Author: Merlin Anderson

ABC Run #143, Jan.13, 2019

In spite of snow-packed roads, 22 participants made it to Sugar Grove to enjoy a winter wonderland adventure. An amazing total of $2,000 was donated to Sugar Grove Nature Center thanks to all the generous donations from participants, four individuals that could not attend but sent checks, and a special surprise online donation from Shady Hollow Trail Runners (Kirsten and Jim Street planned to bring a check but were snowed in).

Thanks to Eric Funk for spending hours clearing the parking lot on Saturday and for arriving early on Sunday to shovel a path to the front door. At 9:00 we gathered together for a group photo and to hear from Angela Funk, the Sugar Grove Nature Center director. Angela thanked us for our efforts and told us that this year’s donations would go toward updating the educational animal displays.

We enjoyed the winter wonderland in a variety of ways: five ran a four mile road course, several ran trails through 9-inch deep snow, a few hiked the trails, two snow-shoed (Laurel Schumacher, Angela Funk) and one cross-country skied (Pat Sheridan).

After the run, we were treated to another great feast! Thanks to Meg Anderson for making it a hot meal by providing breakfast casserole and coffee cake. Thanks also to Bruce Sutter for oatmeal, Stacie Sheridan for breakfast casserole and chocolate milk, Angela Funk for coffee and snacks, and so much more.

A final adventure occurred when Hondo Vasques fell victim to the icy roads when driving away and skidded into the ditch. Luckily, Pat Sheridan used his four-wheel drive vehicle and bit of nylon rope to pull Hondo’s car out, with the help of a good number of ABC participants giving a push (I arrived too late to be of any use, however).

Hondo, you have now achieved legendary status among January ABC participants, joining the likes of:
1. Kevin McCarthy – the only other car accident (I think).
2. Missy Adams – for crossing a stream by climbing a tree and across its branch.
3. Nigel Keen – for balance walking across a fallen tree to cross the creek behind the boy scout cabin, then running through the restricted hunting area and getting lost.

Thanks so much to everyone who attended, contributed, brought food, and made it fun!

The next ABC run (#144) will be Sunday, February 3 at/for Scott Early Learning Center.

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Boston Marathon Tandem Bike Bet

This was the 14th annual beer bet with Bob Brandt. The challenge was to ride at least 26.2 miles with each of 26 runners who have run Boston. Because this was bet #14, at least 14 had be new tandem riders (I have a total of 308 tandem riders).

Result = 43 Boston marathoners, 23 of them were new riders. OK, only 42 riders met the terms of the bet because one rider had to stop at 12 miles due to being called in to work at the hospital.

Thanks, Bob, for setting this goal. Without the challenge, I would not have had the fun of spending quality time with so many friends. And thanks to all the Boston marathon runners for taking the time to ride with me and giving me these awesome memories.

