Hello! I have been planning, fundraising and publicizing for my 7 marathons on 7 continents for a little over a year now. I would like to take the time to summarize 2016 and to thank everyone who has helped and supported me.
For a long time I have wanted to do something big to give back to the MS Society. They were instrumental in educating me about the disease when I was first diagnosed and they encouraged me to keep on moving. Once I came up with the idea for my adventure, I really didn’t know where to begin. I have never planned a trip or any event of this magnitude. I just knew that I needed to raise a lot of money for travel and for the MS Society. I drew up at least 5 different race schemes to fit 7 marathons on 7 continents within a 12 month period. I had a “dream plan” and a couple of contingencies. I created budgets around those plans to include race registration, airfare, 5 nights hotel and ground transportation for two people (having Brian by my side is essential because he has the stamina to drag my carcass across the finish line if needed). The result was a daunting $53K budget.
I had to do a fair amount of research and learning before I started fundraising. I reviewed many crowdfunding providers before opening an account with CrowdRise (they had the best return and a staff that rocks). To promote my adventure, I studied several blog hosts and built my own blog (with the aid of YouTube). I also started profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I am admittedly slow to post because I’m pretty inept with social media. My millennial coworker tried to explain hashtags, but it's still nothing more than a “pound sign” to me!
If you don't give back no one will like you - CrowdRise
Once my blog was live, I contacted the race directors on my marathon list. London Marathon was part of the dream plan, but they would not accommodate me. I could try to enter via lottery but the success rate is less than 7%. I could pay a ridiculous amount of money to join a marathon tour group to London. Or I could raise 5,000 pound sterling for a specified charity to guarantee entry. But I am a charity, I thought, and I am already collecting funds for the MS Society! Sadly, I had to remove London Marathon from my race calendar.
The race directors for Cape Town, Honolulu, Vienna and Christchurch Marathons were all very generous and extended complimentary entries to both Brian and me. As expected, the full price for White Continents Marathon in Antarctica would be due. The same for Tokyo Marathon (they flat out stated that no complimentary entries are given to anyone).
I wrote emails and letters to more than 50 companies requesting funding and/or products. I reached out to airlines, hotels, health food industries, running shoe and apparel companies. I also contacted non-sporting companies. I thought I had some cool ideas that could help promote them in an original way. Examples: wind resistant motorcycle apparel for Antarctica from Harley Davidson, gift certificates from Marie Calendars and Papa Johns for a March 14th “Pi Day” fundraiser, and even post-race pain killer (i.e. alcohol) from The Kraken Black-Spiced Rum Company. I’m not a key player on anybody’s scorecard, however, so these efforts were fruitless.
I did have some luck with “cold selling” in person. I have taken every opportunity to walk up to vendor booths at race expos, travel conventions and even Costco! I had success getting in-kind donations from Perfect Bar, NuttZo, BIC Bands, Running Skirts, Fitletic, AirMed International and XCom Global.
My Computer Science & Engineering department has been unbelievably supportive. Brian’s Monthly Musings have extolled the virtues of Alex Snoeren (Round-trip First Class airfare to South Africa) and Rajesh Gupta (essentially all expenses for travel to Honolulu). Several other faculty have also made large cash donations. The staff, too, have been awesome with attending my fundraising events and covering my desk while I was out of the office for the Cape Town, Buenos Aires and Honolulu Marathons. I am lucky to work with such great friends!
I particularly would like to give a huge shout out to Mindy Schroeder, Kim Graves, Julie Uhren and David Bareno. They have participated in all three of my fundraisers: Culture Brewing, BIC Bands headband sales and the Hile Mile run.
In regards to these events, the most successful was the sale of BIC Band headbands. Sandy Pearson, owner of BIC bands, allowed me to custom design a headband pattern. She printed it, sewed together the headbands, and graciously donated 40 bands for me to sell. I requested $15 per band, but averaged almost $20 because most friends sweetly donated more.
I wrote three proposals to nonprofit organizations soliciting grant funding. For 16 years, I have been assisting professors at UCSD to submit proposals but this was the first time I ever sent out requests for myself. One foundation had vague guidelines, but I gave it a try. It was shot down because I do not live in Riverside County (residency requirement was not in the instructions). I have one pending request which will, in all likelihood, be rejected. I had to justify how running marathons will give me a “brighter future” and that is a hard sell. I did score with the third proposal, though! The Challenged Athletes Foundation granted me $750. As such, I am a proud member of the 2016 CAF Team and, fingers crossed, I hope to be renewed for 2017!
