I want to spend some time listing the gifts that have come my way through this run. I will not be able to list them all. There are too many. But as they come to mind I want a place to write them down, to have a place to go back to and remind myself how it was and how it felt to be supported.
It has affected me. I am either smiling or crying or smiling AND crying. It has yet to stop.
April: Chuck Milsaps at Great Outdoor Provision. We meet at a campfire. We have a mutual admiration for his daughter, Sarah (who is a rock star). We connect over some mutual friends that we share. Next thing I know, Great Outdoor is the first company to jump on board.
Mind you. We Run For Them is not a tried and tested organization. We are at idea phase, and here is one of the finest companies around putting its stamp of approval on it.
Mountain Park Spring Water same way. I meet Stewart. We connect. I ask for a couple cases of water. He loads me up with ten!
Keith and Emily at Fleet Feet put me in just the right shoes.
Pearl Izumi donate more shoes!
Rebecca McNeely connects me to Jennifer Leonard at Champion who hooks me up with all the shirts and shorts I need. Then, donates more shirts for the cause.
Katherine Bell designs a killer logo. She spends like days on this thing. Next thing I know, we're making t-shirts for the cause.
This is Ned we're talking about. NED! I'm nobody.
Rebecca runs into John Dell at Winston-Salem Journal. He does this HUGE article on the race. Later, he calls me in the hospital just to check on me. He writes another piece. And I bet he'll do another before it's all said and done.
Rebecca's not done either. She chats with her friend Timmy Hawks at Fox 8. Next thing you know, I'm on television!
The local YMCA (my second home) makes this banner. People write me the most encouraging things. I can't look at it without tearing up.
This is all before I run a mile.
Since then, Kevin Powell Motorsports and Wayne Cannon Physical Therapy come on board. (More on Wayne later - I think he and his office staff might actually BE angels - like for real).
Two seconds ago, I get a donation #wecontributeforthem where someone drops a rather large check on my lap in honor of SOMEBODY ELSE! What is going on?
Other things fall into place. I don't know how I'm going to coordinate with the Blue Ridge Parkway people. Oh! The foundation has an office a half mile from mine! I walk there. We sit down. Things come together just like that.
I need a permit from the National Park Service. Because I'm in Colorado with highschoolers, I don't get the permit to them until three weeks before the run. (In government time that's basically like asking for something next day.) Well, they DO get to it. Herbert Young rips up the check and wishes me well! Our government rocks!
Chuck Scott, one of the fundraisers for Carolina Point, same thing. He gives me his total blessing. Lauri Lambeth, his administrator, happens to be our friend. Working with her and Carolina Point becomes the easiest thing in the world!
The stars are aligning. Professor Gary Miller helps me with the nutrition and strategy side of things. Robyn Holland, one of the fastest women literally in the world (she just placed 2nd in the Master's Nationals in the 800 and 1600) becomes my running buddy/trainer.
This is for special needs kids at a Young Life Camp, and a normal guy crazy enough to run for them.
I'm skipping like 100 more things I could mention.
The run begins.
It rains 4 days everywhere in North Carolina. Everywhere but the Parkway. For two days I run in and out of clouds. I get wet but never get rained on. Miraculously, my socks stay dry. The worst weather related issue I experience is SUNBURN!
Day 3, Lia and I are still working through logistics. When my mile by mile profile gets off even as much as a half mile, things on the road get really tough. For instance, if I get water and food on the top of a hill, it's REALLY hard to eat and drink running downhill. I much prefer getting it when I need it - like the bottom of a hill. I enjoy the boost and can somewhat digest before jostling everything around again. I approach this massive hill and realize Lia and I are off again. I'm thirsty, I'm tired. I cross this bridge and there is a water bottle sitting there. What it's doing there I have no idea. I'm the only runner out here. Seriously, I'm the ONLY pedestrian on the Parkway, and here is a bottle. I drink half of it (just in case it's not really for me) and climb the hill with high spirits.
I receive visitors. John and Nadia Clevenger track me down in Asheville. So do the Muirs. So does one of my old Young Life guys, James Milner!
The next day Mary Claire (used to be Hodges) is telling her mom while driving down the road. "Hey, my friend Ned is running this thing. I wonder where he…THERE HE IS!"
This happens TWICE! Mark and Dana Nicholson and their family are on the Parkway for less than 10 miles and BOOM they run right into me (not literally).
People start sharing the story. Cars slow down to cheer me on. Two bikers from Tennessee, who are riding the Parkway, ask me if I'm the guy running the parkway. I say, Yes. They laugh because they had started the day before me but had gotten sidelined because of the rain. The funny thing was they had joked with each other that if I passed them, they would donate their bikes. Sure enough, I HAD! I told them that instead of giving their bikes away, they could just donate to the Cause. Guess what? THEY DID!
