In January 2018 I ran the World Marathon Challenge (7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days) to raise awareness and $50,000 for the International Dyslexia Foundation. Why? Because at the age of five I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Sensory Processing Disorder, and with the support of my incredible family and community, I beat the odds. I graduated from USC and then went on to earn two Masters degrees.
I kept this part of my life secret for a very long time, afraid that the stigma of a Learning Challenge would alter how people saw me and the opportunities that I’d have. Now, I’m sharing my story and your support means the world to me; dyslexia is not a limiting factor, it’s a superpower.
John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking engine revolutionizing the talent booking industry. With hundreds of athletes, entrepreneurs, speakers, and business leaders, Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent for your next event. For more information, please visit letsengage.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact podcast. I’m so honored and privileged today to have with us Jared Blank. He’s an author, a speaker, a motivational coach, and runner, but you’re going to learn today he’s much more than all that. Welcome to Impact, Jared Blank.
Jared Blank: Hey, thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
John: Jared, we’re going to get into your whole journey and story but just for our listeners to get a little frame up here, where were you born? where did you go to school in college? Where do you live today?
Jared: Definitely, so I grew up in Portland, Oregon and I went to Lincoln High School. Then from there, I went to the University of Southern California for college and been in LA and kind of up and down the West Coast, but now back in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.
John: You’re working for a great company called Columbia Sportswear now, right?
Jared: Yeah, that’s correct. I’m doing footwear merchandising for our EU team at Columbia’s headquarters here in Portland.
John: So that sounds all great, but there is a huge back story to the Jared Blank life. I’d like you to share with our listeners a little bit of it. I’d like you to share about when you were a young man, a kid really, 4 or 5 years old, what did you learn about yourself that was different than most of the other kids and how did the beginning of the journey look like?
Jared: Yeah. So I guess the best place to start with that would be this, a doctor’s visit that I had probably when I was five years old. They’ve been giving me glasses to try out. They thought I was having some sort of visual problem and I was still having headaches when I was trying the glasses. So we went back to the eye doctor and I’m sitting in the chair and she’s like, the doctor was like, “I want to do this test with you”. She had me look at the board and then she’s like, “I’m going to get your mom”. That feeling as a kid when you’ve done something wrong, I always equate it to like taking too many cookies out of the cookie jar. I knew something was wrong or I’ve been caught in this moment and my mom comes in. She’s like, “The problem isn’t that he can’t see the board. It’s that he can’t recognize what the letters are”. At that moment, she was like, “I think he has dyslexia”. Fortunately and my growing up in Portland and my parents having the resources, we went down to California to do testing and sure enough, diagnosed with dyslexia and this other thing that they referred to as sensory processing, which is like holding a pencil or tying shoes, using scissors, just the day-to-day stuff that kids do were challenging for me and I had known this and my mom being an educator at the time knew it, but we didn’t know about dyslexia and what it all meant. So that’s really where my journey with it began.
John: For those who don’t truly understand or have misinformed misconceptions about dyslexia, can you share really clinically and operationally what that means to a person who has that extra burden on his shoulders?
Jared: Yeah, definitely. So the best way that I know how to explain it was this conversation that I have with the doctor. She’s going to be like school is going to be like running with a cut on the bottom of your foot, it’ll be really hard and painful. I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time and I don’t think she expected me to take it so literally as I’m sure we’ll talk about today. Basically, it’s disability to process language. So it’s how our brain views language. So when it comes to reading and what that does in terms of how your brain interprets that data becomes a challenge and dyslexia can manifest in several ways. So it can be from reading to writing, math. It can be which they would probably call my fine motor skills issue, dyspraxia, today. So those are challenges associated with dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. So that’s becomes a misconception because we equate reading and writing to intelligence a lot of the times and that’s just not accurate. So that’s where a lot of students will kind of feel the emotional and social effects of dyslexia and feeling because you’re slower at processing those skill sets.
John: How did then you also having sensory processing disorder compound and make the burden of overcoming the dyslexia more difficult?
