A year ago on this blog, I made a big commitment — one I was not entirely convinced I was qualified to make. In support of my newly launched charity, the Tiny Feet Foundation, I would run 12 marathons in 12 months.

Today I’m very proud to say I’ve completed the toughest physical feat I have ever undertaken. Even more meaningfully, the success of this fundraising effort means Tiny Feet can deliver on a promise to provide financial help, and a lot of love and care, to young families who have had to endure pain and loss as my own family has.

Tiny Feet Foundation provides baskets to parents with diapers, clothing, and toys.

Tiny Feet was founded last year after my wife, Brandi, and I lost our fourth child pre-term in 2011. Inspired by the outpouring of support we were so fortunate to receive from family, friends, and co-workers, I wanted to pay it forward by helping other parents of premature babies (you can read more about our backstory here). The mission of Tiny Feet is to provide them with items like preemie diapers and onesies, and to help to offset other costs in a terribly difficult and financially draining time of crisis.

I consider myself a mediocre runner, so the prospect of completing 12 marathons to kick off our fundraising efforts was more than a little intimidating. But we set a goal of $10,000 and have already surpassed that milestone. We’ve raised approximately $13,000 to date, and it feels like we’re just starting to take off.

What was it like to race 314.4 miles in a year? Thrilling, and at times ridiculously hard; exhilarating and exhausting; sometimes peaceful and sometimes crazed. The conditions were very different from race to race. One of the hardest was the Pacifica Trail Run, a coastal trail in California with a 5,000-foot elevation gain. You basically have to run 3 miles straight up hill — six times. Even more taxing was the Deseret News Classic in Salt Lake City where you start at the top of a canyon and run straight downhill for 16 miles. That hurts.

At the completion of his final marathon, Rick poses with wife Brandi, his four children, and reporter Mae Fesai at Sacramento’s KCRA.

Each run was so unique, and the emotions running through my mind were equally mixed. I’ve shared my experiences about every race, plus a bunch of photos, on the 12 Marathons blog. The race in Lake Tahoe was incredibly beautiful, though the city races in Los Angeles and San Francisco were amazing in their own ways. Not only do you run right past landmarks like Dodger Stadium and the famous Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, and run across the Golden Gate Bridge, but you have the biggest crowds cheering along the sidelines, and they keep you pumped the entire way.

Other people — runners, spectators, families — are such a big part of the experience. I was very moved by the graciousness of people both on the courses and off. I was out there to help establish the foundation, and always wore a shirt reading I run with Tiny Feet, but I still had a hard time just talking about it. Everything my family had been through was still very personal to me. So, it really meant the world that so many people reached out on their own to share what they’d been through and get behind the cause. I was contacted by parents from all over the country who had kids in the NICU or who wanted to support us. I heard powerful, hopeful stories and a lot of sad stories, too, but even in those situations we had people reach out to us with a lot of positive emotion. It has been really humbling.

In return, we’ve already been able to provide help in a handful of hospitals around the country. It struck me how far we’d reached when we sent care packages from California to families on Long Island in New York. It’s remarkable how much this little idea has grown in its first year.

Rick runs each marathon with an “I Run With Tiny Feet” shirt.

On balance, it’s been an extremely rewarding but extremely challenging year. About halfway through the races, I had some other things happen in my personal life that made everything I was striving for more difficult to achieve. I had a thousand reasons to quit and another thousand reasons to walk away. For me it was a mental marathon as much as a physical one.

The most important lesson I’ve taken away, in the end, is all about perseverance. It’s about seeing a commitment through and enduring pain despite all kinds of adversity. It’s about finding something within myself and drawing strength from other people, from faith in humanity. And having a lot to celebrate at the finish.

  • CATEGORY: General
  • DATE: Friday, April 25, 2014