Charley and Kathy Patten let us stay at their amazing house in the woods while they are 1000 miles away in Colorado. Stuart Nelson and soon to be Diane Nelson cook us the best meal ever even as I almost pass out in the kitchen while they're getting it ready! Windy Gap takes care of us. They bake Lia an apple crisp a la mode for her birthday! (Picking up my slack for doing nothing!) The Rothrocks open their doors in Linville, NC. John and Nancy Gregory (Leigh Askew's parents) give us the royal treatment.
The run is hard. But Lia and I are getting our logistics down. Everyday I'm feeling stronger. My left ankle swells because of the constant extra pounding, but we are managing it. I run 52 miles in pain, but make it. Our bodies are amazing things. I feel better the next day.
I can feel the prayers when they come.
The views. This is a magical road.
I start crying for a million reasons I can't explain.
Michael Mcaneny and Michael the Javelin Thrower run 13 miles with me. I cry. They are the incarnation of the cloud of witnesses that have been carrying me all this way. I see my children. I cry at the awe I see in their face as I watch them process why their dad would sacrifice so much for someone else.
I haven't even gotten to the AMAZING PART!
I pee blood.
I'll write more about this. I'm still processing this. Everything is going so well and then I pee blood. We'll get to this.
But the angels keep showing up. Lia! First of all, I married an angel. She might have saved my life. Then there are the doctors. And when I say doctors, I mean A LOT of doctors. I'm such a strange case it takes days to figure out exactly what was going on in my body. At the end of the day, I'm fine. I'm more than fine. My kidneys were unaffected. The only damage done had been self-inflicted, accidental, and temporary.
More on this. I'm still processing this.
But then the angels come. Hernan Sabio, the angel, has this idea to RUN FOR THEM. He posts his miles. Others start posting their miles. and others. Friends. Strangers. Australians! Canadians! Californians! Lia and I cannot believe what we're seeing. 100 miles logged. 200 miles logged. 300 miles logged for #werunforthem some use #werunforNed I'm touched. No, I'm blown away.
I try to talk Lia into letting me run. My legs hurt but I know how to run on legs that hurt. Lia says No. Let others run, Ned. Don't take away from what others are doing. And I think to myself how right she is in what she's saying.
I thought We Run For Them was one thing. Turns out We Run For Them is something better, something bigger.
An act that normally is personal. I run to break 20 minutes. I run to achieve my first half marathon. Turns out running for others is an even greater motivator. I receive a message from a person I had not heard from in years who said We Run For Them "saved" him. I'm not sure how. But it had something to do with the spontaneous community and the big dream.
On Sunday, the last planned day of the run - I run 7 miles with friends around Salem Lake against doctor's orders. But it's beautiful. 7 of us x 7 miles = 49 miles plus 4 my dad runs = 53 miles (the number I planned to run that day myself!)
We add the total miles later that day. 470.
1 mile more than the 469 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Together, we can achieve more than what we can achieve individually.
Since then, the angels keep coming. I mentioned Wayne Cannon already. He and his office are all angels. I don't know where they came from. Well heaven. I don't think they could possibly be from here.
There's Al Stubbs who paid me a home visit. And a list of other doctors too many to name that have taken interest in my body!
And not least - THE DONORS! Oh my Lord. I have been so humbled by people's generosity. This is not a proven commodity. And yet people embraced the dream and carried it farther than I ever imagined. I could list you by name. I could tell stories about each one of you. You are amazing to me. We have far surpassed our goal.
And keep donating please (we are in the middle of a million dollar campaign so there's plenty of room for your support).
Y'all are the angels.
Your support makes a difference. It started with me! You made a difference in MY LIFE! And the gift you are giving to people who will never know your name - it cannot be measured. I am so grateful. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks to each one of you who gave to the cause.
I have never cried so many tears of gratitude. I took this picture with these guys because I had to do something to get over the crying.
You are angels.
You and I. Together, we became angels.
When we move on someone else's behalf, we become the hands and feet of God.
I have personally felt their touch.
Yes, dear angels, you have touched my heart. I will never be the same.
I will hit the pause button.
…still, the list goes on...
Caroline Cox! How could I not mention her? Running all the spreadsheets, writing thank yous. Words cannot express my gratitude.
Tonight a friend donated $1,000 to Carolina Point on behalf of We Run For Them. Holy Cow! Now, without getting into it, this is a friend who $1,000 is a lot of money. Like A LOT of money. I am so humbled. I am so privileged.
I forgot my parents! They watched the kids. We couldn't have done it without them.
to be continued….