Campaign to watch: 6.2 miles in their shoes.

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campaign: Let It Flow
raising the money: Chris Rich of Atlanta, Georgia.
raised so far: $880
miles run for clean water: 6.2 (3.1 with a full Jerry can)

peachtree

Chris Rich isn’t a hardcore runner. But he decided to take on a 6.2-mile race — and carry a full five-gallon Jerry can for half of it. We asked him to share a bit about his experience raising money and also raising awareness during the world’s biggest organized 10K race.

Tell us about how you came up with the idea to run with a Jerry can.
This summer, my friend’s family had an opening for someone to tag along on their week-long vacation to the beach in Florida. I was lucky enough to receive the invite, and of course I accepted.

Chris made this video about his race + campaign.

I live in Atlanta and I love our water. But I hate drinking water while at the beach in Florida. So on vacation, I always drank bottled water while at the condo, and anytime we ate out I always ordered a Dr. Pepper to avoid drinking Florida’s sulfurous water.

On the way home, I had one of those stare-off-into-the-passing-trees-on-the-highway-and-think-about-life moments. I thought about all the money I wasted on bottled water and Dr. Pepper. The water in Florida didn’t taste the best, but it was clean and safe to drink. It made me start thinking… What can I do to help bring clean water to people who are not as blessed as me?

peachtree

A friend had just given me a number for the Peachtree Road Race on July 4. It’s the largest 10K race in the world, with more than 55,000 people. A 10K race is 6.2 miles; on average, people who don’t have access to clean drinking water walk six miles a day to retrieve water (many times that water they walk miles for is not even clean). The idea kind of snowballed into: Why don’t I do what the one in eight people in the world who don’t have access to clean water do everyday?

So I decided to run the first 3.1 miles of the race while carrying an empty five-gallon Jerry can. At the halfway point in the race, my brother waited with five gallons of water. I filled the Jerry can with the five gallons, and then I walked the next 3.1 miles of the race, finishing up at Piedmont Park.

rich

It sounds really tough — how did you carry it for 3.1 miles?
Once it was filled with water, I carried it rested against my chest with both arms wrapped around it, with my left hand, with my right hand or on my shoulder, or at a few points, I carried it on my head. There was no real easy or comfortable way to carry it.

Did you train to run with the Jerry can?
I enjoy running leisurely, but anything after four miles is not what I consider leisure running. I didn’t train. We got home from vacation about a week before the Road Race. I wished that I had trained! It was a challenge to run while carrying the Jerry can even though it was empty! Then, when it came time for the second half of the race with the full Jerry can, it got rough fast. When I say I wished that I had trained, I mean it. Not so much the running, but the actual carrying of the water. I kid you not when I say after the race I had no energy whatsoever. My brother picked me up, and we headed to his house. I took a shower, laid down in his guest bed room and the next thing I know, I was waking up from a two-hour nap.

What were some of the impressions of others who saw you do the race?
Many people asked “Why are you carrying a gas can?” to which I answered, “It’s actually water, and here’s why I am carrying it…” I had probably six solid 5-10 minute encounters with people who were super curious about the water crisis. Two of those were people who knew exactly what I was carrying because they had served in other countries that lacked access to clean water. I even had some people volunteer to give me a break by carrying the Jerry can.

One of my best friends from school has recently decided that he wants to join me in seeing to it that no one lacks access to clean water. We had one of those late night roomie talks until probably 3:30 in the morning (on a school night), just bouncing ideas off of each other. Since then we have already started planning something awesome for next year at The Peachtree Road Race!

That’s awesome. Any other reflections on the race itself?
I’ll be honest, carrying that Jerry can was awful. Just to give you an idea of what the race was like while carrying the five gallons of water, I had three days of soreness after the race.

peachtree

The old saying, “You never know how someone really feels until you have walked a mile in their shoes,” has never rang more true. Except in this case it was 6.2 miles. But even though I was sore for days, I didn’t feel like I got the full experience. Reason being, I had people cheering me on, I had fresh water each mile of the race, I was walking on a paved road and I was wearing a nice pair of running shoes. When I got to the finish line, I was worn out!

I have never been out of the country, but that feeling that people have when they come back from a week in a third- world country, seeing how people there live… I got it the moment I crossed the finish line and took a seat on my Jerry can. It was a profound moment for me, and I haven’t forgotten the feeling.

I went into the race thinking to myself, charity: water is a worthwhile cause to give a day of my life for. When I finished carrying the water, I had a passion develop. I will continue to brainstorm and spread the word of the water crisis. Water is life’s most basic need and there is something you and I can do about it. So let’s do it!

Any advice for anyone else who’s interested in starting a campaign?
DO IT! Even in the troubling times our country is currently experiencing, we are all still blessed beyond measure. If you can’t give money, give of your time. Strike up a conversation with someone and tell them what the world water crisis is and how attainable the solution is!

Do a Waterwalk, hold a lemonade stand, get your school or church involved; you can do anything to fundraise for clean drinking water. Learn more here >

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