1. Gene Harding –three Bostons (2015-2017). Was my first rider again this year.
2. Kirsten Pieper Street – ran Boston 2014. Has been a LRC winner for amazing comeback.
3. Kevin Tuuk – ran Boston in 2010 even though he was injured at the time.
4. Dennis Killian – five Bostons, 100+ marathons (including 50 states). Ironman triathlons.
5. Andy Williams – two Bostons (2014, 2016). Best running memory is qualifying for Boston.
6. Steve Laning – 2010 & 2016 Bostons. Best memory is running sub 3:00 at Indy.
7. Charlie Grotevant – ran Boston six times, including a 3:12 PR in 1991.
8. Roxanne Schulkins – ran Boston in 2003, six other marathons. Also golfs & bowls.
9. Tom Crain – ran many times, favorite was finishing 1984 close to Robin Roberts in 2:47.
10. Cheryl Richards – 3:24 PR. Her ride was cut short due to being called in to work.
11. Mark Hopping – five Bostons (three of them the same years I ran).
12. Kim Barman – five Bostons, including the 2013 Boston which was marred by the bombing.
13. Les Usiak – ran Boston 2005, among 14 total marathons, including three sub-3:00 efforts.
14. Jodi Heckel –two Bostons. Had the worst weather ride with me (high winds, rain, sleet).
15. Tod Williamson – ran Boston in 2008, among at least 24 total marathons.
16. Tim Rood – two Boston marathons. Also an accomplished Crossfit competitor.
17. Kevin Fahling – two Bostons, 23 marathons, PR of 2:52. Has done more than 80 ABC runs.
18. Lisa Sparks – ran Boston in 2009. Has done more than 80 ABC runs.
19. Tricia Martin – has done 38 total marathons and eight Ironman triathlons.
20. Seanan AlYasiri – best marathon experience was the Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu.
21. Rachel Wells – ran the worst weather Boston (2018) among her 16 marathons (PR=3:23).
22. Brigette Van Hook – two Bostons (2010, 2011). Her overall PR is 3:21.
23. Stacey Runde – ran Boston in 2010, her overall PR is 3:28.
24. Bill Perry – did Boston 2000, among 27 marathons (PR=3:00). Did two Ironman triathlons.
25. Mary Ellen Schubach – Boston 2003, among 11 marathons (3:00 PR). 5K PR = 16:08 (college).
26. Carol Pratt – four Bostons, overall PR=3:20, seven 50K runs, one Ironman triathlon.
27. Robin Roberts – seven Bostons (1980-1986), including a 2:42 effort in 1980.
28. Larry Turilli – ran Boston 1995, marathon PR=2:52, 1 mile PR-4:19, 5K PR=14:58 (college).
29. Carolyn Sutter – two Bostons, 84 total marathons (including 50 states). Ironman triathlons.
30. Erin Furimsky – ran Boston 2014, among nine marathons (PR=3:13).
31. Mike Heffron – Boston 1994. Has a 2:42 marathon PR.
32. Carrie Hymer – Boston 2003, 3:37 marathon PR. Has survived 1,362 miles on my tandem.
33. Paul Bliss – two Bostons (1996, 2016), 14 marathons (2:43 PR). Won one marathon.
34. Mary Toohill– Boston 2018. Has a 2:50 PR. Has Lake Run 12K course record (45:46).
35. Dan Anderson – ran Boston in 2014 at age 60. Has a PR of 3:47.
36. Steve Cleary – ran Boston in 1978, among 29 marathons (PR=2:49).
37. Amber Ferre – ran a PR 3:33 at the 2018 Boston marathon in spite of the weather.
38. Tamara Nelsen – two Bostons, with a 3:29 PR at Boston 2002. Ironman triathlons.
39. Doug Gillam – ran Boston 1994 among many marathons (PR=2:36).
40. Dick Luedke – Boston 1996. Marathon PR=3:17. Best marathon=3:24 at age 59.
41. Jim Pelarske – two Bostons, including 2:26 in 1991, good for 5th place Master award.
42. Nigel Keen – six Bostons among 41 total marathons (2:50 PR). Ironman triathlons.
43. Michael Mallon– four Bostons. Has a marathon PR of 2:37 (twice).

The 2019 challenge will be to ride at least 30 miles with at least 15 people who have done an Ironman distance triathlon. Bob will have the opportunity to make me schedule an additional Ironman triathlete for each time he goes for a bike ride of at least 15 miles. This is going to be an epic battle for the beer!

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ABC#141, for Heartland Head Start

The weather forecast was ominous but 39 participants had a great time and Heartland Head Start received donations totaling $590, including two donations from runners that could not attend. Thanks everyone!

ABC#141 was a true adventure. We wondered if many would join us, considering the odds of bad weather. Then we saw barriers across the road leading to Sugar Grove Nature Center. Michelle Crawford of Heartland Head Start and Meg investigated while I went to drop off the Gatorade. When I returned, the barricades were moved aside and Darlene Weber, friend of Heartland Head Start, was there to inform everyone to proceed but be careful driving around a downed tree that blocked part of the road.

With that problem solved, the parking lot began to fill and we got things started shortly after 8:00 by singing “Happy Birthday” to Greg Braswell, hearing a nice thank you from Michelle Sutter of Heartland Head Start, and then posing for a group photo. None of the runners decided to do the entire 7-mile road course. The road runners turned around at the 2-mile mark but didn’t get back before the rain hit. You might say we lost the race to a rain cloud. The trail runners might have lucked out if they ran no more than three miles. One intrepid trail runner, Pat Sheridan, did the whole five-mile course and more due to taking a wrong turn. What’s a little more running when you’re already wet?

