Each February, NFL Network analyst Rich Eisen runs the 40-yard dash in his work clothes for charity. His challenge inspired four firefighters to do the same in 30 pounds of gear. Only one escaped without a nagging injury
By Dana Wright
In February, I was lamenting the void of football-less Sundays and watching the NFL Network in hopes of finding an intriguing show or catching some breaking news. Nothing caught my attention, except for a commercial previewing Run Rich Run—the annual campaign to support the kids at St. Jude Hospital. I’m sure many fans are familiar with it: Just like NFL Network analyst Rich Eisen, you run the 40-yard dash in your work clothes, post the video online and make a donation to support the kids.
As a firefighter, I thought this would be pretty cool for us to do in our gear. I was sure we were up to the task. We have a personal trainer who comes to our fire hall in Vancouver and kills us with plyometric workouts designed to help us do our jobs better. The trainer, Chad, is a young guy who likes to push us to the point where we’re nearly vomiting. After one of these workouts, I suggested that now would be a good time to do our version of Run Rich Run. We were already sweaty and warmed up, but the other guys wanted to do lunch first. Big mistake.
By the time we had eaten and let it settle, we were all cold and tight. Everybody else wanted to reschedule the run, but I insisted. “It’s for the kids!” I said, effectively ending their grumbling. Three guys agreed to run with me. Their hamstrings still haven’t forgiven me.
The tale of the tape:
42 years old, 195 pounds
Pros: Super competitive and driven.
Cons: Totally in love with himself. Has been known to stare in the mirror telling himself how good looking he is.
* * *
37 years old, 185 pounds
Pros: Cancer survivor and very strong.
Cons: Is a big deal in his own mind and is addicted to ginger beef.
* * *
38 years old, 265 pounds
Pros: Is actually quite limber for a big guy and loves cooking.
Cons: Loves crushing candy, and we’re not talking about the computer game.
* * *
43 years old, 163 pounds
Pros: Incredibly strong lungs from cycling, has strong endurance.
Cons: Likes cycling.
Though we have been working side by side for years, we were sizing each other up as we put on our gear, which weighs about 30 pounds from helmet to boots. I pictured myself finishing no worse than second. The only guy I was concerned about was Jeremy, given his competitiveness and determination. I certainly wasn’t losing to ginger beef, or to a guy who weighs 100 pounds more than I do. Besides, I ran track in school—I might be talking about elementary school, but still, I regularly collected blue ribbons. Thirty-five years later, what could go wrong?
We ran three times. None of us stretched beforehand, and for that we paid dearly.
And I didn’t come close to getting a blue ribbon.
On the first try, both of my legs seized five steps in and I nearly buckled over. We looked at the recording and for reasons I can’t remember—mainly because I was secretly writhing in pain—we decide to run again. It was my chance for redemption. I didn’t believe it until I saw the tape: I finished in last place again. In my mind, I could hear Mike Mayock saying to Rich Eisen, “Dana is a J.A.G.—just another guy.”
Jerry won both races, and I’m convinced the only reason is because someone was holding a mirror at the finish line so he could run toward his gorgeous self. I thought we were done, but Chris wanted to run one more time, because he sensed Jeremy was getting tired. The third time wasn’t a charm, and Chris’s greed would prove to be his undoing.
Inwardly I’m dying, but out of sheer pride and foolishness, I decide to run the third race. Once again I’m about to finish last when a funny thing happens. With about 10 yards to go, Chris pulls up as if he’s been shot in the back, his arms flailing. It’s his hamstring, and it’s gruesome. (Jeremy wins again, completing his Triple Crown. But Marc, aka ginger beef, turns out to be the only one who isn’t limping around afterward.)
After we finished, I posted the second video on Twitter and hash-tagged the necessary info. Our shift ended and we all went our respective ways. I arrived home, kissed my wife, hugged my dog and waved to my cat from a safe distance. When I looked at my phone, my jaw dropped. It was full of notifications with likes, comments and retweets. I showed my wife and started to laugh. One of the coolest things was seeing Steve Mariucci retweet our run—but there was more to come.
Not only did the NFL Network play the clip during their combine broadcast, it was also used in their commercials to promote the Run Rich Run campaign. My post climbed to over 112,000 views. It ended up being such a great experience.
We take our jobs seriously, but my favorite part of the video is that you can hear us almost giggling. We are friends who love working together and often laugh all day long, usually at the stupidest things. But this was no such thing. My other favorite thing about doing this is that it supported kids—true innocents. Bringing attention to charities like St. Jude Hospital shouldn’t be lost in all this, so if you haven’t already done so, please consider donating to this cause or another charity that benefits children. And if you’re a fellow firefighter reading this, organize your crew and hit me up on Twitter: @Dane28D. Let’s challenge each other and raise some serious money for these kids next year.
And, if I may, I’d like to propose one last challenge: To Peter King and the crew at The MMQB, start getting your hamstrings ready now. Next year, we’ll be looking for you on the starting line.
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