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MONUMENTAL STORIES

5/2/13 - Team Running for Joy

by Andy Johnson

The idea came to me on a run. It was Spring 2012, and I was in need of a new fitness challenge. I was also looking for a volunteer opportunity. The idea on this run brought both of these goals together.

Joy's House is an adult day service in Indianapolis that does great work caring for adults in need of a caring safe place during the day. Joy's House turns 13 in 2013. That's interesting. Half marathons are 13 miles Iong. Hmm, I'm sensing a theme here. I enjoy running half marathons. I believe in the work Joy's House is doing. What if I set out to run 13 half marathons in 13 months to celebrate Joy's House turning 13 in 2013? And along the way raise a few bucks for Joy's House. Raising $13,000 goes with the theme, but that's a ridiculous amount of money. So what, I thought, that'll be the goal, there's no way I'll hit it, but anything that comes in will be going to a great cause.

The idea came to life a few weeks later. Joy's House was on board. Funds were going to support the Joy's House Guest Scholarship program. A web site was set up. A schedule of the 13 half marathons was set. The project had a name - Running for Joy. I was off and running, so to speak.

Andy Johnson Andy Johnson

While many of the 13 half marathons were not yet set in stone, the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon on November 3, 2012 was a lock. I had heard great things about the route and the organization of the event. I was sure to not miss it this year.

The first four races went pretty much as planned. Donations were coming in at a great rate. I felt like I was right on track to get the 13 races in, and hitting the $13,000 fundraising goal was beginning to look like a possibility.

Then the leg started hurting. Started off with what seemed like a cramp in my lower right leg. After a few more runs, the same thing kept happening. It must be a strained muscle. I'll rest it a bit. Stretch the heck out of it. Take a rolling pin to it. Nothing seemed to work. One doctor's office visit later, I'm diagnosed with Compression Syndrome. I had never heard of it. Surely, a few weeks of PT, I'll be back to normal. No. The prescribed remedy was surgery. It would be months before I'd be running again.

Ugh. Well, that was it. I wouldn't be back to running until Spring 2013. Not going to get 13 races completed in 13 months. The Monumental was definitely not happening. Forget raising the $13,000 for Joy's House.

Shortly before the diagnosis though, a Running for Joy running team had just begun to form - "Team Running for Joy." Each team member had set of goal of completing one of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon races and raising funds for Joy's House in the process. It was initially a way to expand the project to get more people involved, and raise additional funds for Joy's House. For me, it turned out to be much more than that.

34 runners joined the team. Some had never run a 5K before. Others were experienced marathoners. All of them believed in Joy's House, they were excited about helping the organization, and eager to participate in the Monumental race.

Jeff McIntosh Jeff McIntosh

Jeff was one of the first to sign up. Jeff was a runner in high school, but hadn't run for 20 years, and had never run a half marathon. My sister from Colorado signed up. She had also never run a half marathon before, and was willing to trek all the way to Indiana for her first. My co-worker Megan signed up. She had never run a 5K, and was so committed to running her first one that she quit smoking. Caroline signed up for her first half marathon in 10 years. Rebecca hadn't run since knee surgery and a baby, but was on board for her first 5K in years. Jenna was an experienced marathoner, but a fundraising rookie, and was excited about that new aspect to a run.

I was so looking forward to running the Monumental with this motivated group of runners. But just as the team was just starting to ramp up their training, I was relegated to the sidelines. It was bad enough that I wouldn't hit my own goals, but I felt that I was letting down the team. As it turned out, their enthusiasm was just what the doctor ordered.

Reports were coming in from the runners. Jeff had just run over 10 miles for the first time ever, and had dropped over 25 pounds. Megan hadn't smoked in two months, and logged a two-mile run, an all-time best. Rebecca was posting beautiful pictures of trail runs in Eagle Creek. Lisa was running again for the first time since hernia surgery. Jenna was getting in runs over 20 miles. 9-year-old Maia was keeping pace with her parents and signed up as well. Each accomplishment made me more excited than anything I could have done on my own.

I hadn't been able to run for a couple months, but I felt like I was in training right along with the team. I couldn't get enough hearing about their successes, and hearing from team members that were exceeding their own expectations. I don't like to think where my mind would have been without the team. They kept the Running for Joy project alive, and took it to new level.

By the time it was all done, the team had raised over $8,000, and pushed the grand total over the $13,000 goal that seemed so far out of reach when it all started.

Team Running for Joy Team Running for Joy

Race day did not disappoint. Jeff finished his first half marathon in a very respectable 2:09. Megan overcame a case of nerves to complete her first 5K, and to this day hasn't smoked since. Mandy overcame shin splints and a couple bad toes to finish her second half marathon in two weeks. Rebecca finished the 5K despite a bout with the stomach flu. Four married couples completed the race. Five Joy's House employees finished the race. In all, 29 Team Running for Joy team members crossed the finish line that day. Sporting some fine looking Running for Joy technical shirts, I must say.

The idea I had on a run last spring certainly didn't turn out like I expected. It far exceeded any expectations I had, and Monumental day is one I won't forget.

If you would like more information about joining Team Running for Joy, or about Joy's House, please check out the Running for Joy website.

Andy Johnson
Monumental Runner
Founder, Team Running for Joy