File this article under why I love to work at SignMeUp. I called Chris Nicholas, North Country Run’s event director, to discuss an online registration-related issue. As we were talking about his event, Chris told me that between March and June 2012, he ran solo from the White House to Santa Monica, California. What’s more, this September he is going to start at the top of Maine and run to Florida, then California, then Washington – essentially three quarters of the U.S. perimeter – to become the first person to run across the United States twice in 12 consecutive months!
Chris’ story is amazing in many ways, not the least of which is that it illustrates how to use technology and social media to spread a message and gain support for a cause. Chris shared his daily progress on his Pace Per Mile Facebook page (he also co-hosts the weekly Pace Per Mile radio program) and encouragement from fans helped him push through. On one particularly difficult day, he posted the message: “I would like to run a mile for you today or someone that you might have lost in your life. Comment here who I should run for today. My gift to you today.” Twenty nine people added inspirational comments. In addition, Chris raised over $8,000 (over $3,000 more than his goal) for Children’s Miracle Network, which helps improve medical care for young people worldwide.
Chris also used social media to promote the businesses that supported him. I asked him how he financed his trip, and he told me that in the entire three months he paid for only one night of lodging. When he knew where he was going to end for the day, he would look up nearby hotels on his GPS. He would call one of them, explain what he was doing, and promise to post a photo of himself at the hotel on his Facebook and Twitter pages, which by the way have over 32,000 fans. An easy sell.
Chris was often greeted by city officials when he arrived in a town. On his last scheduled running day (more on that below), he was escorted by Santa Monica police. Then it was off to Hawaii, where the Visitors and Conventions Bureau had flown him to complete his journey with a run around Oahu.
Now back at home for a short time, Chris is bringing his passion and energy to North Country Run, an ultra-marathon/marathon/half marathon trail run. Although the event can accommodate at most 500, it has over 2,000 Facebook fans and almost 9,000 Twitter followers. Chris claims his success is due in part to the personal attention he gives to his runners. “When you can connect with people on a personal level and let them know you are listening to them, it helps build rapport between the event and its participants,” Chris said. “We all know it’s a challenge to try to relate to your runners when they are not always in the same city.”
You can read more about Chris in his soon-to-be-published book, A Step Closer: 3,000 Miles, 88 Days and Working for a Miracle, or in the numerous articles written about his run.
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