The menu was awesome as usual with casseroles, coffee cake, bagels & cream cheese, doughnuts, fruit, snack items, coffee, and so much more. Thanks to all who brought food.

Thanks to Angela Funk (Director, Sugar Grove Nature Center) for getting things ready for us even though she could not join us. Thanks to Sharon Cochran (member of Friends of Heartland Head Start) for helping host and to several Heartland Staff members who also helped. Thanks to David Weber for taking photos.

The funds raised by all eleven runs for Heartland add up to a heartwarming total of $7,849. Thanks so much to every participant for your fellowship, sharing food, and generous financial support. Your support helps Heartland Head Start achieve their mission to “enhance the lives of children and families by providing a comprehensive child and family development program for 3-5 year old children and their families who meet the federal guidelines in McLean and Livingston counties in Central Illinois.” For more on Heartland Head Start, visit

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ABC#140, for Seedling Theatre

ABC Run #140 on September 2 was a success with $915 donated to Seedling Theatre thanks to the generosity of everyone involved. Thanks much to:
(a) Laurel & Larry Schumacher for being awesome hosts at their new home in Normal.
(b) 42 attendees (and three other contributors) that donated a total of $915.
(c) Sharri Pelarske and Meg Anderson, for donating homemade preserves for our drawing.
(e) Seedling Theatre for donating tickets to an upcoming performance for our drawing.
(h) everyone who brought food! Too many to recall but this list might include most of them:
Meg Anderson, Laurel Schumacher, Patty Bunker, Felicia Harrison, Kristin Crumrine, Ann Aubry, Rachel Wells, Jean & Christy Bates, Robyn Walter, Tammy Knippenberg, Holly-Rae Van Hoof, Lorelei Hudson. What a fantastic feast!

Seedling Theatre is a wonderful theatrical program for children & young adults & adults with disabilities, as well as their able bodied peers. We have completed nine ABC runs for Seedling Theatre, generating total donations of $10,779. ABC runs have been Seedling’s major source of donations which has helped them to purchase sound equipment, pay copyright fees, give small honorariums to staff, and much more. Thanks a million to everyone for all the support.

Donna Anhalt, the Seedling Theatre director, is deeply touched by the outpouring of support for Seedling and wishes to use the words of A.P. Gouthey to express her appreciation:
“Gratitude is the hardest of all emotions to express. There is no word capable of conveying all that one feels. Until we reach a world where thoughts can adequately be expressed in words, “thank you” will have to do.”

Donna also wishes to express great appreciation for her staff. “Most of Seedling staff consists of high school and college age young people who work so many hours with Seedling Theatre whether it be at our workshops, summer camp, Seedling Encore or our Christmas production. Many have been with Seedling Theatre since day one as junior high students and have now finished college and are still with me. My staff are amazing – their support and dedication rivals that of the Seedling participant’s families themselves. Honorarium is defined as a payment given for professional services that are rendered nominally without charge. Their time, talent, and dedication is definitely deserving of a small honorarium but what they do receive is so appreciated. I strongly believe the commitment and love these young people have for the Seedling participants is well deserving of anything they receive. Seedling Theatre would not exist without these fine young people and the love for what they do. The largest distribution of staff honorariums comes at Christmas so the annual ABC Run donations helps cover a significant portion of those honorariums”.

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ABC#139, for St. Jude

ABC Run #139 was at our house on July 15. An all-time ABC record of $4,057 was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital thanks to the great generosity of 40 attendees plus 11 others that could not make it but sent us checks or donated online. A special moment was when Paul Haas stopped by with a nice donation from the Shady Hollow Trail Runners. Meg and I are running the relay for the first time this year. After years of organizing ABC runs for St. Jude, we couldn’t resist after hearing heartwarming sories from relay participants. The donations have exceeded our goals and helped our team exceed the team fund-raising goal. More importantly, the donations help kids by helping St. Jude provide free lifesaving care and helping St. Jude continue its groundbreaking research. The kids can benefit even more when employees/retirees of a companies like State Farm submit their donations for the company match.

