Paint Branch teacher raises thousands for community with 102-mile run

Dan Frank hadn’t done the training he normally would have for an ultramarathon, and he didn’t have a route planned. There were some tough points during his run, which lasted nearly a day. 

But the Columbia resident and Paint Branch High School math teacher had plenty to keep him going as he ran about 102 miles in a fundraiser for the Community Action Council of Howard County, which includes the Howard County Food Bank. 

The idea came about when Frank and his wife were on a walk. Their daughters’ school, Phelps Luck Elementary, usually has a mobile food pantry available one day per month, he said. But now, schools are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“In good times, about 40 families show up every time we have that mobile food pantry, and I can’t imagine what it would be like now, with how many people have lost their jobs and everything,” Frank said. 

Frank learned that pantry wouldn’t be able to reopen. However, he could still make a difference by raising funds for the Community Action Council of Howard County.  

Frank had a campaign page set up on the Adventures for the Cure website, where people could make donations and make pledges per mile he ran and per Strava course record he achieved. As of Monday night, the total raised through the site was more than $8,700, with more pledges expected to come in.

Bita Dayhoff, president of the Community Action Council of Howard County, said the need for food has been high. There are many contributing factors, including job losses and reduced hours, public transportation access issues, and a support network potentially not being available.

Dayhoff said she appreciated Frank’s efforts.  

“We’re just extremely grateful for his involvement in helping Howard County residents who are in need,” Dayhoff said.

She said $50 provides five days of food for one person. Plus, she said, Frank’s campaign also raised awareness about the community’s need.

Frank started his run at 6 p.m. April 3. He couldn’t do the run during the week, as he and his wife are both teachers. Although it would have been easier to start in the morning — after a night’s sleep — he is also planning to run the Grindstone 100 in October, which starts at 6 p.m., he said.

He started with his kids, one running and one cycling, but about a half-mile in, his younger daughter fell off her bike — she was bleeding but OK — and his wife had to come get her, he said.

Frank logged his fastest miles early on — he ran 6:52 and 6:39 for Miles seven and eight, according to his Strava data.

Some donors had pledged $10 or $20 for Strava course records, which motivated him to earn two of those, he said.

Frank didn’t plan out a route in advance, although he did leave drop bags in a few places.

Around 10 p.m., he was still feeling good. A friend from a public relations firm who’d helped spread the word about the campaign drove near him for a bit, and then he headed to a friend’s house, where she and her husband had left out a sign and a sanitized beer, he said.

“After about 40 miles of pavement, I had a wonderful, even if it was warm, beer, which felt great,” Frank said. “So I was struggling a little bit at that point, but nothing out of the ordinary for running 40ish miles.”

At about 2 a.m., he didn’t feel well and he sat down on his couch. But he didn’t stay there long. He got back up, had a lot to eat and drink, and headed back out there.

He then headed toward the Ellicott City and Catonsville area, he said. He got a text from his friend Pat Blair at 3 a.m.

Blair joined him — from a distance — for four or five miles. They ran the “Ilchester loop,” which includes the steepest hill in the area, Frank said.

Blair is a co-founder of Adventures for the Cure, which hosted Frank’s campaign. Adventures for the Cure is a nonprofit with the mission of helping people like Frank have the opportunity to raise funds through athletic feats, Blair said. He said there are about 70-100 people on the Adventures for the Cure team, including Frank.

The amount of money raised for this campaign has gone beyond both Frank’s and Blair’s expectations.

Blair said, he felt this positive effort was like a “nice relief” for people.

After more than 60 miles on pavement, Frank headed into Rockburn Branch Park and Patapsco Valley State Park before returning to the roads. He ran into chafing issues and was able to get help for that from his wife, he said.  

At about Mile 91, he was back at his house, wanting to stop, but he continued.

“Somewhere around Mile 97, I decided that I was kind of crossing a line between sore and tired and probably getting really close to getting injured; 90 miles of pavement is just a lot of miles on pavement,” he said, adding that he’s also injury-prone.

His Strava data from the run showed 101.73 miles logged in a moving time of 20:10:35 and an elapsed time of 20:36:17.

After a meniscus injury and at a busy time in his life, Frank was at about 35-40 miles for his weekly mileage, when he would have normally liked to have been at 60-70 miles before an effort like this, he said. So, he wasn’t really trained or prepared — but it wasn’t a race.

He’s completed ultramarathons before, and this was his second 100-miler.

Frank said that during his run, he thought about how grateful he is to be able to run long distances like this, despite past injuries. He also thought about the doctors fighting COVID-19 in New York. 

“Running 100 miles is just nothing compared to what they’re doing in terms of mental, emotional, physical endurance,” Frank said. 

People can still make donations to the cause at The campaign name is 24 Hour Run for Community. 

“To me, I think the coolest part, besides raising all the money, was just watching a community rally around a common cause,” Frank said.

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