Tyler Sharette, Julia Bucciero and Blake Henderson from CrowdRise connected me with interviews for People.com, the Daily Mail and Huffington Post. Plus CrowdRise featured my story on their “Decent Human Being” campaign. Hanger Clinic went even further to promote me: Shonn Goodwin and a four member film crew created a wonderful promo video. Plus, Deanna Fish, Krisita Burket and Meghan Williams sent out press releases which got me an interview with Foxnews.com, and TV appearances on The Doctor’s Show and NHL’s MichaeLA. These articles prompted local San Diego TV stations, FOX5 and CW6, to interview me on their morning shows.
Once my story was shared nationally, I received a small number of donations from the general public. However, it did not snowball as I had hoped it would. Each interview averaged 3-4 donations from very kind strangers. I understand. There are so many worthy causes out there that need donations.
I did receive some fun surprises from various companies, however. Cliff Bar reached out to me and sent a care package of goodies (some of which were yummy “mint chocolate” flavor). Dr. Cool, an athletic apparel company, signed me up as an ambassador and has provided some great running clothes. Wade Bader, founder of Kinetic Research and inventor of the Noodle AFO, donated $1,000. Even Fantasy Island Amusement Park in New Jersey donated $250 after hearing my story! And Hanger Clinic stepped up to the plate again in a huge way. They made two whopping donations totaling $15,000 which paid my Antarctica registration fee ($7,950), my airfare to Antarctica, and much more in one fell swoop!
Stop MS, restore what's been lost, end MS forever
Multiple Sclerosis Societies worldwide have also been a huge help. Sharon Shahnazarian from the Pacific South Coast Chapter has been with me from the start. She has expertly advised me on fundraising, connected me to people in the MS community, invited me to special events where I met more people, and signed me on for a couple of speaking engagements. Non Smitt and Claudia Dieckmann from Multiple Sclerosis South Africa have blogged about me and welcomed me into their Move for MS group. George Nakajima from Japan Multiple Sclerosis Society has been fundraising for me in Tokyo and is arranging two events where I will share my story with MS patients and doctors in Japan. It will be a whole new experience speaking with a translator!
Regarding public speaking…. In addition to the TV interviews, I had a dozen speaking engagements as patient advocate for the drug company that makes my MS medication. Even though my heart races toward 200 bpm before stepping on stage, I am somehow able to find my voice and speak before a crowd. It is interesting how this adventure has forced me to become more outspoken.
One motivational speaker who has really moved me is Wendy Booker. I first heard her in 2010 in Seattle. She regaled her story of being the first person with MS to climb Denali (she has since climbed all 7 of the world’s highest peaks and crossed the North and South Poles). It was a perfect time to hear her talk because I was getting depressed living in Seattle. Her story planted a seed in me to do something big. Even though my 7 on 7 idea came 5 years later, it was something that was always in the back of my mind. I had the lucky opportunity to meet Wendy again in Newport Beach at an MS Society event this past May. I was finally able to thank her face-to-face and we are now formulating ideas for another big project in the future.
Come climb with me - Wendy Booker
Presently, though, I am concentrating on the 4 remaining marathons. Antarctica is next…. I was fortunate to meet another amazing lady last November. Beth Sanden walked up to me after the Silver Strand 5K to ask me about my AFO. She looked familiar to me and after talking, I recognized her as the first Challenged Athlete to do 7 marathons on 7 continents using a hand cycle (she is partially paralyzed). Her next goal is to the North Pole Marathon thereby completing the “Grand Slam.” She has become a personal advisor for the White Continents Marathon, giving me tips on the polar vortex, camping supply needs and penguin poop! There is more to Antarctica than I ever imagined!
2016 has been a great year with lots of travel, fun and surprises, but also stress and struggles. Even though I smile a lot and appear to be healthy, I do have a lot of continuing neuropathic pain from MS. I want to thank Karin Ireland for magically knowing when to send positive vibes. Lastly, but certainly not least, I am extremely lucky to have an amazing husband who knows when to nudge me forward to get past the pressure or to hold me close when I’m in distress. He is the reason why I can do all of this.
Hopefully, 2017 will be an amazing year for you. I hope my mission encourages you to create goals to move, whether it means walking 7 miles a week or using your cane to walk 7 meters from your front door to your mailbox. Remember my motto to "do what you can and never give up!" You are a champ as long as you try!
2016 By the Numbers
3 out of 7 marathons completed:
Cape Town Marathon 4:51
Buenos Aires Marathon 5:05
Honolulu Marathon 5:41
I ran 78.60 miles at an average of 5 miles per hour
Usain Bolt clocks at 28 miles per hour for the 100 meter dash, yet he has never run a mile!
To date, I have raised $43,890:
51% from friends, mom, brother and aunt
46% from companies
3% from strangers
Pre-, Mid- and Post Marathon Consumption to date:
6 Perfect Bars
18 Gu packets
6 anti-diarrhea pills