Two Park City teachers keep tradition alive by completing the Running with Ed race by themselves on Saturday
After a decade of competition, the Park City Education Foundation’s annual Running with Ed fundraiser was canceled when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Two teachers laced up their shoes and ran the 39-mile race anyway.
Amy Newman, an eighth-grade health and physical education at Treasure Mountain Junior High School, and Brad Gannon, a seventh-grade technology and engineering teacher at Ecker Hill Middle School, decided to step up for their students and single-handedly conquer the race, which is traditionally held as a relay event. The race is typically the largest fundraising event of the year for the foundation, with hundreds of participants and total donations topping $250,000.
“Both Brad and I thought that we should do this and see if we can still raise money for the schools. … So we contacted the organizers and they thought it was a great idea,” Newman said. “We both love to run and with other races in the area canceled, this was still something for us to look forward too. It wasn’t only great for us, it was great for the foundation and the support we got from the community was incredible.”
With no one else competing, Newman and Gannon ran the course side-by-side on Saturday to raise money for the foundation. They said it was a success, as donations have totaled over $11,000.
During the run, the two teachers spent the majority of the time talking about “average Joe” stuff, according to Newman. While the constant chatting helped pass the time during the 7-plus-hour run, and Gannon said Newman’s company helped him get across the finish line.
“There were definitely a lot of emotions within myself as I was running, realizing that the kids are still here and we are all in this together,” Gannon said. “But my legs were so heavy and so tired by the end that Amy was pushing me all the way through the end to finish. We had a good time overall but it definitely would’ve been more fun with others, like in the past.”
Newman is a longtime participant in Running with Ed, having competed in the first race in 2010 when there was snow on the ground and pop-up tents to host the competitors.
But over the last decade, the competition has grown to around 1,500 competitors annually, most of whom are divided into teams that break up the 39-mile course into a relay race. It’s not always important to win the race, and most of the teams wear costumes and turn it into a fun event for everyone to enjoy.
Newman originally ran the race as part of a team with other teachers in the first couple of years before electing to run it solo the past five years. On the other hand, Gannon has only been doing the event for six years, three of which have been solo as well. So when the two of them partnered up to keep the spirit alive and continue raising money for the foundation, it was a very natural grouping.
“It was funny because originally Brad reached out to me and told me he was going to email me if the race was canceled so we could think about doing it together,” Newman said. “I was excited because I thought it was a great idea but then when it was canceled, I think he got busy with online teaching so I sent him an email. He was excited and up for it so we just went ahead and did it.”
They both entered the race with vastly different training regimens, so they were unsure of what to expect.
Newman was more than ready after doing a couple of 30-mile runs on Antelope Island before the pandemic and then added another 20-mile run for good measure. She also did a 26-hour marathon earlier this year, running one mile for 26 consecutive hours.
That’s less than she could’ve done, noting that typically she already has done a 50-mile and 50k race by this time of the year.
On the other end, Gannon has been a lifelong runner but a case of poison ivy during spring break took him out of commission for two to three weeks, as the farthest he ran prior to the race was a half-marathon. This means that he only had a few weeks to regain his form before Running With Ed, which is why Newman’s support helped push him in the end.
Although the training regimens were different, one thing they both loved about the race was the fact that their students lined the course throughout different points to show their support. Having them and other members of the community, including fellow teachers from all of the schools, rallying around them helped make up for the lack of other runners that typically make the atmosphere special.
“It’s the Education Foundation’s biggest fundraiser where the whole community comes out and celebrates with a big party at the Fieldhouse in the end,” Newman said. “I really missed having so many people out there, and the places where I got shot with silly string or had my students run with me. But when I did see my students and people cheering for us, it meant a lot.”
While the race helped raise money for the Education Foundation, Gannon was also quick to point out that race also served another purpose — although that wasn’t the original reasoning going into it.
“I think it shows our dedication as educators and I think that it shows that anything is possible, especially for students who might be struggling with mental health, some sort of disorder or anything at all,” Gannon said. “This race was a great way for us to demonstrate that. As educators, we always want them to know that anything is possible and that nothing should ever slow them down or stop them altogether, and I think that’s what we accomplished.”
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