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Team inspired to log 268 miles in 24 hours at Brown County relay

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Dan Smith hands the baton to Erin Webb to complete the penultimate lap.
Dan Smith hands the baton to Erin Webb to complete the penultimate lap.

In trying to plan a fun event for his Quaff ON! racing teammates, Nashville’s Danny Webb was close to passing on the Brown County Relay For Life.

Webb wanted to put together a team that would try to establish a 24-hour mileage record for the event that would be held at the Brown County High School track. However, little problems kept popping up.

It was just a lot of trouble.

His wife, fellow Quaff ON! runner Erin Webb, took exception to her husband’s line of thinking.

“I told him, ‘No one wants to have cancer,’” she said. “‘Isn’t that what the Relay For Life is all about?’ My husband looked at me and said, ‘I guess we’re doing it.’”

So on May 31, 28 runners representing the Quaff ON! racing team ran every second of a 24-hour period ... midnight to midnight ... and covered 268.5 miles. That’s more than 10 marathons.

The team members were hoping to inspire others to use running or cycling to take up the fight against cancer, and they ended up being inspired themselves.

“My mother-in-law (Marge Vagedes) died of cancer (in 2010),” Danny Webb said. “Everyone has a story. It was a no-brainer that I should support this.”

All during the event, his attention kept straying from the run itself.

“I was born and raised in Brown County, and my family has a body shop in Gnaw Bone,” he said. “I saw a lot of people walking that survivor walk. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize they had cancer.’”

‘Solid corps of runners’

He wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Since the relay was going to be a different type of run, as most team members would be responsible for three, two-hour shifts at various times over the 24-hour period, Danny Webb thought he might have trouble enlisting runners.

“I have a hard time getting people for some races,” he said. “This was attached to Relay For Life, so it was surprisingly easy. We had a good, solid corps of runners who stepped to the plate.”

Columbus runner Scott Wilson was asked to join the cause.

“Initially for me, it just sounded like a good team-building event with guys who run together,” Wilson said. “But it changed for me throughout the day. We started to see people walking together, cancer survivors. One guy who just had days to live was out there walking, just being positive, having fun and laughing.”

That kind of inspiration drove the Quaff ON! members to go faster.

“What we were doing was hard enough, but people started throwing up after running their intervals,” Wilson said. “I don’t think that would have happened if we just showed up somewhere to do a workout.

“I mean, I’m almost 42, and I don’t do any speed workouts. Our goal was to average six-minute miles, and I wasn’t sure I could run any. But at 2 a.m., when I hit the track that first time, something magical happened. My first mile was 5:30. I held the next three at 5:36. That might not mean anything to other people, but something magical was happening.”

One by one, the Quaff ON! members continued to produce the magic.

“I had looked at the numbers and had done a spreadsheet,” Danny Webb said. “I was confident we would do 240 miles. We had runners like Danny Fisher (of Columbus) and Scott Breeden (of Bloomington). I knew we had enough wild cards.”

But after they started running, the Quaff ON! runners wanted more.

“We all thought 240 miles was achievable,” said Columbus runner and Quaff ON! member Tim Proctor. “But we started to realize we could run 10 marathons. That became the new target, and we got more aggressive. We had to run fast every time out there. There was pressure to keep the pace going.”

Erin Webb wanted to hold up her end.

“We all like competing in long, endurance events,” she said. “But this gave everyone a sense of purpose. Everyone wanted to stick to that six-minute (a mile) pace. For a girl, that’s pretty tough. From that aspect, I wanted to make sure I was prepared. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”

Personal connections

Like most of her Quaff ON! teammates, Erin Webb experienced some intense emotions during the event.

“My mom passed away from breast cancer four years ago, and it was her birthday on June 1. When it got close to midnight, the MC for the event gave her a little shout out, ‘Happy Birthday Marge Vagedes.’”

There were other touching moments. As those in the crowd at the event started to understand what Quaff ON! was trying to accomplish, they became more involved.

“These little kids would try to sprint with us for as long as they could,” Erin Webb said. “And they were giving updates how far we had gone.”

As the miles accumulated and the minutes ticked away, the Quaff ON! team knew it was only going to have time for one final lap. They went to Jennifer Baughman, the Brown County Relay for Life co-chairman and a 59-year-old breast cancer survivor, and asked her to carry the baton for the final lap with the entire team trailing behind her.

“It was the definite highlight of my running experiences,” Baughman said. “I felt like the pace car at the Indy 500. I balked because it was their time, their feat, but (Danny Webb) insisted. I prayed that I could make it around the track without stumbling.”

They all crossed the finish line, and the celebration began.

“I had never done anything like that,” Erin Webb said. “We all averaged about 12 miles, and I think we were building energy off each other. I ended up at night running as fast as I had at the beginning. Every time I heard my (lap) time, it was like a magic wand. I kept thinking, ‘This is cool. I can do this.’”

Not slowing down

Her husband said none of the runners wanted to be the first one to run a 6-minute-plus mile. “Nobody wanted to be the first guy or girl to slow down,” Danny Webb said. “We were making jokes about it, ‘It’s OK to go slow. You be the first.’”

No one was about to slow down.

“It really stuck in my mind that we can inspire some other people to run,” Proctor said. “You would see those little kids running 100 meters alongside you, and you would think, ‘I am going to pick it up.’

“We always say that it’s about more than running. It’s about a way of life that we enjoy and value. We have a great opportunity as fit people to put ourselves up as an example.”

Seymour’s Sara Martin was part of the effort.

“We had a goal, but it was not just about meeting that goal,” said Martin, who is a competitive half-marathon runner. “This was about doing it for an important cause.

“I have a family member diagnosed with cancer, and I also recently lost somebody. We were very close friends.

“So this was a little more meaningful.”

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