By: Philip Snyder, Todd Lytle and Kimberly Jacobs
(By: Philip Snyder) Back in 2013 a good customer of the Runners Roost and member of the Rocky Mountain Tri Club came in the store to try on some Hokas for an upcoming run he was attempting. His name was Todd Lytle. He told us of his 24 hour Christmas run he had created to help raise money for a friend’s son. His friends son had been in intensive care with a traumatic brain injury following a skateboarding accident. Todd had started a fundraising page for Dustin Sorenson Hickok and had come to the Roost to solicit some support. Our Events Coordinator, Alex Lind provided this support in the form of said Hokas as well as a pop-up tent that would serve as a make-shift aid station. Todd started his run around 10:00pm on Christmas Eve. From what I heard, he ran at a pretty good clip throughout the evening. By the time I stopped by around lunch-time on Christmas Day, he was reduced to walking laps around the park. I happened to be there right when Dustin and his family arrived as well as local news media. Todd pushed Dustin a couple of laps and then spent some time talking to the news. I went about my normal Christmas routine, but on the way back from my family’s celebration I stopped back by the park as my friend Christy had been manning the aid station and I wanted to bring her some Christmas cheer. Todd was still going strong and his exposure on Channel 9 was the “feel good” story of the day. He managed to raise over $6,000 and ran 80 miles that day. Those selfless acts by Christy and especially Todd warmed my heart that year.
Todd’s inspiration for his endeavor is illustrated here:
(By: Todd Lytle) “Inspired – my son Drew and I had the chance to see Dustin Sörensen Hickok last night and have dinner with him at the hospital with Jeannete Sorensen Hickok in his room – what an inspiration is that guy – and so deserving of our thoughts and prayers for continued healing- I am honored to be doing this on Christmas with so many of you!!! – Upon entering his room I sensed that he wanted us to see the severity of the situation – he put down his guitar, smiled wide and quickly removed his helmet and Ironman cap underneath – and there reality set in for me – 40% of his skull on his left side is missing – he was proud of his “scar” in the middle of his head ( it was very good work I might add) but you quickly got a feeling for the pain this 16 year old has had to endure and will continue to endure in the months and years ahead. But his spirit was positive and his sense of humor shines through and he spoke with the wisdom of an adult and not the grief of a child – and we spoke of optimism and never giving up the fight as we ate dinner and I shared all of the notes and checks that had been sent to me thus far – I read everyone to him (holding back tears as best I could) – Not very well I might add! …and then the gift happened – Dustin simply looked at Drew from across the small table in the sitting area if the room and said “Do you want to hear a song”. He asked if we knew Blackbird – and at that moment I had forgotten that it was a Beatles song – and a nurse at the end of her shift, who made it known she had to leave quickly, stopped to witness the artist perform! . Dustin performed that song with his guitar and vocals with such passion – precision – perfection it is actually quite remarkable – we were all stunned – FB posts of his songs just don’t do him justice for when you see him live, he truly becomes the song and this mastery just flows out of him – in this shining moment he is no longer at Craig Hospital – he is on a stage at a benefit performance just him and his guitar and we are all in the audience joyfully listening – I can’t describe how good this guy is on the guitar other than to say he has a serious gift!! He then played a song he had written in the hospital – “I’m Alive” – this song touches him deep and the pain and tears were there but he played through it and was yet another work of art – and the nurse had never left!!! So I want to say thanks to Jeannete and Dustin for having us over last night and share with all of you how inspired I am for the run on Christmas and that Dustin is aware and so humble and appreciative of all that has been and is being done in his behalf!!!! He is an amazing young man and his gift is meant to continue on. Thanks to all of you for everything!!!! T to the L”
(By: Philip Snyder) The following year (2014) I had been following social media updates of an old friend of mine who had been struggling with a rare auto-immune disorder. Several tests and misdiagnoses, plus an insensitive insurance company left Jef with a mountain of medical bills, and his medical condition was making it increasingly difficult to do his work as one of the top tattoo artists in the country. The rock n roll and tattoo communities held several fundraisers for him, which I did not attend as I felt that I was not a part of those communities anymore. I wanted to raise money to help Jef for a couple of reasons. One, I felt a particular brotherhood with Jef as we had raised money and ridden the Ironhorse Bicycle Classic for Team LIVESTRONG a few years earlier, and now he was completely unable to ride anymore due to his deteriorating health. The second reason was because I felt that our society loves helping out those in need that it deems “socially acceptable”, Jef is a tattoo covered, death metal listening artist, whom a large part of our society, or at least the endurance community that I was now a part of would deem unworthy of their charity. I was proven wrong in so many ways. I asked Todd for his blessing and advice on how to fundraise. I set up an event page with a link to a Go Fund Me page, and before even running a foot, I surpassed my initial goal of a thousand dollars.
