Saturday, December 27, 2008

21 Marathons in 9 Months

In September 2004, I launched 9-month 21 marathon campaign to honor our troops and raise $21,000 for two charities, USO Care Package and TAPS, that supported those who were deployed serving our country and the families of fallen service members. With each step, I reminded myself they are the ones enduring hardships and making sacrifices, not I.

Being new to fundraising, I figured my best chances for success were if I did more than just solicit donations individually. I organized virtual and real running teams, held fundraising events, set up shopping links where a percentage of the sales benefited the charities, and obtained numerous sponsors to help cover costs and boost donations by providing incentives/goodies for team members and showing corporate support for the campaign. In May 2005, I completed running my 21 marathons and, with the help of my teammates, raised $23,509.50 for the charities by the end of 2005.

This blog replicates much of the information that was on the original 21 Run Salute website, which was discontinued in 2007 due to an involuntary change in website hosts.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How the Idea Was Born

"If, at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." -- Albert Einstein

The 21 Run Salute idea was born in June 2004 shortly after I was selected to run the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) 2004. I was actually already running the Nike Marathon a week earlier and considered possibly giving away my MCM bib but could not decide who should get it. Having friends and a relative serving overseas, I decided I would run MCM to honor them and try doing something I've never done before: fundraising.

I was surprised not to be able to find any organized teams running for our troops at the various marathons I wanted to run so I created my own marathon fundraising campaign and selected two worthy charities for the cause, Operation USO Care Package and TAPS. I challenged myself to run marathons every one to two weeks starting the weekend of September 11, 2004 until Memorial Day 2005 and raise $21,000. A small tribute to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.

My 21 Marathons

109/12/04Erie MarathonPA3:46:24
209/26/04Quad Cities MarathonIL3:43:25
310/10/04Mowhawk Hudson River MarathonNY3:51:12
410/24/04Nike 26.2CA4:04:24
510/31/04Marine Corps MarathonDC3:58:45
611/13/04Suntrust Richmond MarathonVA3:46:06
711/27/04Mississippi Coast MarathonMS3:47:38
812/4/04St. Jude MarathonTN3:49:39
912/19/04Jacksonville Bank MarathonFL3:45:28
1001/01/05Texas MarathonTX3:56:01
1101/16/05Carlsbad MarathonCA3:54:19
1202/05/05Tybee Island MarathonGA3:48:05
1302/19/05Myrtle Beach MarathonSC3:43:42
1402/27/05Mardi Gras MarathonLA3:49:57
1503/13/05Valley of the Sun MarathonAZ3:59:15
1603/26/05Tri-State MarathonUT-AZ-NV3:58:52
1704/10/05St. Louis MarathonMO4:01:34
1804/18/05Boston MarathonMA4:02:58
1905/01/05Lincoln National Guard MarathonNE3:48:50
2005/15/05Capital City MarathonWA3:46:21
2105/28/05Bayshore MarathonMI3:45:28

Average marathon race time: 3:51.

Team 21

"If I could solve all the problems, I would." -- Thomas Edison, when asked why he had a team of 21 assistants

The Teams

Runners from 11 different states and Europe joined Team 21. There were a total of six virtual and real running teams assigned the following missions:

Team 21 Alpha: run 21 marathons or ultras
Team 21 Bravo: run 21 half marathons
Team 21 Charlie: run 21 10Ks and other distances
Team 21 Delta: run 21 5Ks
Team 21 Echo: runs any distance races
Team 21 SAIC: run IOA Corporate 5K race

Members who wished to dedicate races of different distances (i.e., a marathon and a 10K) were allowed to sign up for multiple teams.

What It Involved

Team 21 member ran 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, full marathons, ultras or any other distance race. The minimum number of races required was only one and the minimum donation required was $10 per race. The races could be located anywhere in the world but had to be completed by end of 2005. They were allowed to run multiple races in which case the donation requested was $10 multipled by the number of races. Members were allowed to belong to more than one team.

The minimum donation amount was required upfront to join a team. Team members were encouraged to raise additional funds but not required. Run segments of triathlons/duathlons were acceptable. Runners who are members of other fundraising/running programs (such as Team in Training, Team Diabetes, Train To End Stroke, etc.) could dedicate their races and help further two worthy causes.