Jared: It’s a great question, best to answer it probably in the snapshot of my day when you look at elementary school. So I would get up and I’d practice spelling with my mom. She taught me how to count the words on my hands. So if it was a word like “prepare”, we divided in three and four. So I would count the letters and that worked most of the time but sometimes I would actually flip it and so I had spell it “parepre” on my spelling test. Fortunate enough, I had an accommodating second grade teacher that as long as I had all the letters there she would give me credit. Then my mom would pick me up and we would in the middle of the day after my spelling test and we go to occupational therapy. So I was doing occupational therapy where I’d be working on writing in sand or I also had balancing issues. So sitting in a chair was even hard for me and they would work on those skill set to kind of and try to help with balance and coordination. Then it was back to school and then I’d be lucky if the day got broken up by a physical activity like a soccer practice or something and then usually time at the tutors which we called school on top of the school. That was how we kind of as hard as it was, I was fortunate enough to have those resources to be able to work on the things that I needed to improve on, but that was how that was integrated in my life. I used to joke that as long as someone opened the corridor for me, tied my shoes, and got me to the soccer field, I could play the game okay. It was those skill sets that would make the day-to-day challenging.
John: Socially, were you embraced and accepted by all your friends, peers, colleagues your age or were you treated as an outcast?
Jared: I think I had core support with family and friends and educators. So I was I was fortunate but at the same time, you’re in the slower reading groups. At times I was in the hall with the ESL students. So there was this, it was kind of a mix of not really knowing where you fit from that standpoint. So it was kind of this middle ground which can be challenging to navigate.
John: At what point was there a light bulb that went off that you realized that you could turn your challenges, your extra burdens that you were carrying that you were overcoming on a day-to-day basis and turn them into a superpower that would allow you to not only survive this journey, but thrive in it and become the overachiever that you’ve, we’re going to get into in a couple minutes, have well shown that you became?
Jared: Well, I think in looking at it, I was told in elementary school that I probably might not graduate high school, that maybe not for my parents not to expect higher than the C average. That kind of stood or that did stick with me in the back of my mind kind of going through. I think the real turning point for me was I would say high school is when I really started to compete and try to compete. I wanted to be able to show what I could do academically. I remember having a conversation with my mom because I had fought to go to the typical public school and she’s like, “You wanted this choice. You made this choice so you got to own up to it.” That’s when I really started to put in the work.
John: So you went on. You got to admit it to USC which already was an overcoming of all the odds that everyone had predict. USC is a very great educational institution in the entire planet and not easy to get into. How was that? How did you navigate like getting into USC when everyone said, “You should probably have lowered your expectations and not shot that big”?
John: Well, the conversation had changed so freshman year, I’d finished my freshman year with a 4.0 in high school. I remember the resource teacher came to me one day in one of my sessions and she goes, “So what colleges are you thinking of?” At that point, I still haven’t really made that turn or pivot in my mind that that was going to be a possibility for me. I was still like I was in that flight or fight mode with just trying to show what I could do in the classroom. I started listing all these schools that I’d only seen in the NCAA tournament. So I’m like Michigan and Duke and teams that you just get recognized from the NCAA tournament and not even knowing where those places were. As I kind of continued down this path, my oldest brother went to USC to study business and my middle brother, I think, saw the opportunities down there and ended up going to USC. The joke in our family is that I went to USC because I said, “Well, if those two can do it, so can I.”
John: That’s awesome.
Jared: That was a big part of the reason why.
John: For our listeners out there who have just joined us, we have Jared Blank with us today. He’s a speaker, a motivational coach, a runner. We’re going to discuss in a second how he became an author, but he’s much more than that. We’re about to get to a very interesting part of his story. So I really want you all to listen in here. Jared, now you’re in SC. What did you decide what subject matters were interested you the most and how did that journey go compared to your lower school education?
Jared: Yes, so I knew going into college that I wanted to work in sports. So I was kind of looking for that avenue. I didn’t know exactly how to navigate that world from an educational standpoint. So I was trying the sciences, I was looking at maybe like athletic training, kinesiology. I ended up, I met with John Spoelstra who is a brilliant marketer and a person that had worked with the Portland Trail Blazers. He talked to me about Communications and why he thought that might be a good avenue. So that’s what I ended up studying. From there, I started working with our football program at USC.
John: You graduated USC with two masters degrees?
Jared: Yes. So I–
John: Most people, by the way, Jared, most people are just happy to get out with an undergraduate degree. You go out and get one master degree and then two.
