May 26, 2012

John's First Ragnar Relay (a guest post)

I would like to introduce you to Runner #12 on our Ragnar Relay team, John. I "met" John via John is not only a member of Spark, but also the success story manager! As a SparkPeople success story, I was e-mailing him photos and questions for possible inclusion in the media. I didn't realize he was SANDIEGOJOHN, who was one of my Spark friends until months later.

"Knowing" him via his Spark page and e-mails, I decided to ask him to join our Ragnar team. I'm so glad that I did! He is so much fun, and I've learned a lot about him since forming our team. I'm sure Rik was happy to have another male on the team, also ;)  Here's John...

Hello, Everyone!

My name is John Hulsey, and like all the other runners on Katie's Ragnar Relay Team, I am thrilled to be part of this crazy adventure and grateful to have this chance to share a little bit about me with the amazing (and amazingly supportive) readers of Runs For Cookies.

I've shared my weight gain and loss story on my own blog, so I thought I would take this opportunity to talk specifically about my earlier experience with Ragnar.

I started running in December 2010. In April 2011, I heard about a relay race and was curious about it. I found it on the web, signed up on the site to read more about it, and logged off. Sure, it sounded fun, but I wasn't a runner good enough for that. No way.

Right away, I got an email from someone who asked, "You are looking for a team? We need a runner. Interested?"

Oh, jeez, what had I done?! Turns out, I thought I was filling out a profile about myself but I had actually checked the box that said, "I'm a runner looking for a team." And with the Ragnar Southern California coming up in a week, teams were desperate to find replacements for runners that had dropped out.

I apologized to the woman and explained that it was a mistake, I wasn't nearly good enough to run with a team, etc. She replied, "... and yet, there you are on the Ragnar site."

Back and forth we went for several emails. Long story short, she convinced me to join the team. And just like that, I did. A week later, I took a train to Los Angeles, spent the night with a friend, and the next morning stood on the sidewalk at 5am and waited for a white van to come pick me up. Crazy, right?

I had never run a relay. I had never run a Ragnar. And I didn't know a single team member. But I had no idea how amazing the running community is. And I definitely didn't know the spirit of the Ragnar.

From the beginning, the team said they were concerned with three things. One, that everyone had fun. Two, that everyone stay safe. Three, that everyone ran their best. And in that order. And they meant it.

My first leg was just under three miles and I was so nervous. "Just run," I kept telling myself. And I did. It wasn't my best run (it was hot and it was all uphill... ugh!), but I did it. And when I met up with the team, they weren't concerned with my time. They weren't concerned at all. They were just happy I had completed the leg and we were off to the next exchange.

My second leg was late in the evening, and I ran six miles under a brilliant (and nearly full) moon. The evening was cool but not cold, the course was uphill and then back down, and I felt confident. I waited in the chute, took the bracelet from my teammate, and I headed out. My pace was good, my body felt strong, and the first few miles were as expected. And then, just past mile four, the unexpected happened.

I was suddenly and completely overwhelmed by it all. There's no other way to explain it. My last thought was, "I can't believe I'm doing this. It's the middle of the night, I'm running six miles, and I'm going to make my team proud of me."

And then, tears. And not just a couple of tears, like when you watch the coffee commercial where the brother comes home from college and surprises his family. No, this was if-you-don't-know-better-you'd-think-my-dog-died tears. I was still running, definitely, but the tears just kept rolling down my face.

That was my moment, you see. I realized that I had truly changed my life. I was no longer that man just standing by while the days ticked off a calendar. To quote the site SparkPeople, I had truly made my life an adventure. And I knew in that moment that I would never be afraid of a challenge again.

When I came into the exchange, I had the biggest grin on my face. I had beaten my expected time, but that was the last thing on my mind. Instead, I felt like I had become a completely different person over those six miles. I started a man who "wasn't a runner," but I ended a man who was ready to try anything.

And after the Ragnar, I did just that. I ran a Tough Mudder, Bay to Breakers, the Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon, and in October 2011, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. And I haven't stopped since.

For me, the Ragnar Relay is more than just a run. It's where I finally opened my eyes and saw the person I have become. It's not about being the fastest runner. It's not about winning the race. It's where all the hard work pays off. It's where all the training and healthy eating and early morning workouts and saying no to an extra dessert and all the other things that go into losing weight and building a healthy body show themselves to the world.

If you have a chance to run a Ragnar, do it. You will never regret giving yourself that moment to truly prove who you are.

You can check out John's blog for more about his story.


  1. What a great story! My husband and I have been talking about doing a Ragnar in Tennessee in the fall...sounds like a great idea after that endorsement!

  2. Wonderful story!

    Thank you for serving our country. Have a lovely weekend!

  3. Amazing story! Truly inspiring!

  4. LoveAnAnimalMay 26, 2012

    Wow! What an impactful story!

  5. Totally awesome. Love his story. Love it.

  6. What a great read! I almost cried with him, now to add his blog to my list if must reads.

  7. Thanks John! Ya got me crying before 8am. Now off to hit the road myself!

  8. AnonymousMay 27, 2012

    OMG!! Runners in kilts! I LOVE IT!!! Thanks so much for sharing your story. Wow.


  9. John, you make me cry like no one else can! You are such an inspiration.

  10. Sounds fun! I may have to check it out.

  11. Yeah, John is one of the most inspirational people I've ever "met" on SP. He is so upbeat and encouraging, picking you up when you feel down. It's like you have the Dream Team, Katie, and you and John are part of it!!

  12. AnonymousMay 27, 2012

    So inspiring!! Katie, thanks for sharing the stories of your teammates - what a great way for your readers to "get to know" everyone before your big race! Cheers - Melisa

  13. Yay! I'm in sparkpeople success community too- just got invited a few weeks ago! Congrats on to John, such an inspiration. I'm running my first Ragnar in July!! Next year Katie, I want in on your team!! lol :)

  14. TRUELY INSPIRING! I am currently trying to join a team fot the capital to coast relay in Texas and Im so glad I read this! I am not fast and I feel the need to tell the teams I am emailing that Im not fast-which makes me feel somewhat pathetic-but I dont want to slow a team down that is trying to win! I hope I find a team full of awesome people just like all of you and this experience is a great one because I am super excited to do it! thank you for to go read your blog now:)


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