Three years ago I listened to ultra runner and world-record holder Ray Zahab give a powerful speech at the Run for Water Gala. A little piece of me dared to believe that one day I might run the Run for Water ultra marathon myself. I didn’t tell anyone because it seemed so ridiculous having only a handful of very slow half marathons under my belt.

Meeting Ray Zahab for the first time at the RFW Gala three years ago...

Meeting Ray Zahab for the first time at the RFW Gala three years ago… 

Two years ago I ran the Run for Water ultra marathon and barely managed to finish all 57 km. I was surrounded by 15 other much faster but supportive runners who, along with Ray Zahab himself, encouraged me to keep moving. Through the process of fundraising and training for my first ultra, I had learned so much about myself and crossed that finish line a totally different person than the girl who sat at the gala just one year earlier, quietly daring herself to believe she could do it.

Coming to the finish of my first Run for Water ultra marathon...

Coming to the finish of my first Run for Water ultra marathon…

One year ago I ran the RFW ultra for the second time and felt so much stronger than the first time. It was still a long day but there’s just something about working so hard for a cause that was growing to mean so much that cemented my friendships with the other ultra runners. Run for Water had become part of me.

It felt so good to keep up with the group my second year...

It felt so good to keep up with the group my second year…

Five months ago I ran the RFW ultra for the third time and felt like I was returning to run with family. So many of us had trained hard and worked even harder raising money for this incredible cause that the ultra had become more about being together and supporting the new runners than anything else. It was an unforgettable day.

Best ice bath ever...

Best ice bath ever at his year’s RFW ultra in May – Marissa (middle) will also be travelling to Ethiopia with us and her fiancé

Two months ago I found myself saying yes to a once in a lifetime opportunity that I never imagined I’d have. Run Ethiopia 2015 is a trip planned by the Run for Water Society to take a team of runners to Ethiopia to experience the culture, see the need first hand and get to know and run alongside the people we’ve worked so hard for all these years. And I was invited. 

How could I say no?

Especially considering that as a team we would be fundraising enough to partner with imagine1day.org to fund a clean water system, new school (including school supplies and teacher training), and playground for the village of Kudo. A village that we would have the chance to live in and get to know on our trip.

Even writing it out like this, I still can’t quite believe I am going to Ethiopia in a month. I listened to so many talks and saw so many beautiful pictures from the trips taken by RFW Society members never thinking I’d ever have the chance to go myself. Run for Water has always meant so much to me because after running changed my life, RFW gave me a way to use my running to help change the lives of others. This trip brings the whole thing full circle.

Some of the amazing Run for Water runners and organizers I’ve gotten to know...

Some of the amazing Run for Water runners and organizers I’ve gotten to know…

I am excited to be a part of a project that will help this community so much, humbled that I’ll have the chance to experience the degree of their need first hand and so incredibly honoured to be able to get to know the people themselves. It’s an experience so few charitable projects can offer.

Our team’s goal is to raise $100,000 that together with funding from grants, imagine1day.org and community contributions will be enough to fund the school and water system for Kudo. That means that each of us is responsible for raising $5,000-$7,000 individually, not an insignificant amount in such a short period of time.

Ray Zahab is such an incredible athlete and humanitarian - he’s a big part of why I wanted to get involved with RFW in the first place...

Ray Zahab is such an incredible athlete and humanitarian – he’s a big part of why I wanted to get involved with RFW in the first place…

I am thankful that close friends and family have already helped me reach close to the first $1,000. However, it’s definitely scary to think I still have so much more to go in only one month but I’m working hard with my husband’s help to secure a small number of corporate donors. It’s an entirely different method of fundraising than I am used to but it’s coming together.

That being said, $5,000 is a large amount and every donation helps. 100% of every donation goes directly to the project as we are each responsible for our own travel costs and overhead is being absorbed by our partner organizations. I can’t wait to share this experience with all of my donors.

I was so lucky to meet such an incredible group of people through RFW...

I am so lucky to have met such an incredible group of people through RFW – Mel (middle) and his wife will also be coming to Ethiopia in November…

Three years ago this all started with a dream to run an ultra marathon and help make a difference along the way. And now, in just one month I will board a plane and take off to Ethiopia to see the country, live with the people and get to know why we have and will continue to work so hard. My involvement with Run for Water has changed me so much in so many ways in just three short years and I have a feeling the most profound changes are yet to come.

I hope you will consider being a part of this incredible project with me. If you would like to donate, please visit my fundraising page here or by clicking the button below. As always, your encouragement and support either by donation or in spirit is so greatly appreciated.

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