Jared: Yes, I did.
John: Come on, man. That’s crazy good. It’s crazy, it’s incredible.
Jared: I did my masters. Yeah, I got the Communication degree and then I did a Masters in Communication Management at USC. When I was working at the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific was actually right near where I was living and that’s where I got the second degree. I got my Masters of Business Administration from Seattle Pacific up in Washington.
John: Unbelievable. I mean, you overachieved in everything you’ve touched. So how many people out of your group of friends and colleagues and people that you met along the way, including the football program that you went to go work with and for at SC, knew about the challenges that you overcome on a daily basis, both of dyslexia and the sensory processing disorder?
Jared: Not many. I didn’t talk about it too much. I really kept that part of my life as much as I could to myself. There is a few people that I talked to about it, I guess like core group that I shared it with, but I really kept it private as much as I could. I think there’s a level of shame that you carry with it that you’re constantly fighting and then so I think I had to to figure that part out.
John: I want to touch on that as someone who’s been through rehab myself. What I learned in rehab, one of the greatest lessons you learn in rehab is that secrets will eat you from the inside out. Is this you just kindly used the words, softly used the words, kept it private and kept it to yourself? Was it more of a secret and a burden that once you did share it you felt relieved that the story was out?
Jared: Yeah, I think there is some relief to it to being out for sure. I think there is definitely some breathing room that happens when once that occurred. I was so concerned that people would take opportunities away from me from sharing it that I just wanted to be able to prove that I could do things even though they were hard.
John: Because of the historical misconceptions and potential as you said of shame, once the story started getting out, was it the opposite reaction, was there some shame and do you feel that any opportunities along the way were did evaporate because of your story?
Jared: So I think it’s interesting because I really started sharing it when I came back to Portland and we can get into the reason why. What I recognized was the problems that I was facing in the education system 30 years ago were still occurring today.
Jared: I was starting to feel a really strong pull to change that and that’s why I shared my story.
John: Everyone decides to come out with their story, with their hero’s journey in different ways. Talk a little bit now how you formulated getting your story out and then we’ll go into some of the great accomplishments that you have made here.
Jared: Yeah, so I was learning kind of about the education system and challenges that were still being brought in our world. At the same time I was following this race, which is called the World Marathon Challenge and I learned about that on ESPN and then it’s where someone runs seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. I’ve felt this pull to do this race because I’ve kind of how I was growing up like my schedule was seem super long every day and always disjointed but then you had to operate and I was like, “Oh, I was really born to run this race”. Seeing that race, I wanted to help connect it to something bigger than myself and I learned about this organization called The International Dyslexia Association, which have this program that was run until everyone can read. From there, I called them and I talked to them about what I was doing and we formed a partnership to do the races and also combine it as a fundraiser.
John: Okay, a couple of things. First, I should have asked you this earlier, but for our listeners out there, how many people are affected with the challenge of having dyslexia?
Jared: So it’s somewhere between 10 and 20 percent. A lot of organizations identify one in five. I’ve heard anywhere between one in ten and one in five.
John: So this is a huge issue that many people are dealing with every day, are overcoming every day, but also in potentially still harboring that secret every day because of the issue of potential shame and other mitigating issues. Is this what you’re still seeing in your journey?
Jared: Still seeing it in the journey. Yes.
John: Yeah. So, were you a runner before you decided to do this or did you have to take on a whole new challenge here? Were you are runner just for your own health and wellness prior to this or is this a whole new thing to you physically?
Jared: Well, so running had been something that I’d used as a tool throughout growing up and I probably should have mentioned that earlier. I would used to run to kind of deal with the frustration of school and life and I would basically put on my shoes and run around the neighborhood at the time.
John: So, I mean, I just want to read these numbers out loud because when I just read them it’s just hard to even, so saying them is even going to be more fun. So and you correct me if I’m off here, but from what I’ve read and everything I’ve learned about you, you ran 183 miles in seven days on seven continents?
Jared: That’s correct.
John: Wow, I mean like so how old were you when you started this? I mean, how old were you when you started, when you came up with the idea, started working with the International Dyslexia Foundation and started training for this prior to departing and doing the seven days?
