Thursday, August 1, 2013

4th Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge

It's that exciting time of year again ... time for the annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge, which enters its fourth year in 2013. Those of you who've followed this blog for a while know the drill: each year I pick a major, late-season ultramarathon as my focus race to fundraise in support of the gluten-free community. For the first three years, that race was the Virgil Crest 50-miler, a late September ultra in upstate New York that covered 50 miles on trails with 20,000 vertical feet of elevation change. In those three years, we raised more than $9,000 for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. (As many of you know, I'm an Athlete for Awareness for the NFCA and have supported them for a number of years.)

But this year, major changes are afoot. The 2013 edition of the Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge is bigger, bolder, and dare I say, better than in years past. Why? Two main reasons: 1) a new focus race, and 2) a new fundraising goal.

New Focus Race

After running the Virgil Crest for the last three years, this year the Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge is going abroad. That's right. We're headed to Europe, where I'll be running the CCC through the Italian, Swiss, and French Alps! To put it succinctly, this is a bucket list race—I had to qualify for the race and be lucky enough to make it in via the lottery, both of which happened in my first year of applying.

A starting field of 1,900 runners begins in Courmayeur, Italy, heads through Champex, Switzerland, and finishes in Chamonix, France, largely circumnavigating the Mont Blanc massif via the trails of the mountainous Alps in the process. It is one of the most competitive and demanding ultras for its distance in the world. The course covers 100 kilometers (~62 miles) and a staggering 36,000 vertical feet of elevation change. That's 10 miles and 14,000 vertical feet more than my longest race to date. To put that into further perspective, the CCC is the equivalent of running nearly 2.5 marathons back-to-back-to-back, over rugged trails, while climbing up and down the Empire State Building more than 12 times.

When you look at my recent training updates, and how I've focused on going far and going high, now you know why. The race is on August 30th, just one month away.

New Fundraising Goal

As excited as I am about the race, however, I'm even more excited to publicly unveil for the first time the new fundraising goal. This year's—and subsequent years'—fundraising will help to fund and endow a trio of new, first-of-their-kind scholarships I'm establishing, which will be administered by the NFCA.

One consistent theme we've tried to hit over the years—via this blog, via our cookbooks and recipes and cooking, via The Gluten-Free Edge—is not just how to go gluten-free, but how to live a happy, healthy, and active gluten-free life. It is about regaining your health and living your gluten-free life to its fullest potential, which in my case involved becoming a far stronger gluten-free endurance athlete in my mid-30s than I ever was as a varsity athlete in high school, years before I started to get very sick.

The Peter Bronski Gluten-Free Athlete Scholarship

Two of the scholarships are targeted directly at athletes gluten-free for medically diagnosed reasons, such as celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy; one each for a male and female. The primary audience is graduating high school seniors who will go on to play intercollegiate sports (such as DI–DIII), but will also include other same-age athletes following less conventional paths, such as a NOLS semester, participation in a development team, or a yoga training/retreat.

The Peter Bronski Gluten-Free Leader Scholarship

A third scholarship will be targeted at current college students that have demonstrated leadership on their campus advancing a healthy gluten-free lifestyle and awareness.

In all three cases, the one-time awards—initially targeted at $1,000 each—will also include an offer of the NFCA's GREAT training for each student's school's dining services. Later this year, sometime in early fall, the NFCA and I will be issuing a joint press release highlighting further details—eligibility criteria, application procedure and deadline, and award timelines—as well as a page on their website where you'll be able to read and download that information.

How You Can Help

I can't make these scholarships happen without your help. The goal is to make the first scholarship awards spring 2014. But we can't do that without the funds that will support the scholarships.

So please, visit my FirstGiving fundraising page and make a tax-deductible donation to the NFCA. 100% of the funds NFCA receives will go to supporting these scholarships. Any money we raise above and beyond that needed to support the first year of scholarships will go toward building an endowment that will eventually fund the scholarships in perpetuity.

This is a unique opportunity to be part of starting something very special. What's more, individuals and families donating $100 or more will be recognized as Founding Supporters in scholarship materials.

Help me make this year's Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge a resounding success! You'll be doing more than supporting a great organization in the NFCA. You'll be directly and positively impacting the lives of three deserving student-athletes. Leaving home for college and other endeavors can be challenging enough. It's more so when you're gluten-free and navigating a new environment with potentially limited choices. It can be an even harder adjustment when you factor in the rigors of athletics and the team pasta dinners and road trips for away games that often go with it. Help to ease that transition and foster a new generation of happy, healthy, active gluten-free leaders.


Images courtesy of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Office of Tourism. Copyright Jean-Charles Poirot. Used with permission.

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