Meryl Brown, Co-captain with Kevin Callis of team “We Got The Runs… For The Kids”, welcomed us and briefly informed us about what she learned in her recent trip to St. Jude in Memphis. Then we were off on our 2.5 mile figure-eight neighborhood course that most runners ran twice for a five-mile run. My only instructions were to follow me as I bicycled the 2.5 mile course. I don’t think many got lost and accidentally ran extra miles. Denise Goff and Dianna Doblosky ended up with 10 miles but they told me that was on purpose.

After the run, Bruce Sutter received the “ABC Top Dog” traveling trophy for his consistent strong support of ABC runs. He has done 63 ABC runs, including five of the six ABC runs this year.

The menu was really great as usual. Thanks so much to Meg Anderson for preparing a feast and to all the others that brought delicious food to share. While Meg got up early to cook, I slept a bit longer, then got up and sent a Facebook message about Meg’s cooking, then mixed the Gatorade. One of the many great things about being married to Meg.

We’ve held a total of 16 ABC runs for St. Jude and the total of those runs is $22,071. The total for all 139 ABC runs is $133,168. Thanks so much to everyone for all your support!

ABC Run #140, to benefit The Seedling Theater will be held at the Schumacher home on Saturday, September 1 at 7:30 a.m. (doors open at 7:00).

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ABC#137, Baby Fold, 4-14-18

The weather wasn’t good but we had great participants. An awesome $2,618 was donated to The Baby Fold by 49 participants plus a couple others that could not attend. What a wonderful surprise considering that a day before the event, the weather forecast called for thunderstorms.

Aimee Beam, Norris Porter, and Lori Bultemeir, of The Baby Fold, were great hosts, greeting us and making sure we had water and sports drink. Before we ran, we recognized the “ABC Top Team” based on participation. Gold’s Gym won with 5 participants, edging out Be Strong (last year’s winner), and Often Running. After the group photos, we headed out for our run. Some did the 3-mile route up the trail to near I55 and back, some went to the water stop and back (6 miles) and others went to the end of the trail and back for a total of 7 miles. A few runners got extra miles by running some miles before the official start.










The post-run pot luck feast was great as usual, including coffee cake and a casserole from Meg Anderson, Swedish pancakes from Dan Anderson, pigs in a blanket from Sharri Pelarske, fruit from Carolyn Sutter, egg casserole from Sandra Sharp, casserole from Tammy Knippenberg, chocolate chip cookies from Kevin Fahling, protein bars from Angela Funk, grapes & bagels from The Baby Fold, and more. Thanks so much to everyone for making this event great fun and another huge success!

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ABC Run #136, 3-10-18

ABC Run #136 was Saturday, 3/10/17 at Robyn Walter’s home. Great event with $735 donated to Project OZ by 50 runners that attended plus two that donated in advance because they were unable to attend. Thanks so much for supporting Project OZ! If you are a State Farmer and you donated $25 or more, please submit your donation to State Farm’s matching program.

This our first ABC run for Project OZ, the 29th charity we have supported. We were fortunate to have Mike Doherty, a Project OZ board member, there to tell us a little about their mission. Not being a good note-taker, here are some things I learned from their website:
Project OZ has been serving this area for more than 40 years with a mission to make a positive difference for young people. Their main programs are:
1. Housing & Homeless Resources.
2. Youth Empowered Schools. Project Oz has counselors in District 87 and Unit 5 to help students with problems they are having with school, family, friends, and more.
3. Crisis and Intervention. Meeting the immediate needs of youth ages 10-22 in McLean and Livingston Counties with emergency shelter, crisis intervention, and support services.
4. Drug Prevention & Education. Alcohol, tobacco and other drug use prevention through schools, community forums & activities.

It was a good day to run – sunny and above 32 degrees. Runners/walkers chose between a three mile route and a six mile route. Those that ran the six mile route got the opportunity for a refreshment stop (sports drink, water) at 3 miles. Some runners (Jill Usiak, Megan Ebert, Tod Williamson, Eric Fortune, Erin Furimsky, Mary Ellen Schupbach) turned this event into a longer run by clocking several miles before our official start. Mary Pinkham started with us but then kept on going to make it a 10 mile run.