My run itself started innocuous enough, a few friends, including Todd Lytle joined me at 12:00 am on Christmas to start running laps around the perimeter of Washington Park. Another surprise was local newscaster, Marshall Zellinger, showing up to get some shots of the start of the run. We were blessed with a beautiful, clear night, and I was running well enough to think that going over 110 miles was doable. As dawn broke more friends and teammates from the Roost came out and joined me, either running laps, or bringing warm food or donations. I had checked the forecast and knew that we were expecting snow that afternoon, but was hoping that the great weather that I had been running through would hold. The bluebird morning turned overcast around lunchtime and by two o’clock the first flakes started to fall. By the sunset the snow was piling up pretty quick and the running had slowed to a shuffle, and the rest stops between laps got longer and longer as I would try to drink as much chicken broth and hot cocoa as I could handle. I may be the first person to have used trekking poles in Wash Park. Marshall had been out a few times throughout the course of the day to check the progress, and by the evening news edition the story had been picked up by national outlets. One of the highlights of the day was running by a house that had just watched the newscast on television and realize that the large group of idiots running in the snow were the ones that had just been on TV. In the end I made it the full 24 hours, ran 87 miles and raised over $6,500 for my friend.
In 2015, a friend of mine, Kimberly Jacobs, was inspired to continue the tradition.
(By: Kimberly Jacobs) On Christmas Day 2014, I came out to run a few hours with Phil. I think this may have actually been one of the first of many runs I did with him. It was clearly an emotional experience for Phil, as I watched him trying to hold back the tears during an interview with Marshall Zellinger. I too was inspired by the idea of running bringing value to someone else’s life. I’m hoping we can make it a tradition. Who will carry on the tradition? As the temperature got colder in 2015 and the holiday season was approaching, it was clear that I would be the one to do it. And it was clear who I would be running for.
Veterinary technicians work hard; they do it with passion and often times for little pay. Tristan McBride is one of these technicians. But she also does it with chronic, debilitating pain. At my veterinary hospital, she takes a moment to sit and rest her head on her arms. “Tristan, why don’t you go home?” She replies, “I can’t. I need the money.” Tristan has Diabetes, with many secondary complications associated with her disease. She suffers from chronic pancreatitis, the symptoms often times so severe that she needs to be hospitalized. Her kidney function is also affected, and it was recently discovered that the seizures she was and is still having, were being caused by an aneurysm. I knew that I couldn’t make the pain go away; but if somehow I could decrease her stress level with easing some of her financial burden, then it would hopefully make a difference. So I took the reins and started my run around Wash Park at midnight on Christmas Day 2015. Due to snow and ice, the 24 hours was cut short to 21 hours. I ran 60 miles and raised almost $3,000.
This year the tradition continues. Again, we will start running at 12:00 am on Christmas morning, but this year we plan to give back in a different way. Do you know anyone that wants to give running a try but doesn’t know how to get started? Do you know anyone that struggles with living a healthy lifestyle, and just needs some encouragement? This year we want to encourage as many women (and men) to come out and run with us, whether it’s for a single lap or for the entire duration. This year we want to encourage as many people to get a jump start on their New Year’s resolution. The trail running community is a special place; a place where we support each other. I’ve heard some people characterize the running community as intimidating, and for that reason have been reluctant to get started. This year we want to encourage as many people to embrace their fears and learn the joy of running. I challenge you to come out and run with us at Wash Park.
So that’s basically where I have spent my Christmas the last three years, and where I will be this year. As Kimberly said, she cut the run short last year due to weather and we ended up finishing the run eating Chinese takeout in a panel van. If anyone wants to make lasagna this year for us, it would be much appreciated.
Todd, Phil and Kim