Fitness to Purpose

Nitzer Ebb fans will get the title. They may also remind me the meaning of the song is probably not where I am going with this piece. And they would be correct. However the title alone does serve my purpose of pointing out the many ways in which you can satisfy both your need to get fit and to give back.

Years ago my good friend Chuck Schoonmaker asked me to participate in Jacksonville’s Gate River Run. A 15k (with a nice bridge at mile markers seven and  eight) seemed an impossible task but together we made it through. Now our pace was just fast enough to beat a snail but that was not the point. For me it was a watershed moment of proving what I could do physically.

That is not to say I was a lethargic sofa cushion. I played in a flag football league and engaged in a pick-up game of basketball from time to time. But participating in an endurance event requires a different degree of commitment and mental strength.

Once I had the Gate bug, running became part of my life routine. It was not until my friends Brian Thompson and Joe Peters approached me to take a leg of a sprint triathlon that I really began to understand what the draw was to these type of events. The interesting piece was not so much the sense of satisfaction you get from crossing the finish line (especially at a better time than your last) but also the sense of community and the inspiration from the other participants.

For example, after I finished last year’s Gate I fueled up and found a spot about 50 yards from the finish line. I wanted to cheer on my wife and our friends as they came by. What I was also witness to were pairs of obese competitors pushing each other to success along with few who fell along the route. Those injured, while bleeding and limping, had just as much intent on their faces as those who had finished much earlier.

At the sprint tri’s I have seen a blind guy and 70+ year old men and women crossing the finish line with remarkable time for a healthy 20 year old. Friends, family and those without rooting interest will line the beaches and streets to cheer on the competitors (same is true for the Gate…except for the beach). And afterwards the fueling area is rich with good food and optimistic\congratulatory conversation.

In my last sprint tri (Beaches Fine Arts) I actually had a guy pass me on what was probably a 6k triathlon bike tell me how good my transition was. I can not tell you how that simple recognition of effort made me push a bit harder.

For those of you who participate in these events this is common place. It is something that draws you to the event itself. One could run a 9 mile route or swim 1\2 a mile in a pool or put in 25 miles on the bike. But there is a significant difference in doing it alone.

If you think you are too out of shape to be part of an endurance event, think again. While you may not be near the top, it is not about winning. If you have not trained a day in your life it is just a matter of signing up. I am not telling you to do a marathon, but there are 5k runs that happen on a monthly basis.

And there is nothing wrong with the old Galloway Method. The key is to finish.

But getting personally strong and  healthy is just part of the reason to train and compete. A good number of these events serve to raise money for causes along the lines of human trafficking, wounded military soldiers or community arts programs. These events can run anywhere from $25 to hundreds of dollars based on the scope of the event (volunteers needed, length of event, hiring the police to block roads and manage traffic, etc) so depending on your financial situation you may have to be selective regarding what you can do.

The best thing to do is look at web sites that track events. ,, or are great places to start. is favorite of mine for events in the South East.

If you are going to be in the Jacksonville area the first weekend of November I hope you join me for the 3rd annual Be Her Freedom run to raise money and awareness of human trafficking. It includes both a 5 mile race and a 1 mile fun run. Fun runs are a great way to foster interest in younger children and is something that parents and siblings can do together.

Speaking from experience, the thought of competing in events among those who look like fitness cover models can be intimidating as well as disheartening. But remember, every little change is change. When you couple personal change with community\global change then I think you will find the sense of accomplishment and community outweighs any ego obstacles to be overcome.

Check out this great article at which goes into a bit more detail regarding the mix of “fitness and fundraising”. It notes:

…a charity race really is a win-win scenario. But more accurately, it’s a “win-win-win” scenario! You win by completing a dream or fitness feat. The charity wins by receiving the funding they need to fulfill their mission. And the people helped by the charity win by benefiting from the research, services, education and support that the charity provides. How much better can it get?

The next step is sponsoring your own event. 🙂


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