Team 21 Terms of Agreement & Benefits

Each team member was responsible for his/her own training and other expenses associated with running the race(s). All risks associated with participating were assumed by the member. For just a $10 minimum donation, runners received the following:

1. an attractive, small, lightweight pin and button (wearing is optional)
2. a chance to win one of multiple great prizes !!!
3. limited, free online coaching advice
4. discounts from sponsors
5. help with fundraising (which is optional)

There were monthly drawings for various prizes worth $15-$25 at the end of each month from September 2004 to April 2005. To commemorate the completion of my 21 marathons, FOUR $25 Road Runner Sports gift certificates were given away mid-June 2005. Additional end of month drawings were held July 2005 through December 2005 and to celebrate the official end of fundraising, I raffled away one $100 RRS gift certificate mid-January 2006.

One raffle entry was credited for every $10 donated, raised or for every person recruited for Team 21. Prizes for highest fundraisers on Team 21 included a 7 day stay at a luxury resort, a Southwest airline ticket, and Marine Corps Marathon entries (3).


How far is a marathon?
26.2 miles.

Does 21 Run Salute support the war?
No. It supports a humanitarian cause, namely, supporting fellow Americans who are in harm's way unconditionally serving their country and the families of those who've made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. The effort is not about supporting any political agenda or the war itself. Funds raised are going to charities that help troops and the families of fallen service members, not the Pentagon. There are no weapons in the care packages being sent to the troops sent by the USO. I am, in fact, not fully supportive of the war at all, but I recognize that members of our armed forces do not have a choice in the matter and that many of them feel as I do about the war but must nevertheless leave their families and jobs behind and put their lives at risk on the behalf of others. These are special people who deserve our support.

Since you don't really support the war, what types of people are supporting your campaign?
I'm proud to say that my supporters come from a variety of different backgrounds. They include members of both major political parties; people who are for and against the war; veterans and those who have family & friends serving; church groups, businesses and organizations who are sympathetic to the cause; folks who don't want the troops to be blamed for the war and forgotten; people who appreciate the troops serving so there doesn't need to be a military draft; those who want to help the families of fallen service members; and others who simply want to thank the men and women of our armed forces for their sacrifices.

How much of the money raised is going to the charity?
All except what ActiveGiving charges to handle online donations. See ActiveGiving FAQ.

Why did you choose to use ActiveGiving to handle online donations?
Of several online donation services I looked at, ActiveGiving offered the most flexibility in setting up online donations for two different charities. I also liked their simple and clean user interface, which would make online giving as easy as possible for donors.

Why did you call this effort 21 Run Salute?
A 21 Gun Salute is a national salute fired in honor of a national flag, the President, ex-President, President-elect and various other foreign dignitaries. It is also fired on certain National holidays including Memorial Day to honor those who've died in service to our country. Though not correct, many also think the three rifle volleys often fired at military funerals is also called a 21 Gun Salute.

21 Run Salute is simply my way of honoring some very special people, our troops, those who've made the ultimate sacrifice and those who are in harm's way in service of our country. I believe their sacrifices and hardships should not be something that is taken for granted.

Isn't it dangerous to run so many marathons close together?
Yes, it can be. But I feel it is much safer and easier than what many of our troops are facing in Iraq or Afghanistan. I will be doing everything I can to minimize my risks.

What is your training, racing and recovery plan for doing all these marathons?
My top priority will be finishing all races in good condition so I will not be running any of the races all-out. By treating the marathons more like long training runs and taking 10-15 minute ice baths as soon as possible after a race, I can recover quickly and be ready to run another one within 1-2 weeks. In between races, I will do little if any running, just some cross-training activities which I believe help my recovery.

Why not run marathons every week or one on Saturday and one on Sunday like some multiple marathoners do?
Though I won't be running each race as fast as I can, I would like to finish each race within 3:50, my Boston Marathon qualifying time. That is a reasonable time goal I've had for all my marathons to date and I'd like to keep it as a secondary race goal. Running marathons too close together will make meeting that time goal difficult, not to mention raise my already high risk of injury. Most people that run marathons weekly or run back-to-back Saturday and Sunday marathons run much slower than I plan to run.

