Thank you, this is what matters most

What mattered most about running my last marathon had nothing to do with anything that happened on the 26.2 miles of Tulsa streets.

What mattered most while I was running the Williams Route 66 Marathon last month wasn’t the 20-degree wind, stinging my face and numbing my toes, relentlessly creeping into my jacket. What mattered most wasn’t the hill upon hill upon steep hill. Or, even, my finish time, which to be honest was disappointing … or the nagging ache in my hip, insisting with each step that I’m getting too old for this foolishness.

Marathon runners have a tendency to dwell on the negative, being introverted and introspective by nature. Forgive me, because those weren’t the things that mattered most.

Here is what mattered most. Here is what I tell folks who ask how the race went:

You, my friends, were so generous to support my effort to raise funds for World Vision’s clean water projects in Africa. So generous, that together we raised $1,361.20 for Team World Vision. Above and beyond my fundraising goal … but I should have known you would come through.

If I have not had the opportunity to say “thank you,” in person, let me say it now: Thank you for your financial generosity. Thank you for your personal encouragement. Thank you for caring about children and families suffering in a desperate and desolate part of the world. On their behalf, and on behalf of the World Vision staff who serve them, thank you. Thank you for not taking our own prosperity for granted and ignoring those who are less fortunate.

I may not be able to tell you all of this in person, but believe me, this is very personal.

It was an encouragement to me, enduring the rigors of the race, to know I was running with your support for a cause that matters. And to run alongside about a hundred other members of Team World Vision who also represent so many compassionate contributors.

On the back of my Team World Vision jersey (now my favorite running shirt) is the slogan, “I care. And so I run.” I know that you care, too, and that is what matters most.

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Happy Birthday, to Me

Today I arrive at the age at which I begin signing up for races under the “Masters” division.

At first, I thought, This will great! It’s going to be so easy to race against all those old fogeys! Then it struck me … I am one of those old fogeys. The AARP magazine is already showing up in the mailbox. I’m just waiting for the young whippersnapper at McDonald’s to suggest the seniors discount.

Today I turn 51 years old.

Would it be rude to ask you for a birthday gift? Not for myself. Nothing pricey.

You see, my first official race as a masters division runner will be the Tulsa Route 66 Marathon on Nov. 24, as a member of Team World Vision. I’m hoping to raise funds to provide clean drinking water to impoverished villages in Africa.

For my birthday, I would be so grateful if you would go to my fundraising page and donate $5.

Just $5. It’s simple and easy to do online, and so cheap that you won’t even miss it from your bank account. Just follow this link to http://team.worldvision.org/goto/DonLedford and click the “Make a Donation Button.” Easy.

Of course, you can donate any amount. You may want to donate more than $5, and that would be icing on the (birthday) cake. Some folks already have. But for my birthday, I’m only asking for $5.

Why am I asking for only $5? I know there are lots of folks who are not planning to contribute, and that’s okay. You’re still a good person. Maybe money is tight right now, or maybe you have commitments to give to some other worthy causes. It’s all good.

That’s why I’m only asking for $5. I’m hoping that, even if you didn’t plan to contribute, you’ll reconsider. Because anybody can give $5. And it’s my birthday!

Please jump on this bandwagon. Enough people give $5 apiece, it adds up.

You can read this post to learn more about Team World Vision.

I’ll appreciate all of your birthday wishes. But when I blow out the voluminous candles on my birthday cake, I’ll be wishing for a bunch of $5 donations.

Go Far, Go Together

An old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Seeing as how so many elite marathon runners hail from Africa, maybe we should heed the proverb. Anything significant, long-lasting and impactful – whether running a race or saving lives – is better accomplished together.

I’m more interested in going far than in going fast.

This is why I joined Team World Vision. I can’t shake the moral equation: Thousands of young children die every day because they lack clean water, of which I have such a cheap and seemingly endless supply that I take it for granted. As a privileged American, I have resources that could prevent the illnesses that cause so much suffering in so many parts of the world.

But it’s not something I can do alone.

I can’t hop on a plane, shovel in hand (TSA screeners may have something to say about that) and fly over to Kenya to dig a well. The problem of a lack of clean water is beyond my limited ability to solve. But it is a solveable problem. We know how to fix it. It is simply a matter of getting enough folks involved. Getting enough folks to care.

We can go far, together.

