Lasting impact

“It’s not so much that I began running, but that I continued.” – Hal Higdon

In the first conversation Jason and I had after his cancer diagnosis, we talked for quite some time on the phone. It was during that conversation we talked about a lasting impact through running.

He talked about collateral benefit – spreading the word and encouraging others about making good decisions about their health and futures – and faith. Jason also talked about running again and raising money to help other families, but neither of us knew what that component would look like.

When you know and touch as many lives as Jason, the ripple effect of that impact can reverberate beyond distant circles of family and friends.

On many levels, the Saturday benefit on his behalf was more than a success – it was an inspiration.

In the weeks leading up to the benefit, Mark Knutson, the co-founder and director of the Fargo Marathon, provided two lifetime marathon entries for the live auction.

But Mark went one step further.

He offered Jason a lifetime entry to the Fargo Marathon, too. I was lucky enough to announce it, on Mark’s behalf, at the benefit, offering this comment from race director: “We believe that Jason will need that lifetime entry because he’s going to rock Fargo for years to come!”

It wasn’t until this amazing donation that the plan for a lasting impact has started to come into focus. Jason and I talked about doing a sustainable effort to offer true impact through running. Others heard about the idea and wanted to know what was in store. Frankly, I wasn’t sure.

But through the grace and donation from the Fargo Marathon, the picture is starting to become clearer. The gift of running – through Jason and Team Boutwell – can have a powerful impact for others. In 2015, we plan to run the half marathon and I, for one, will be looking to pay the gift forward.


It’s simply pain

When the alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. Saturday, I didn’t feel much motivation to get up. Resetting it to chime 30 minutes later didn’t do much good as I slept through the alarm. At 6:15 a.m., I awoke and looked at the clock.

It was decision time. For a moment, I thought about whether I should run the half marathon in Fargo, which was less than 2 hours away.

Reasons to skip the race entered my mind: out of shape, poor running fitness, chillier than I like, not the right clothes, finding a parking spot would be a nightmare downtown and it would simply hurt to race after running just a handful of times since late March due to injury.

Quickly, I decided that most of them were just excuses. If I had let a little rain deter me from a 10K race in Fargo’s Lindenwood Park back in June 2007, I would have never gone on to complete 15 marathons, an ultramarathon and 10 long-distance mountain trail races.

It came down to one determining factor: was I willing to put up with the pain? A day earlier, an MRI ruled out any bone or muscle damage in a leg that had given me plenty of problems since January. The lack of running while enduring constant shooting pain in my shin meant that I had done little running. My leg muscles, as a consequence, are not used to the pounding that I had become addicted to.

And then I thought about my friend, Jason Boutwell. He has endured a ruptured appendix, surgery to remove a third of his colon and began chemotherapy. Certainly, I could endure some pain from racing while not being in running shape. I set off for downtown, where I easily found a parking spot in a ramp.

And then there was the weather.

Never in its previous 10 years has the Fargo Marathon had such terrific weather. The plan to hold the marathon downtown proved to be a unique experience. And while I didn’t run fast during the half marathon, I enjoyed it almost as much as any race I’ve done. This race will be locked in the memory bank as a highlight.

Afterward, I let Jason know that he was my inspiration to complete a race that I had many excuses to avoid. If I had skipped it, I certainly would have been the loser. Instead, I’m fortunate to again be blessed with an opportunity to enjoy life and health.

It’s a blessing I’m convinced Jason will enjoy again, too, after he beats cancer. He’s already inspired hundreds of people with his positive, humorous attitude.

This Saturday, a special benefit is planned to help offset the bills incurred during Jason’s fight against cancer. The donations have been generous – so generous that the goodness of others has restored my faith in people, especially those willing to help even people they don’t know.

There are hundreds of terrific auction items: tickets for the Beach Boys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Twins, an autographed Adrian Peterson jersey, Lasik surgery and dental discounts, and a range of gift certificates and donations for businesses around Fargo-Moorhead. If you’re a North Dakota State University fan, there are some items of particular interest: signed footballs by Brock Jensen, Billy Turner, an autographed Chris Klieman helmet and a Ben Woodside jersey from Italy.

The benefit also received a very special donation offered up by Mark Knutson, on behalf of the Fargo Marathon. Those attending the benefit on Saturday will be able to bid on two lifetime entries into the marathon.

One of the lasting thoughts I’m left with from this past Fargo Marathon weekend, my friend’s courageous battle and the upcoming benefit is simply how other people can really be a source of inspiration.

Everywhere I looked on Saturday, during and after the race, I found inspiration: people pushing themselves to new boundaries, reaching for their goals, overcoming temporary pain to achieve a lasting reward.

My development as a runner began after watching the 2006 Fargo Marathon. A year later, I entered my first race and I’ve been hooked. That rainy race in Lindenwood a few weeks after the 2007 Fargo Marathon sealed my fate: I would be a runner. Now, several years later, after the race again has inspired me to push myself to evolve as a runner – with these steps being the first on my way to the New York City Marathon in November.

That inspiration led me to take Coby out for a run Sunday, and intervals on the treadmill this morning. I’m ready for the long journey back.

More than generous

Sometimes the generosity of others is simply amazing. It’s easy to forget that some days, but there really are terrific people all around us.

With the Fargo Marathon weekend approaching, I’m reminded of the gifts that others are willing to provide. In the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed strangers, celebrities and acquaintances offer gifts for a cause dear to my heart.

Jason Boutwell, a friend since our early days at North Dakota State University, begins his chemotherapy treatments this week. His battle with cancer, though, has brought hundreds of people together – rallying because Jason has had such a profound impact on so many people. His good-natured humor, ultra-extroverted personality, generosity and charismatic smile have inspired people.

Dozens of people – wearing Team Boutwell shirts – will run and walk on his behalf in various events during the Fargo Marathon weekend. One week later, a benefit on his behalf will bring a lot more together as we rally to help a family, raise funds for medical bills and create awareness and momentum to beat cancer.

One of the special gifts for the May 17 benefit has been offered by Mark Knutson, a co-founder and now race manager of the Fargo Marathon. His generosity is particularly interesting to note: Mark offered up two $100 gift certificates and race entries for the marathon.

But those race entries aren’t simply a way to run the 2015 Fargo Marathon. Mark is offering two lifetime entries into any Fargo Marathon events – a special generosity that comes from the heart. No expectation or call for attention. Just a gift from the heart. And a special opportunity for a couple runners to win a unique reward for donating dollars to help a special guy.