By Tricia Wackerly
This past April, organizers of the Buck Fifty, a 150 mile relay race, watched in awe as their hard work became a reality. Initially the goal of this grassroots effort was to raise awareness and money to fund 8 local chapters of Drug Free Clubs of America (DFCA) but it has fueled a Southern Ohio community and created a movement.
The Buck Fifty organizers, made up of local runners, had an idea to create change through running. These unpaid volunteers served in various roles during the planning and execution of the overnight relay, but their goal was the same: educate, support and encourage high school students to take a stand, take action and live a drug free life, all while putting on the best relay race you have ever seen. They accomplished all of this and more as teams of runners from 8 states descended upon Ross County, Ohio on April 7th and 8th to compete in one of Ohio’s most grueling running competitions. Buck Fifty teams are comprised of 10 runners who each run 3 legs of the race. Over the journey of the race, runners ran approximately 5 miles on each of their assigned legs to complete all 150 miles of the course. The course had over 8,800 feet of elevation gain as runners embarked on back country roads, through historic downtown Chillicothe, and trail runs through 4 state and national parks.
Over 350 volunteers helped pull off the historic event by managing checkpoints and working the post-race celebration at the finish line. Some say the checkpoints were where the community involvement and “magic” happened during the overnight relay. The 29 checkpoints consisted of civic groups, churches, schools and businesses that came out to support the runners with enthusiasm and energy. Many of the checkpoints felt like mini parties – playing music and most importantly encouragement to help the runners along the way. They directed van traffic and guided the runners as they entered and exited each checkpoint. If you ask most runners, they were blown away by how well organized the race was, but these checkpoints were an unexpected highlight and the real icing on the cake.
The 2016-2017 schoolyear was the start of the MADE program, which stands for My Attitude Determines Everything and is the local branch of Drug Free Clubs of America. 100% of race proceeds support this program. They had a goal of 20-30% enrollment, which DFCA claimed was very lofty considering 15% is the average. They also warned that starting with 8 high schools was bold to say the least, but there was no telling this group of passionate volunteers they couldn’t meet their goal. “We knew we couldn’t let down any student who wanted to participate in the program. Yes, the challenge was big, but we refused to fail,” said Dave Huggins, Buck Fifty Race Director.
Are you ready for this? Organizers enrolled 1,695 members into the MADE program, representing over 45% of the Ross County high school student population. If someone tells you, you can’t change peer pressure and the culture in a high school, they haven’t met the crew at The Buck Fifty! In just their first year The Buck Fifty was able to write a check to Drug Free Clubs of America in the amount of $70,000. It was a complete and total team effort and the Buck Fifty race committee is extremely grateful and proud of the results.
The winning team of this inaugural race was the Appalachian Alpha Team finishing in 17 hours and 14 minutes. It was an impressive display of running as this team of 5 Elite Runners ran their hearts out to win this event with each runner taking on 6 challenging legs of The Buck Fifty course. They were the winners, but really, all of the 38 inaugural teams talked about having the time of their life and crossed the finish line together as a team with pockets full of pride. They were then rewarded with a huge Buck Fifty medal hung around their neck by one of the high school members of the MADE program. It was an electric moment to see these teams and teens combine for one common goal. Check out the 2017 race highlight video to see the real beauty this course beholds and all the smiles our runners displayed https://youtu.be/zXLzV8r_8TQ.
Next year’s race will be April 13 & 14 at Ohio University Chillicothe. There is a ton of momentum, so register now as 19 of the original 38 teams have already signed up for next year. The goal is 100 teams in 2018 but will cap out at 150 teams. Registration is open and details can be found at www.thebuckfifty.com.
What did participants think of this year’s inaugural Buck Fifty event?
“This was a first class event. The experience far exceeded my expectations. The course was killer (hate you for leg 23, but can’t wait to tackle it next year). Really, truly, and sincerely, a great job. Thank you.”
“I have participated in relay races across the country, some of them rated as ‘the best in the country.’ This race was second to none.”
“This is the ninth time I have run a relay and I came from Florida to do this one. It was the most well organized, well marked, and had the best volunteers of any of them. Thanks!”
“Can’t say enough thanks to you and your incredible team of volunteers. We had a team of people who are runners, event planners, and fundraisers for a living and we were blown away. Literally blown away by how awesome of a time we had and what you guys created.”
The Buck Fifty Chillicothe