For more than a decade, runners and revelers alike have turned out for Ryan’s Reindeer Run. It’s a family-friendly, high-spirited run filled with opportunities to make memories and enjoy and a morning in the outdoors. Saturday, Dec. 15, join hundreds of other runners and walkers at the Medical Arts Complex Field in downtown Fayetteville for this 5K. It’s a celebration and a lot of fun, but it’s also a chance to do good.
Ryan Patrick Kishbaugh inspired Ryan’s Reindeer Run. A remarkable young man, Ryan graduated second in his class and was accepted to Princeton University. He was a volunteer, receiving the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service in 2001. He was determined. He was passionate. He was a fighter. He loved sports, and he loved to run.
Ryan was diagnosed with cancer his senior year in high school. He lost his battle to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 15 months later, on Jan. 1, 2003.
Ryan’s Reindeer Run is a celebration of his life –because he loved life and made the most of each day. One of Ryan’s journal entries after his diagnosis reads, “But every morning when I would crawl out of bed, dreading the oncoming day, I stopped thinking about winning and losing. I experienced victory every morning by merely waking up, because with every day I lived, I won, and cancer lost. I didn’t try in school so that I could be a winner, and I didn’t sprint up and down the basketball court to achieve any victory. I didn’t do it for the praise or the glory.
“So many people throughout this whole ordeal have asked me why I chose to do what I did. I always told them that I really didn’t see much of a choice in it. Now I realize there was, because so many of us sit on the sidelines and watch. As for me, I just love to run.”
Ryan also wrote a book about the physical and emotional challenges he faced as he tried to live as normal a life as possible with a fatal disease. The book is called “Run Because You Can” and is available at www.ryansreindeerrun.com.
After Ryan died, his family wanted to celebrate his life. They wanted to do something on Ryan’s behalf that would continue to make a difference in the world and that would honor him. So, Ryan’s Reindeer Run began.
“I enjoy raising funds that go to support programs in the community that Ryan was involved in or ones that I think he would have enjoyed supporting,” said Roberta Humphries, Ryan’s Reindeer Run coordinator and Ryan’s mom.
Over the 13 years of its existence, the run has made a significant difference for many. “Since we began, we have donated over $174,000 to other organizations that provide services to children and cancer patients,” said Humphries. “These have included Duke Pediatric Bone Marrow Unit, Friends of the Cancer Center of Cape Fear Valley Health, Better Health, The Care Clinic, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Make a Wish Foundation, Boys and Girls Home of North Carolina, The Child Advocacy Center, The Marrow Foundation and other local organizations.”
Part of what makes hosting the run so rewarding for Humphries is watching people have fun. There is a costume contest that always embraces the holiday spirit and brings creative entries. Humphries noted that to compete in the costume contest, it’s important to register with the costume judges to make sure they see your costume. Humphries said she thinks Ryan would especially love “the holiday spirit exhibited by those participating and the fun everyone has at the event. (And) the fact that people are enjoying a moment in time together while they are able to.”
While there is plenty of fun to be had, Humphries wanted to make a point with the route, which winds through Haymount. She specifically chose the route because of the hills that make it a challenging 5K. “Ryan endured many ups and downs in the 15 months he lived once diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma,” she said. “The ups and downs of the hills on the course are a reminder that sometimes life can be challenging as we struggle uphill, but in the end, there is usually something better waiting for us. And for the runners, that is running down Haymount Hill to the finish line.
“Despite the obstacles that are thrown in your path as you journey through life, you can still smile, laugh and make a difference in the lives of those around you. The race has tough hills, and you often have to deal with not ideal weather this time of year, but you can still come out and participate and have a good time.”
Ryan’s Reindeer Run is a timed race. There are prizes for various categories. Participants under 13 receive a finishers medal. There are two entry categories: individual and family. Family entrants are not eligible for the individual awards. Pets on leash are allowed but must be controlled at all times. The trophies are reindeer themed, and this year the event has a new logo.
Packet pickup is Friday, Dec. 14, from 5-8 p.m. at the Child Advocacy Center at 222 Rowan St. and Saturday, Dec. 15, 7 a.m. - 8:15 a.m. at the race site. The race starts at 8:30 a.m. The awards ceremony is at 9:30 a.m.
Parking is available at the Medical Arts Building, at the downtown parking garage and on the street.
Register at active.com or ryansreindeerrun.com.