So I am asking for your support, your prayers, and your sponsorship dollars as I participate in the Williams 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Okla., on Nov. 24 to raise funds for World Vision’s clean water projects in Africa.

An article in the latest issue of Christianity Today, Joining the Race for Clean Water, mentioned that African proverb in a report about the success of Team World Vision. Marian V. Liautaud, the article’s author and also a member of Team World Vision, concludes:

“Providing access to clean water in the most remote areas on the planet isn’t a job for individualists. It’s a job for collaborators. It’s an all-hands-on-deck endeavor. Every means, all people. Even those stuck in the middle of suburbia with just a pair of running shoes.”

Maybe you don’t have even a pair of running shoes. You can still join the cause, help children, and literally save lives. Your first step in this long journey we take together might be to write a check or contribute online at my fundraising page.

We do have a long way to go. But there is a finish line, in sight. And we’ll get there, together.

I care. And so I run.

Running, I confess, has been a selfish indulgence. Mostly, it’s a solitary pursuit that benefits myself. That’s not a bad thing – those benefits are real and worthwhile – but as the kids say, it is what it is.
 
After reaching my goal to run in the Boston Marathon this year and checking that off my bucket list, I began casting about for a new running goal.
  • Get a dog to run with me? Love love, love this idea … but first, I have to build a bigger fence around the yard.
  • Take up the triathlon? Not crazy about swimming. Or about biker shorts.
  • Sign up for an ultra-marathon, a 50-miler or 100-miler? Sorry, but that just sounds crazy. (Sign held by a spectator at the KC Marathon: “Why 26.2 miles? Because 26.3 would just be crazy!”)
Running has been all about me. It’s time to make it about somebody else. But to make this work, I’ll need your help.
 
I joined Team World Vision to raise money, to save lives.
 
So, I’ll be running in the Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Okla., on Nov. 24. This is way more important than setting a new PR or placing in my age group. As a member of Team World Vision, I’ll join teammates who are running to raise funds for life-saving clean water projects in Africa.
 
More than 6,000 children under age 5 die each day from diseases spread by unsafe water or lack of basic sanitation and hygiene. Nearly 1 billion of our global neighbors go without clean water every day.
 
Lack of access to safe water is the #1 preventable cause of death on earth. We know how to fix this.
 
World Vision works in Africa (and around the world) to provide access to clean water, basic sanitation facilities, and hygiene education — because these are some of the most effective ways to prevent child disease and death.
 
As a member of Team World Vision, I’ve committed to raise $1,310 to provide access to clean water for communities in Africa, helping fund water and sanitation projects in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Zambia. Why $1,310, specifically? Because that would be $50 per mile of the 26.2-mile marathon course. And $50 provides clean water for one person.
 
Here is where you come in. Please consider writing a check, or contributing online at my personal fundraising page.
 
I’ll admit it here … I hesitated before signing up. I’m not crazy about asking my friends for money. Besides, this could be embarrassing. What if nobody contributes? There I go, being all self-centered again.
 
I’m trusting that you will come alongside … not just to help me … to provide real help to real people who face a real life-and-death crisis. I’m secretly hoping that you will exceed my expectations and give generously above and beyond the puny goal I set for myself.
 
Maybe the answer is obvious. Why is clean water so important?
  • No access to clean water cripples communities.
  • In the developing world, women and children walk an average of six kilometers to collect water for their families. The journey to and from the nearest well takes hours. And much of it is spent carrying a heavy jug of water. A majority of these women and children’s time is spent getting water. They could otherwise be working at their house, building a small business, or going to school. But instead, the lack of clean water causes poverty to persist.
  • Poverty isn’t the only result of inaccessible water. The water that women and children walk hours to get is often dirty and diseased.

No clean water and poor sanitation = disease and death

World Vision works in impoverished, mostly rural areas to provide potable water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education (WASH) so that waterborne illness decreases, health improves, and the burden on women and children is lessened by reducing the distance to water sources.
 
Over the past 27 years, World Vision has provided 12 million people with the many benefits of clean water. They are now dramatically scaling up their WASH programs, with the goal of reaching 1 million beneficiaries per year. As one of the leading WASH nongovernmental organizations globally in both funding and footprint, World Vision invests about $90 million per year to operate WASH programs in 57 countries.

You can learn more about how World Vision provides clean water at The Why and How of Clean Water