This is a tough post to write. I don’t really know where to start. How does one stare into a coming trial, one that will test everything that they are and put that fear, trepidation, thrill, excitement, dread, anticipation, anxiety, nervousness, elation into words?
I am about to embark on the greatest challenge of my life. I have never faced anything as difficult as what lies in front of me now. All my life has led me to right here, right now.
Let me try to cast my vision.
I feel as if I am on the edge of a precipice. As I gaze down, I see before me a very long stretch of merciless desert just waiting to destroy me. That desert seems to sneer, to mock me and dare me to just try it. That desert, in spite of its savage beauty, is just waiting to tear me apart.
It is going to hurt, probably worse than I have ever hurt before. I will summit a new level of pain. It is going to be hellishly hot and I will struggle with a thirst that goes on for days. And that is exactly why I am doing what I am. You see, in the past year a series of events have brought the clean water crisis to my attention. I always knew, in a very abstract way, that there were a lot of people that did not have access to clean water but I had never really thought that out–thought about what it must be like to not have clean, safe water.
Honestly, I’m not sure any of us living in developed countries can really imagine what that would be like.
But try. Imagine holding your child in your arms as they die a terrible, horrendous death. Writhing from the grip of intense pain as their life is taken by a water-borne disease…and all the while they are parched and begging for a bit more of the very water that is killing them.
This is the way that thousands of people die everyday.
Every one of those lives is unique. Precious. This is a tragic loss that no words can fully convey. And I refuse to do nothing. This situation has broken my heart in such a profound way. I cannot, knowing what I know now, do nothing.
I can guess what you are thinking now. “What can you do, Jason? You’re a triathlete. You run, bike, swim. That is what you do.” I was thinking the same thing….and then it occurred for me:
If all I do is run, bike, swim, and talk about my sport…what good am I?
What Good am I?
If being an athlete is just for me, it is meaningless. I mean meaningless in the lament-drenched way that Solomon meant it. There is no way that that is what God has planned for me. I have long believed that I am blessed in order that I may be a blessing to others.
So here it is: This summer I will be running from Las Vegas, through Death Valley all the way to Mount Whitney–306 miles all to raise funds for the world’s best water charity, Operation Blessing. Operation Blessing has built more than 10,000 wells, saving the lives of more than 4 million people all over the world.
So, running 306 miles through Death Valley sounds insane, right?
No, what’s insane is not doing anything and everything that I can to bring relief to the millions of precious children, moms, dads…families that are suffering and dying.
Why 306 miles through Death Valley? Call it an act of solidarity or what you will. I want to feel the grip of pain, the unquenchable thirst that so many suffer everyday. Why run–and why run so long? It’s what I do. We all have God-given gifts and it is our responsibility to honor God by using our gifts to help others. My plan is to use the craziness of this epic run to call attention to the tragic loss of life caused by a lack of access to clean water—and at the same time get the word out that by partnering with Operation Blessing we can change this. We can save lives.
Though I will be running every step of the 306 miles, this is far from a solo effort.
Lisa Smith-Batchen is the only other person who has ever successfully completed the trek from Las Vegas to Mt. Whitney. And that amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring lady has graciously agreed to be my crew chief for this run. And she’s not just my crew chief; she’s also coaching me as I train for this daunting endeavor.
The training for a 300 mile run through the desert is very different from the kind of training I am used to. As many of you know, last month I hosted and competed in EPIC5 Challenge which is an ultra endurance event consisting of 5 Iron-distance triathlons in 5 consecutivedays on 5 different Hawaiian islands. The training for an event like that is basically just a whole lot of swimming, running and cycling.
The training schedule and regimen Lisa has me on is very different. Though I will be building on the fitness level I had already attained prior to EPIC5, my current training will push, stretch and demand more of me than anything I’ve ever done before. The biggest part of the training is mental.
So much of the training will be focused on developing and strengthening the core attributes of an ultra-athlete. This desert run will require determination, strategy, flexibility, mental fortitude, stamina, endurance, perspective, courage and teamwork.
Teamwork. Now that brings me to my next point. As I stated above, this is far from a solo effort. In order to really make a difference here I need your help.
I need a team of people behind me–people who understand what I am doing and why I am doing it. People who care enough to get involved and help out in any way they can. I need your words of encouragement. I need your enthusiasm and willingness to tell others about what we are doing. I need your prayers. I need your financial backing, donations to Operation Blessing–because that is what this is all about, that is how lives will be saved.
Can you see it? Did I succeed in casting the vision for you–the vision I have for this project to do a great and wonderful Good? If so, I encourage you to leave a comment below or make a donation here to help support the cost of our project. Each donor will be recognized on our H2OPE website (unless specified to be kept anonymous).
Every Friday, from now till I leave for Death Valley to take on this massive challenge, I will be posting a blog entry about my training–all that I am going through as I prepare for this mad, wonderful journey. It will be raw and unpolished. I can’t promise anything other than honest soul-baring of all that I am going through, good and bad. Just thinking about the coming weeks of training and all that lies ahead seems to weary me.
And I will Never Stop. That, my friends, I promise you.
If you are an organization, company or individual interested in joining Nike, Injinji, The Never Stop Foundation in sponsoring this event, please click here for our sponsorship tier sheet.
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To make a donation by mail:
The NEVER STOP Foundation
74-5576 Pawai Place Ste. J #567
Kailua Kona, Hawaii 96740