Before the New Year’s Eve ball dropped to mark the official start of 2015, Robert Neeley had plans to make this year a big one. To celebrate his 30th year of running, Robert wanted to complete 30 runs in one year alone. And, to make it even better, he was going to run with a purpose. He would run to raise awareness of an important non-profit in Toledo.
“My wife has been a driver/volunteer for Mobile Meals of Toledo for many years,” explained Robert. “I’ve seen firsthand what a difference this outfit makes with people. They work very hard to keep people fed — I’m amazed at the hard work and dedication the entire staff has and was inspired by them all!”
Mobile Meals of Toledo serves more than 1,200 people who are homebound annually through the Meals on Wheels Program. It also organizes a Weekender Meal Program to help feed children who would otherwise get inadequate nutrition during the weekends.
So Robert ran and raised awareness of this important cause.
“My main goal was to raise awareness of the many people who are unable to get good nutrition in their own home. Whether it be from age or illness, these people need regular nutrition to survive and thrive. Mobile Meals makes sure this happens and I’m proud to be part of the process,” said Robert.
While most of the 30 runs were around the Toledo area, Robert did venture out and visit a few states to enjoy some destination runs. He also promoted a virtual 5K run called the Run Zombie Run 5K (Revenge of the Silva), where participants were encouraged to make a $20 donation to Mobile Meals of Toledo and then to get out and move — walking, running, cycling — whatever helped them reach their 5K goal.
Thirty runs in a year may have been a challenge, but Robert said that this was his best year of running yet. “I felt as though I was ‘carrying’ those who needed me,” he explained. “I was humbled by the many that followed me and cheered me through these races. I was so inspired by all of this that my running progressed through the entire race season and I actually became quite fast! I won my age group in several races and set several personal records (PRs) for different distances.”
Robert was encouraged by the support he received from the community. Sailor Woody from Infinite Art Tattoo Studio designed a special shirt for his Run Zombie Run 5K for free, while Mathews Ford of Oregon paid for the cost of the shirts. Every dime raised was able to go to Mobile Meals of Toledo because of these sponsorships.
“My purpose was to help others and that made all the difference in the world.”
Throughout the year, Robert faced nagging minor injuries and the challenge of balancing training with work and family. But it was worth it. “My purpose was to help others and that made all the difference in the world,” he said. “While it’s always fun to challenge myself and try to do my best, it means so much more when you’re out there and you just know what you’re doing will change someone’s life.”
Robert completed his 30th race on November 14 at the Churchill’s Half Marathon, where he received a special plaque from Mobile Meals of Toledo for his efforts. He looks forward to finding out just how much he helped raise for the organization at the end of the year. Although 2015 will soon come to a close, Robert’s inspirational running is unlikely to end anytime soon.
“Just stop and think about how much of a difference just one runner made in a year’s time,” he said. “Go out and move, inspire and make the world a better place to live and play in. There’s just one go around in this lifetime — make it count!”
You can learn more about Robert Neeley’s running adventures in his blog, www.30races.com.
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