Sometimes we don’t realize the impact that one suggestion or invitation can have on a person. I was reminded of this last month when I attended the Bash for Augie’s Quest at the IHRSA conference in San Diego. (This year’s Bash raised almost $1.9 million for ALS research.) It was at this same event three years ago that Kevin McHugh, COO of the Atlantic Club, made a simple request of me: Join the Atlantic Club team to run the Brooklyn Rock ‘n' Roll Half Marathon to raise money for ALS research as part of TeamQuest4ALS.
At first, I demurred, noting that I am not a runner. But later that evening after hearing Lynne Nieto address the crowd in an emotional speech about the journey that she and her husband Augie Nieto, co-founder of Life Fitness, had been on since his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) more than 10 years prior, I started to think, why couldn't I run a half marathon? Kevin, perhaps sensing that the speech and my second glass of wine had changed my mind, made a second request to join his team, and this time, I said yes. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be ready to run a half marathon in six months, but I couldn’t let Kevin down—and I certainly wouldn’t let Augie down.
So I began my journey as a runner. I hated it at first. I almost quit. But then something happened. I saw myself improving with each run. And I liked seeing that improvement. I trained for six months. I read articles about how to prepare to run half marathons and attended seminars on the topic. I got fitted for the right running shoes. And I pushed my friends on social media to sponsor me to help raise the money I needed for this cause.
Then, I flew to New York City, completed the half marathon with a group of mostly strangers (although several have now become acquaintances), found my way back to the hotel on my own through the streets of Brooklyn and the subway of New York City (a common-day occurrence for many New Yorkers but a feat for a Midwesterner) and felt a sense of pride, accomplishment and empowerment I had never experienced before. I felt invincible and emboldened to take on new challenges.
After that, I began attending movies and even a concert by myself. I traveled to Spain alone. I did many things I don’t think I would have done prior this accomplishment. And it all happened because of a request from Kevin. I’m sure he never envisioned that his request would spark such a change in my outlook and my life, but it played a role.
I share this story for two reasons. First, to show you that you never know how a comment or request you make to your members could change them. Telling them how much you have noticed their improvement could give them the confidence they need to keep up their fitness journey. Asking them to join a fitness challenge you are doing could push them beyond where they ever thought they could go. Just smiling at them and saying hello to them each day could be the daily welcome they need to keep walking through your doors and hitting their goals. Don't underestimate the effect you have on those in your club. Be mindful that your comments may seem insignificant to you, but they could be a major catalyst for good—or bad—for your members.
The second reason I share this story is that I have a request of you. It’s a simple request that also could change the lives of others. This year, the Atlantic Club, Newtown Athletic Club and Club Greenwood have teams that are running in the Nashville Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on April 27 to raise money for ALS research. As of April 3, the three teams had raised $377,000 of their $500,000 goal. To help them reach their goal in the next three weeks, I am making a simple request: Go to this page, pick a team and a member of the team to support and then donate to the cause. Every dollar donated goes straight to ALS research through the organization ALS Therapy Development Institute, which recently surpassed total fundraising of more than $65 million in support of ALS research. Its efforts have produced an experimental drug, AT-1501, that now is in Stage 1 human clinical safety trials.
And then contact Kevin about how to get your team involved in a future half marathon so you can help raise money for this cause. It’s a simple request, but one that could change your life, and more importantly, will help change the lives of those who are living with ALS and are fighting for a cure.