message, I glanced up and noticed my 2018 Boston jacket. That was the year of the torrential rain throughout the race. I was supposed to run that race but ended up being a spectator because of the car accident that resulted in me having a broken foot.
Dom was right. I had two hours. I still had not given my all. My reason for doing this was not just to push my own limits but to more importantly find a tangible way to support those on the frontlines working hard to save lives. I quickly got geared up and threw on the jacket and set out to see what I could do. I figured I could at least walk to 60 miles and that would feed more people.
What happened next is something I can’t explain. I decided to test my legs and see if I could run because the faster I went the more distance I could cover. Surprisingly, my legs responded. The first mile came and went in less than 9 minutes. I was completely soaked after one mile, but it didn’t matter. I was moving and moving well considering. I started to mentally up my goal from five miles to eight miles and then 10 miles as the miles flew by.
When I got to seven miles, I started to do the math in my head as I kept adjusting my route to allow for more mileage. Originally, I had planned to run the Cap City half marathon that day, but it was postponed due to COVID. I wondered if I had enough time and energy to wrap up my day with 13.1 miles. I decided that I was going to give it my all and try and get as close as possible.
And so the push began. The next two miles sped up to 8:18 and 8:06. I worried that I might hit the wall at some point since I had no fuel or water since I had just planned to walk. But I wanted to go for it.
As I hit 10 miles and 65 miles for the day, I began to start getting emotional. I wanted to finish strong and knew that I still had a 5K to go to hit my new goal. I fought the wall at mile 11 and then began the home stretch. As I hit mile 12, I made the decision to try to make my last mile of the day – mile 13 – my fastest of the day. I gave it everything I had left and was so happy when my watch beeped 7:57. I had done it. I looped the final .13 to wrap up the half marathon in 1:53:07 and finish the day with 68.13 miles! Wow!
I quickly got my wet jacket and shirt off. Then, the entirety of the day hit me. With the help of so many people supporting me with both encouragement and monetary donations, we had just done something very cool. So many of my teammates set distance PRs yesterday with all eight of us who signed up for the 24-hour challenge doing so and my four teammates doing a relay each setting new highs as well and becoming ultramarathoners in the process. And all of that without a traditional starting line. We are capable of so much when we put our heart into it and support each other.
I will look forward to the next part of this adventure as I begin to schedule the pizza deliveries. Donations are still coming in and if you would like to be part of it there is still time by contributing through Venmo (@dponthego) or PayPal.
Final stats for the day:
68.13 miles run – 37.03 more than my previous daily total
110,913 steps on my FitBit
3,599 feet of elevation gained
9,565 calories burned through miles logged
$6.55 in change found
68 pizzas donated by Donatos
Donation total for more pizzas raised still to come!