What happens if you don't meet your race time goal?
Oh well, I'll have another chance to do so soon.

What happens if you get injured or sick and can't run or finish a race?
Well, military deployments are often getting extended due to unforseen circumstances. If something should arise that would prevent me from running or finishing a race, then my "deployment" too would be extended. I WILL run 21 marathons for this fundraising project come hell or high water. I may have to schedule an alternate race if another in the same state is not available within a reasonable time frame.

Why have you chosen to do all your races with in a 9 month time frame?
Firstly, September through May is when most marathons are held. Secondly, I wanted the date of my first race to closely coincide with September 11, the day that triggered the Global War on Terrorism, and the date of my last race to closely coincide with Memorial Day, the day we remember those who've died in our nation's service.

How did you decide what states to run races in and why are there two races in CA?
I downloaded the names of the servicemen and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice during the war on terrorism, sorted them by state and determined which states had lost the most number of residents. Then I compared them with marathon race calendars. I tried to pick races in the states that had lost many residents or at least a race in a nearby state.

Wherever possible, I also tried to pick a race with relatively easy course conditions (i.e., flat, cool temperatures, sea level) and give myself 2 weeks in between races, both of which will make running easier and reduce my risk of injury. Because California had lost so many more residents than other states, I decided I should run two races there, one in Northern California and one in Southern California.

What does your family think about you doing this stunt?
My husband knows how goal-oriented I am and has always been very supportive of all my endeavors. My step-daughter says I'm psychotic but has joined Team 21 to show her unconditional love and support. Most of my other family members think it's a great idea and have been eager to help.


Primary Sponsors

Balance Bar
Science Applications International Corporation, Training & Simulation Solutions (SAIC TSS) Business Unit, Orlando, FL.

Key Sponsors

Team Amino Vital
Team Active Elite (, Egg Beaters & Road ID)
Allied Therapeutic Protocols
50&DC Marathon Group
Shell Vacations Club
Fairwinds Credit Union
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics, Westlake Village, CA.

Contributing Sponsors

EmbroidMe Orlando
Dr. Don's Buttons
Karen Thibodeaux Photography
Action Sports International Photography

Media Room

Published Articles

August 2005, Running Journal, Cover photo and Features Section, Page 7. "21 Run Salute Recap."

July/August 2005, Florida Running and Triathlon, Coconotes Section, Page 10. "Pratt Completes Her 21 Run Salute."

6/22/05, East Orlando Sun, Front Page. "21-Run Salute."

6/16/05, The Oviedo Voice, Page 6. "Pratt Completes Her 21 Marathon Mission."

5/29/05, Traverse City Record-Eagle, Sports Section, Page D2. "Florida woman finishes 21 Run Salute."

5/25/05, Traverse City Record-Eagle, Sports Section. "Pratt to close out long run in TC."

5/15/05, The Olympian, Sports Section, Page B3. "Florida woman runs to salute troops."
May/June 2005, Florida Running & Triathlon, Coconotes Section, Page 16. "Pratt in Final Stretch of 21 Run Salute."

4/30/05, Lincoln Journal Star, Sports Section Front Page. "19 Going on 21: Florida Woman Running Marathons as Salute to Soldiers."

4/19/05, Erie Times-News. "Troops Receive Run of Support."

May 2005, Runner's World, page 28. "Shirley Pratt: Mission [Almost] Accomplished."

March 10, 2005, Arizona Republic, Sports Section. "Valley of the Sun race a hot time."

Mar/Apr 2005, Florida Running & Triathlon, Coconotes Section, Page 18. "Pratt Halfway - 21 Run Salute."

March 2005, Florida Sports, Page 14, "Local Runner Awarded $9,000 Balance Bar Grant."

2/27/05, The Times-Picayune, Page B1, "21-Run Salute: Marathoner takes steps to draw attention to military members in war zones."

2/17/05, The Sun News, Sports Section, Page B4, "Marathon Runner Honors Troops."

February 2005, Running Journal, Running Profiles Section, Page 4, "21 Run Salute Races into 2005."

1/18/05, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego, CA, Page B2. "Running for their lives."

