Ask the Goat: Funding a race across the USA

Editor’s note: Chris Knodel’s five-month run across 13 states begins Jan. 16. He starts in California and travels through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia into Washington D.C., totaling 3,080 miles in 140 days (averaging 22 miles per day). The goal is to inspire a healthier generation and fight childhood obesity.

* Contribute to Chris’ online campaign

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When trying to figure out some companies to approach for the Race Across the USA, my mind went immediately to the obvious ones —Nike, Brooks and North Face.

Ask the Goat by Chris Knodel

Ask the Goat
by Chris Knodel

But then it occurred to me that those brands already had ambassadors, elites and professional athletes at their helm. How often did they really rally behind an aging middle-of-the-packer? Furthermore, weren’t most running-related companies saturated with top-tier representatives?

I needed to stand out. My blazing speed, rugged good looks and top-ten finishes weren’t going to get me far. I am a volume runner. I do more races than most, not faster times. And I do long distances, not the more popular and highly prevalent 3.1, 6.2, 13.1 and 26.2 events. If it has a decimal, it’s probably not on my upcoming to-do list.

So here was my idea. Save myself the trouble of even approaching the big names. Focus on the fringe elements of my sport. Instead of ‘running gear,’ simply focus on ‘gear.’ Hit the outdoor merchandisers, the camping distributors, tactical suppliers and the survivalists. Focus on backpacks, trekking poles, knives, sleeping pads, tents, water purifiers and the like. To be honest, I already had most of the running gear I’d ever use. I preferred a SportKilt or cargo pants to tech shorts, and I’d rather don a flannel than a polymer wind-breaker.

I went to REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) and wove up and down each aisle. I wrote down every brand name, tag and company. I didn’t care if it was camping, kayaking or biking items. In many cases, the best gear for running came from the other disciplines. Martial Arts pants/shorts were perfect bottoms for running, and water-sports (like your fishing, canoeing and kayaking) often made the best waterproof gear. I use biking shoe neoprene sleeves over my LUNA Sandals for extreme cold weather foot covers. If you aren’t investigating the cross-disciplinary gear, you are overpaying for equipment that is under-performing.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Once the REI visit was done, I logged onto the Promotive website; it is a law-enforcement and military discount forum featuring over 100 corporate brands. After compiling a comprehensive list of over 300 products, I did a little Internet research on the philanthropic nature, donation history and potential ambassadorships for each. I followed the prescribed procedures, but whenever allowed, populated my tailored donor letter and let it fly.

Also, if the application gave the option to request for an organization, I applied for donations on behalf of the Race Across the USA and specified amounts based on the 10-member Core Team. I sent out over 70 letters and emails that first weekend alone.

Within two days, I began receiving responses. Many were blanket denials, stating budgetary constraints or other philanthropic obligations –but one in every five made a product contribution. Some were small, others ended up in excess of $750. I couldn’t believe how high the success rate stayed. I continued to submit letters until my list was exhausted, and each time I discovered a new company, I sent out a letter. I even went back and approached all the running companies I initially avoided. Few (meaning none) bore fruit, which confirmed my resolve to focus on the non-traditional venues.

Chris Knodel is a Mangum Track Club member and Sandhills Region native. He is the author of “More, Better Quicker – The Irish Goat: A Fat-Boy & His Path to Ultra-Distance.” His column will appear each Thursday on

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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