Bridie Sellers never envisioned coaching track. In fact, she grew up dancing and event pursued ballet as a career. Her husband’s the runner, along with their son, Gavin. “Yeah, and he’s turned into this amazing little runner courtesy of his dad’s gene,” Bridie says proudly, “he’s even competed at nationals!”
When he was born eight years ago, no one envisioned Gavin becoming an athlete. They were just worried about him surviving. “He was two pounds five ounces and we spent 82 days at Blank Children’s Hospital. At that gestation you’re kind of on the brink of not knowing how he’s going to be developmentally when he grows up.”
Gavin’s doing great. And you could say he’s inspired his mom to take up his sport. “After having two kids I picked up running just as a way to lose baby weight and get into shape,” says Bridie, “at first I hated it!”
And at first she could only make it a few blocks. But a year later she finished a half marathon. Now she’s training for a bigger challenge. A challenge invented by Bill Raine. “It’s 340 miles of running,” he says with a straight face, “it’s two overnights and it’s non-stop.”
For someone who’s run marathons, competed in triathlons and even finished an ironman – a relay across the state sounds like a good idea. “If you have a 12 person team, you’re running the equivalent of a marathon over the weekend… so, it’s tough.”
It’s tough – but not impossible. Lori DeVries was part of a team of just seven runners last year. That’s roughly 48.5 miles per person. “Oh boy – it’s an experience, I tell ya! You only get 2-3 hours of sleep in sections, so some people run while others sleep.”
Like Bridie – Lori grew up an athlete, but never envisioned herself as a runner. Now she’s an ultra-marathoner and a member of team “DUMMIES”. Lori explains the meaning of the name. “It stands for Dimwitted…Ultra…Maniacal… Marginally…Insane…Endurance…Studs!”
When the people doing an event describe themselves this way, you have to wonder about the guy who started it – and why.
“It was a very eye-opening and moving experience for me,” Bill says of a trip to South Africa. It’s a trip he never envisioned and he says it was life changing. “I went – kind of half skeptical, ya know? I mean, we have poor people here in Des Moines and I thought well how much poorer can they be? Then you see it and it’s holy cow- this is poor.”
They’re poor – and most are sick. 70 percent have AIDs and people are dying at such a high rate that graves are pre-dug.
There are millions of children without parents and hundreds of thousands of them have AIDS. An orphanage started by Iowans is caring for them. “That really got me thinking,” says Bill, “what can I do? Because you see that and you go, you’re not doing enough.”
Relay Iowa is Bill’s way of doing more. People are helping these kids, just by putting one foot in front of the other.
“It’s the adventure and the personal challenge but the fact that I can do it and benefit an organization like that is wonderful,” says Bridie Sellers.
Lori DeVries remembers last year’s relay. “You’re running along and you think – gosh, is this insurmountable? This hill, the gravel, the dirt in your face…and then you think, people deal with these conditions all the time, this is what they see daily!”
Bill Raine is just grateful. “It’s not an easy thing, but it’s not an impossible thing either. Who knows what kind of world you’ll hand to your kids and they’ll hand to theirs if we keep doing those sorts of things”
You can still be part of Relay Iowa the team plans to run across the state June 7-9 check out their website for more information.
More information on the orphanage Bill is helping is available here.