Fourteen hours before the start of yesterday's Chicago Marathon, four friends set off to run a total of 100 miles (74 miles to the start of the Chicago Marathon) in a bid to secure sponsors for 400 children. World Vision writer James Addis followed their progress on his own little adventure through part of the night and during the marathon itself — sometimes by taxi, sometimes by bicycle, and sometimes by train…
What a mission! Our four runners will run 74 miles mostly along the Chicago lakefront all through the night, before reaching the Chicago Marathon starting line in time for the beginning of the official race.
- Paul Jansen Van Rensburg, 37, a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois
- Rusty Funk, 26, Team World Vision staffer, based in Chicago
- Michael Chitwood, 36, National director of Team World Vision, based in Chicago
- Hannah Covert, 24, a nurse from Arizona
They all have one thing in common: They have seen sponsorship at work in Africa and are passionate to see more children sponsored.
3:30 p.m. Team meeting in a tiny hotel room. The four runners plus several support staff. The mood is jovial. Steve Spear, a pastor at Willow Creek Church, prays for the team. He asks for protection, courage, and perseverance, should the runners feel like giving up, and also for the hundreds of children who will be sponsored and whose lives will be changed. Afterward, we wander down to the lakefront for the big send-off.
Superman can defy gravity. Captain America has superhuman speed and endurance. Spider-Man can scale walls. For practically every law of nature, there is a superhero who can break that natural law.
Michael Chitwood is one of those guys. Where no single person in their human physical condition should be able to do what he is about to do, Chitwood and three others are going to do just that. They're going to run 100 miles in 21 straight hours -- 74 miles through the night starting this afternoon, October 8, and then they will join 1,000 Team World Vision teammates for the final 26.2 miles of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
When Michael first told me he was running 100 miles, I, of course, didn't believe him. One hundred miles in and of itself sounds humanly impossible. And doing any sort of physical activity for 21 straight hours -- well, I don't think most of us could even sleep for that amount of time. So you can understand my fascination with understanding why this team is going to such great lengths (literally). I recently chatted with Michael to get the 411 on his longest race yet.
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Lindsey (L): Okay, I have to ask…are you crazy for running 100 miles?!!
Michael (M): You know, I've been getting asked that question a lot lately. Really, I've been asked that question a lot since I ran my first marathon in 2003. Some people thought I was crazy to run a marathon, because I had never run and was pretty overweight at the time -- 265 pounds. Then, when I did my first Ironman Triathlon, some of my friends thought I was crazy. Then, last year, I did my first ultramarathon, a 56-mile run in South Africa…my friends said I was crazy. But for the first time in eight years, and after running all of these events, I have to admit…this one, running 100 miles, it's maybe just a little crazy.
(Editor's note: In an international campaign to raise awareness about the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, World Vision offices around the world are coming together to tolerate #faminenomore. Will you join us?)
Why help? Why raise awareness? What could I possibly do to make an impact for the 12.4 million affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa?
[From the photo above] When the maize crop failed yet again this year, Hadija Hassan Abdi, 28, took her children and hitched rides for 8 days and nights until she reached the safety of Burtinle camp in Somalia. Along the way she begged for food for her children from strangers. She has been in the camp only 4 days, just long enough to construct a tiny stick hut covered in cloth scraps. There is nothing on the floor and no cooking utensils. She and eldest daughter, Nurto, 10 (on right, wearing orange scarf) are able to earn a little by hauling garbage away for families in nearby Burtinle city. But mostly she still survives primarily by begging. I wonder how we'd react if she came to us for help?
This story from Jon Warren, World Vision photographer in Somalia, really struck me. If Hadija and Nurto were begging right outside my door, what would I do? I live in Seattle, where I see people begging a lot -- sometimes I respond by giving and sometimes I don't. Hadija and Nurto aren't outside my door, but I can't ignore their story, their need. They are as real as the people needing help right in front of me.
12.4 million people are affected by hunger, fighting for their lives -- that's a big problem to wrap our minds around. But I know this... together, we can make an impact. So what could you possibly do to help those in crisis in the Horn of Africa? Start here.
LIVE THE LIFE OF A FAMINE-VICTIM FOR 30 HOURS. The millions suffering in the Horn of Africa are part of the some 900 million hungry people worldwide. The 30 Hour Famine gives your group a chance to do something about it. Read about the Famine team's recent experience in Dadaab, Kenya, one of the world's largest refugee camps.
TEXT. Get those texting thumbs ready... Text "FAMINE" to "20222" to text in your $10 donation to fight hunger and famine in the Horn of Africa
About a week ago I got this great email from a colleague telling me all about this recent college graduate who is embarking on a 15-month adventure around the Great Loop. (I confess I didn't know what the Great Loop is so I looked it up: The Great Loop is a continuous waterway around the eastern United States and Canada... The route ranges from 5,000 to 7,500 miles, passing through many states and several climate zones. Source: http://www.paddleforwells.com)
So, needless, to say... the Great Loop is basically an extraordinary waterway that would be no easy or quick trip for anyone. And what's more? Josh Tart is going to paddle the whole thing in his kayak. (This is where you and I have the same reaction -- WHAT!!??!)
Maybe running's not your thing. So marathons wouldn't really be your thing. Five kilometers or 42.195 kilometers -- definitely not your thing.
Maybe your thing is music, or sporting events, or enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest. Now that sounds a lot more like the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
That's because this marathon isn't really your average running venture. Local bands play live music, and cheer squads line the roads every mile. Lake Washington neighbors come out of their homes to join the "crowd" en route from Tukwila, Washington, to downtown Seattle. It's a "running [and I would add, outdoor entertainment] nirvana," as the marathon Facebook page says.
Fifty-six viciously long miles of uphill and downhill, racing a 12-hour ticking clock that could result in either one of the most rewarding or disappointing experiences of your life. Complete the track in time and cross the finish line -- but one second too late, and your name won’t even be recorded.
That’s the challenge seven Team World Vision runners are up against this weekend at the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. After running the race last year, we’re returning to take up the ultimate cause once again -- 56 miles for 56 sponsored children; one sponsored child for every mile of the race.
That may be the only reason we need to be at Comrades this year. But here’s six more reasons for you to tune into this weekend’s race:
It’s the world's largest and oldest ultramarathon. The race is approximately 90 kilometers (56 miles) between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg (that is pronounced Peter-merits-berg) in South Africa. About 18,000 people are registered from all over the world.
To see who will cross the finish line. Comrades is a race against time -- with a 12-hour cut-off time for completion. About 80 percent of the race-finishers will cross the line in the final hour of the race. Last year, all 18 Team World Vision runners finished before the cut-off. We are hoping for 100 percent to race the clock again this year.