1/13/05, The Oviedo Voice, Oviedo, FL, Front Page. "21 Run Salute Update."

1/5/05, East Orlando Sun, Orlando, FL, Page A9. "21 Run Salute honors U.S. troops in war on terror."

Jan/Feb 2005, Florida Running & Triathlon, Coconotes Section, Page 39. "21 Run Salute Races On."

12/30/04, The Oviedo Voice, Oviedo, FL, Page 5. "Pratt running strong for troops."

12/22/04,, featured story, "21 Run Salute Raises Funds."

12/20/04, Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, FL, Sports Section, Page C3, "Marathon Notebook: Runner has Silver Streak."

12/17/04, Florida Times-Union, Sports Section, Page C1, "Giving 21-run salute."

11/28/04, South Mississippi Sun Herald, Sports Section, Page H4, "N.O. athlete first woman to finish."

11/18/04, Orlando Sentinel, Orange County Section, Kudos, Page H6.

Nov/Dec 2004, Florida Running & Triathlon, Coconotes Section, Page 31, "Pratt's 21 Run Salute Starts Strong."

October 2004, Running Journal, Features Section, Page 6, "21 Run Salute."

Sep/Oct 2004, Florida Running & Triathlon, Coconotes Section, Page 26, "Pratt runs for troops."

Sep 2004, East Orlando Sun, Orlando, FL, Page A3, "21 Run Salute: East Orlando woman to run 21 marathons in nine months to support [U.S. troops]."

08/27/04, The Rock Island Argus, Rock Island, IL, Front of Sports section, Page D1, "QC event starts her 21 Run Salute."

08/27/04, The Dispatch, Moline, IL, Front of Sports section, Page D1, "QC event starts her 21 Run Salute."

08/12/04, The Oviedo Voice, Oviedo, FL, Front page, "Running marathons to honor U.S. troops."

TV Appearances

5/28/05, WPBN, Channel 4/7 NBC, Traverse City, MI, 5:30 pm and 11:00 pm News Segments. Filmed at the finish of the Bayshore Marathon.

5/1-2/05, KOLN, Channel 11 CBS, Lincoln, NE, 10 pm, 5:30 am and 6:30 am 10-11 News Segments. Filmed during the Lincoln National Guard Marathon.

3/13-14/05, WTVK, Channel 3 IND, Phoenix, AZ, 10pm and 6am Local News Segments. Filmed at the finish of the Valley of the Sun Marathon.

2/5/05, WTOC, Channel 11 CBS, Savannah, GA, 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm Local News Segments. Filmed during the Memorial Health Tybee Island Marathon.

1/1/05, KHOU, Channel 11 CBS, Houston, TX, 6:00 pm Local News Segment. Filmed during the Texas Marathon.

12/19-20/04, WJXT, Channel 4 IND, Jacksonville, FL, 6:00 pm, 11:00 pm and 5:30 am Local News Segments. Filmed at the finish line of the Jacksonville Bank Marathon.

11/20-21/04, WESH, Channel 2 NBC, Orlando, FL, 6:00 pm, 11:00 pm and 6:00 am Local News Segments. Filmed at the Charity Benefit in Orlando.

11/14/04, WWBT, Channel 12 NBC, Richmond, VA, 12:30 pm, Special 1/2 Hour Richmond Marathon Recap Show. Filmed at the start of the SunTrust Richmond Marathon and at the finish line.

10/10/04, WTEN, Channel 10 ABC, Albany, NY, 6:00 pm News, Local News Segment. Filmed at Mohawk-Hudson Marathon finish line.

09/25/04, WQAD, Channel 8 ABC, Moline, IL, 6:00 pm News, Sports Segment. Filmed at Quad Cities Marathon Expo.

09/12/04, WSEE, Channel 35 CBS, Erie, PA, 11:00 pm News, Sports Segment. Filmed at Erie Marathon post-race party.

09/12/04, WICU, Channel 12 NBC, Erie, PA, 11:00 pm News, Sports Segment. Filmed at Erie Marathon finish line.

Radio Mentions

05/23/05, WTCM NewsTalk 580 Radio, Host Ron Jolly, 9:10 am. The Bayshore Marathon with race director Lou Wojtowicz and Shirley Pratt.