Ask someone who works two demanding jobs what they do in their free time, and you may get one of these responses:
b) Chill out with some TV.
c) Free time? What free time?
But if you’re Thomas VonCannon of Raleigh, NC, there’s another option:
d) train for a fifty mile race and raise money for Feed the Children in the process.
“My wife will be the first to tell you, I’ve always been a little insane,” VonCannon says. He’s dreamed of taking on “off the wall races” such as the Black Hills 100, a grueling hundred-mile race in South Dakota in which only 35% finish. But to get there, he says, you need a fifty miler under your belt. So he registered for the North Face Endurance Challenge April 18-19, which runs along the Potomac River near Washington DC on a series of rocky and hilly trails.
VonCannon is not a lifelong runner—he was a self-described “marching band nerd” in school who ran his first race in his 20s when a buddy challenged him to do so. Since that first 5K, he’s done a handful of half marathons, marathons and triathlons. But this is his first fifty-miler, and his first race in about six years. “Before signing up for North Face, I’d try to get out there once a week for maybe three to five miles,” VonCannon says. “I hadn’t run more than ten miles in a long time, until I started training for this.”
VonCannon knew from the start that his race experience should have a greater purpose. “I wanted to do something for a charity. I believe we should be ‘light in the world,’ and back up what we believe with action, not just words.” So VonCannon turned to his employer, hotel chain Concord Hospitality, for suggestions on a worthy cause to support.
Concord has partnered with Feed the Children for six years through its Share Day event. This past year, some 200 hotel employees across the country raised funds to bring Feed the Children’s “truckloads of hope” to the communities in which Concord hotels are located. These trucks are stuffed with care packages containing food and hygiene items, and 235,200 packages were delivered in 2014 alone.
Thomas chose Feed the Children based on this long-standing relationship with Concord. “I cannot say enough about how supportive and amazing Concord has been,” he says. VonCannon has already raised much of his $1000 goal thanks to friends, family and work associates, but he’d love to surpass that goal in the few weeks he has left.
VonCannon works a night shift for Concord 3-4 nights a week. That’s in addition to his other job as a General Manager for a sports bar, a job that has him working six days a week. Still, he says the training’s going well. “This week I worked Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so I had to hit the training hard early in the week.” That meant thirteen miles one day, fifteen the next, followed by “easy” four and five mile runs. Because he’s in uncharted territory, he isn’t sure how long these fifty miles will take, but he’d be “ecstatic” to finish in less than ten hours. “I’m not built for speed,” he says, though his 3:50 marathon time finishes put him in respectable company among recreational runners.
In addition to training, VonCannon knows that a race like this is largely mental. “It’s important to keep things in perspective,” he says. “There are people fighting for our country right now; there are hungry children around the world… and I’m running a silly race.”
But VonCannon also realizes that it’s up to each of us to do what we can to make a difference. In addition to his two jobs, VonCannon stays busy with two young children as well as church activities. Still, he says, “I got tired of talking about doing something ‘one day.’ There’s always going to be something to prevent you from doing that thing you really want to do.”
“Some people wait for change… some people work for change.”
To contribute to VonCannon’s effort, visit his Crowdrise page.