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More than 159 million Americans received a stimulus payment to ease the financial pressures caused by coronavirus and the economic downturn. And when one local family received their stimulus check, they engineered a creative way to combine a love for running and their desire to help support COVID-19 relief at the same time.

Meet Ryan. An active runner and citizen, and a man on a mission with his family to serve Athens during these unprecedented times.

In the middle of a 7-mile run earlier this spring, Ryan realized he was ‘accidentally’ training for a half marathon. That’s when the idea struck—he would run a half marathon to raise funds for his community. With that, he created a website, shared his message on social media, and officially began fundraising with the idea being that he and his wife would match up to $1,000 in donations.

Altogether, “Ryan’s 13.1” raised a total of $2,355, donating half to the Get Comfortable Fund. He also distributed funds to the Athens Immigrants Rights Coalition, the Nuci’s Space: Garrie Vareen Memorial Fund, and the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement.

Read on for our Q&A with Ryan: 

“What inspired you to donate part of your stimulus check?”
As soon as the CARES Act passed, my wife, Sloan, and I decided immediately that we wanted to donate a chunk of it to someone in Athens who may need it more than us during this time.

“Why a half marathon?”
It kind of happened by accident…To manage my anxiety and to stay active while in quarantine, I tried to maintain a regular running schedule—just a couple miles per day. On weekends, I started doing one longer run per week. First 5 miles, then 6, then 7, which is when I realized I was accidentally training for a half marathon. In the middle of the 7-mile run, I ran through some different scenarios in my head. After getting some help and encouragement from Sloan, I created a website that night, posted my plan on social media, and emailed close family and friends asking for support! We knew that this could be a way to maximize the amount we could give back to Athens, so we set a goal and said we would match all donations up to a certain point. The half marathon was just something to which we could attach our mission.

“How did you prepare for the half?”
Just some good old consistent running and pace training! I would love to give a huge shoutout to my good friend, Rian. He called me immediately and asked how he could help me prepare and train. He paced me on my training runs— and during the half marathon—allowing me just to focus on the goal and free my mind. Without his motivation (and our families cheering us on) throughout the weeks and during the run, I truly could not have done it. (And we hit our goal of completing the half in under 2 hours!)

“Tell us about your route. What makes it special?”
The course started out at my office on Milledge, mainly because I missed going into work and it was centrally located for the spots I wanted to hit around town. We then meandered up to Alps, then back down Baxter towards Milledge where we made a sharp turn toward Five Points. From there, we took a route through UGA’s campus that took us past Foley Field, Stegeman Coliseum, and Sanford Stadium, which then brought us  downtown where we ran up and down a couple streets (including right by Creature Comforts). Next, we headed toward Normaltown, through Cobbham, and back by the office. The run came to an end as we headed back down Baxter and up Lumpkin, completing the run at our fall tailgate spot on Wray Street.

“There are so many organizations in Athens to support. Why did you choose to support the Get Comfortable campaign?”
I admire the connection to the community that Creature Comforts has. The diversity of charities and causes would ensure a diverse group of people would benefit, and I knew that the donation would be used appropriately and wisely and get in the hands of those that needed it most in the city.

“What’s your favorite part about Athens? What makes Athens home to you and your family?”
The people. The sports, entertainment, food, etc. are amazing, and that is probably what drove us here…But after a 10 year hiatus, having now been back for more than a year, we have met some great people and have been inspired by so many ideas and movements that are coming out of this small town. I hope we can continue our progress and become a community that values everyone and is a shining example of equality, justice, peace and happiness in the world.

Cheers to you, Ryan! Way to give back!

Eager to learn more? Visit Ryan’s website.