Back at the house, Robyn Walter did a great job of hosting, including organizing the food buffet and mixing mimosas. Another fantastic post-run food fest! Thanks much to the following runners for the great food:

Robyn Walter – French toast casserole, oatmeal, mimosas, coffee
Meg Anderson – coffee cake, sausage/egg/hash brown casserole
Stacy Sheridan – oranges
Kristen Duffield – Veggie pizza
Sandra Sharp – breakfast casserole
Laurel Schumacher – banana bread
Scott Dixon – banana bread
??? – bananas, chocolate milk, and more!

Amazing! A great run and a great brunch with a great bunch of people, for a great cause! Thanks again for the food, donations, and friendship.

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ABC Run #135, 2-4-2018

After two years of great weather, we experienced slippery, cold, and windy conditions. In spite of the weather, 30 hardy souls gathered at Children’s Home + Aid to run and generously support the children in our community with donations that totaled $740. Children’s Home + Aid will benefit even more when State Farm employees/retirees apply under State Farm’s matching grant program. If you contributed $25 or more, please be sure to apply. This might make a couple hundred dollars difference! If you do not work for State Farm, check to see if your employer has a matching gift program.

After explaining the running course, I turned the speaking duties over to our gracious host, Lisa Sparks, who thanked us, explained the Super Bowl quiz rules, and introduced Laura Cordero, Development Assistant at Children’s Home + Aid. Laura thanked us and let us know how important our contributions are. Our contributions went directly to the Scott Early Learning Center which provides affordable child care where traditional daycare may not be within reach.

We gathered back at the Learning Center for the post-run feast. There were many contributions but I didn’t notice who brought what except for the coffee cake and breakfast casserole from Meg Anderson, French toast casserole from Robyn Walter, chocolate chip banana cake from Stacy Sheridan, chocolate chip cookies from Kevin Fahling, cuties and cookies from Lisa Sparks, cantaloupe from Erin Furimsky, and Girl Scout cookies from Rocio Rivadeneyra. Thanks so much to everyone!

The final business for the day was the awarding of the “Super Bowl Trivia” prize to Steve Mills.
This is the tenth year we have conducted an ABC run for the Scott Early Learning Center. This year’s $740 brings the ten-year total to $7,177. The total for all 135 ABC runs is $123,768. Thanks so much to everyone who has provided financial support, food, and encouragement.

ABC Run #136, for Project Oz, will be held Saturday, March 10 at the home of Robyn Walter and Gregg Chadwick.

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ABC Run #134, January 13, 2018

The cold (8 degrees) and wind (double digit) did not deter us from starting the 14th year of ABC runs in style. A total of $825 was donated to Sugar Grove Nature Center by 33 participants, plus one check from someone who could not attend.

At 9:00 we gathered together for a group photo and to hear from Rachel Kramp, the Volunteer Coordinator at Sugar Grove Nature Center, as she thanked us for our efforts. Our donations go towards children’s educational programs. Angela Funk, who was unable to attend this year, had earlier communicated that their wish list includes a weather station (fancy type with readouts), items for a new display in the nature center, some children’s literature, and materials for a new mud kitchen in Imagination Grove.

Most of the runners ran the 5-mile trail route that is protected from the wind. The footing was good because all of the snow had melted during the couple of warm days. My apologies to those that were hoping to cross-country ski or to snow shoe.

One adventurer, Rich Beal, should be awarded a “Freeze Yer Gizzard” prize for braving the 7-mile road course, leaving the cozy comfort of the woods and out into the wind. Rich happens to be a veteran of the “Freeze Yer Gizzard” race in northern Minnesota.

After the run, we were treated to another great feast! Thanks to Meg Anderson for making it a hot meal by providing breakfast casserole and coffee cake. Thanks also to Kevin Fahling for chocolate chip cookies, Jen Ho for cuties, Kathy Alexander for cherries, Stacie Sheridan for bananas, pastries and chocolate milk, Lisa Sparks for cranberry bread, Rachel Kramp for coffee and snacks and so much more (sorry I didn’t notice who all brought what, but rest assured… I ate it all.

Thanks so much to everyone who attended, contributed, brought food, and made it fun!

The next ABC run (#135) will be Sunday, February 4 at/for Scott Early Learning Center.

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International Tandem Triskaidekaphobia Challenge

This was the 13th annual beer bet with Bob Brandt so we went with a triskaidekaphobia (“fear of the number 13”) theme. I suggested doing a ride with riders from 13 countries but Bob doubled it to 26. A rider could represent a country if (a) born in that country, (b) lived there 13 years, or (c) currently lives there. Each ride had to be at least 13 kilometers (8 miles).

Good thing Bob doubled it to 26 tandem riders because it increased the challenge, introduced me to new friends, and produced great memories. Every ride was memorable. Here are a few examples:

1. Arranging a last-minute ride with Garbine Guruciaga (Spain), who was riding across the country on a tandem bike with her husband. I rode one-way on old Route 66 with her until a couple miles past Towanda, while her husband rode solo on their tandem. I rode solo back home.

2. Riding with Keith Marshall and hearing of the dangers of growing up on a dairy farm during the revolution in Zimbabwe. That makes my growing up on a dairy farm in Minnesota look super safe.

3. Meeting Gig Supanichrattana while I was volunteering at Light the Night in Normal and, after learning she’s from Thailand, asking if she would happen to like going on a tandem bike ride.

4. Contacting Sheheryar Muftee after seeing he was a candidate for Bloomington City Council, then asking him if he was from another country (he was – Pakistan) and convincing him to ride.

5. Learning it’s a small world after all when I asked Marcelo Prado (Brazil) how he ended up here. He met his wife, Jennifer Vericella, while working at the UN in Switzerland. Jennifer is a friend’s niece, and Meg had Jennifer as a student back when Meg taught pre-school.

This may have been the toughest challenge yet, but the concept of “six degrees of separation” and the magic of social media helped fill the year with great, enriching experiences with 39 riders from 37 different countries. Six continents were represented by those 37 countries (anybody know of someone born in Antarctica?). In total, 53 people rode on the tandem this year, 38 of them were new riders bringing the all-time total to 285 riders. Thanks so much to everyone for all the great rides, the referrals, and great memories! Here are the riders, listed by country:
Australia: Dennis Gilmore
Barbados: Bryan Best
Brazil: Marcelo Prado, Edneuza Hermes
Canada: Frances Connolly
China: Ricardo Yinzhe Lu
Colombia: Vince Espejo
Dominican Republic: Melin de la Cruz
Egypt: Noha Shawki
England : Nigel Keen, Leon Borsukiewicz
France: JC Le Mentec
Germany: Pat Sheridan
Ghana: Precious Baah
Honduras: Frank Herrada
Hungary: Zsuzsanna Fagyal-LeMentec
India: Balraj Rajamanickam
Iran: Sadegheh Haghshenas
Libya: Mohammed Al-marimi
Japan: Chris Stiles
Malaysia: Jennifer Ho
Mexico: Sophia Melina Monroy
Morocco: Kenza Soufiane
Nepal: Aashish Shrestha
Netherlands: Brigit Molony
Nigeria: Aderinsola Adelekan
Pakistan: Sheheryar Muftee
Philippines: Jenny Sun
Poland: Aleks Ola Wolan
Portugal: Beth Sennett
Russia: Kristina Furler
South Africa: Ironette Marshall
South Korea: Briana Paris
Spain: Garbine Guruceaga
Thailand: Gig Supanichrattana
United States: Meg Anderson
Vietnam: Bick Tran
Venezuela: Mirriam Valero
Zimbabwe: Keith Marshall

The 2018 challenge is sticking with the goal of 26 riders but the tough part is that it has to be 26 riders that have done the Boston Marathon. The minimum ride is 26.2 miles and each rider must complete the 26 miles in one ride. Because this is the 14th year of the bet, 14 of the 26 riders have to be people that have never been on the tandem before. This is going to be great!

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