Jared: Yes. So I was 35 years old when I really committed to it. I learned about it in 2015. So I would have been like 32 at the time. I was actually watching The Challenge on my couch with the family and I was like, “I was going to do this race”. They all have to admit that I was crazy at the time, but that race just hung with me. After 12 years working in college sports, I’d quit my job and I committed six months to fully training for the event.
John: So six months to train for this. Wow, for our listeners out there that want to support what Jared is working on in terms of sharing this message and taking away the shame from dyslexia and getting other people out there with this burden motivated and inspired, you could go to his great website, the book’s website www.runningthedistancebook.com, I’m on it right now. It’s a beautiful and very educational website. You could buy his books and all the money goes to, you share it Jared.
Jared: Yes. So all the sale proceeds from the book is going back towards the International Dyslexia Association. So we’re doing the book as a fundraiser.
John: They take that money because people, the world is different now than compared to 30-40 years ago where you give to an organization, just hope they do well with it. What are they specifically doing with the money you’re raising with your challenge so our listeners can know where their money is going towards when they’re buying your great book?
Jared: Yeah, definitely. So the International Dyslexia Association puts on conferences and events from that standpoint. So a lot of the putting fund back into it helps support teacher trainings. In that regard, you’ll see on the website there’s a specific campaign going on where so I’m connected to the International Dyslexia Association Oregon branch and they have let me, normally when we do fundraisers like half the money would go to your home branch and half the money would go to the National Organization to help support these conferences and literature that they put out. What we are doing right now is I also connected to the branch in Kenya. So the donations that get made on that page, 50% are going towards the International Dyslexia Association branch in Kenya as they are continuing to build a school in Kenya and then the other will go back to international organization to throughout our country to work on various projects.
John: When did the book launch?
Jared: So the book launched last fall of 2019. We did it at the what we call Dyslexicon, our National Convention, which was hosted in Portland, Oregon.
John: That’s so great. So for our listeners out there, again go to www.runningthedistancebook.com, buy one of Jared’s books, support this great cause and also get inspired and motivated yourself. We all have challenges. We all have burdens. We all look for new ways to get inspired, especially living during this critical moment in history where Covid-19 has challenged all of us to rise up and overcome this tragedy. This book could be another source of great inspiration. I’ll tell you what, we bought a bunch of the books, we support what Jared represents and who he is because of the great impacts he’s making, and we’re going to be giving out some of those books to our listeners who write to us and tell us why they’re so excited and interested in learning more about Jared’s story. So Jared, we’re true believers, can you share with our listeners out there a little bit about what our listeners can expect to see in the book and talk a little bit about those seven days and 183 miles that you traveled and talk about some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome to make it through and get through this challenge.
Jared: Definitely, so one, thank you so much for the support and purchasing the book. So that’s amazing and I know the organization will be very pleased with that so and I am as well. So thank you. The book just to give, I guess, the concept is it’s how dyslexia helped me prepare to run this challenge. We land in Cape Town, South Africa and we meet as a group and from there we go to Antarctica to start the first race and it’s very surreal at this point. You land in Antarctica and you get on these snowmobiles and you go to these bunkers because what they do, they have to wait till they know the planes can take back off towards Cape Town, which is the second race, before they can start the 168-hour clock to make sure we finish all these races within seven days. Richard Donovan is the race director so he’s really adamant about that. We start Antarctica’s race and you’re running these loop and courses and it’s you’re in the sun for half of it and then you’re in a headwind for the other half of it and you just keep doing these loops, but Antarctica is an amazing place to be able to run, I’ll tell you that.
John: That’s where you started?
Jared: Yeah, that’s where we started.
John: Wow, okay and then from there?
Jared: Then from there we go to Cape Town, South Africa. So it was, I think, temperature-wise I think it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit and then we go to Cape Town in it’s 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So you have the full change there weather-wise and we ran in the middle of the day in Cape Town. So it’s pretty hot.
John: How many days in between? How many days from the first run to the second run?
Jared: It’s ten hours.
John: It’s ten hours. So it’s literally the next day.
Jared: Yeah, basically we finish, we get back in the plane. We fly ten hours and then two hours after we land, we’re running again.
John: Okay, so time out. Just from someone who all my life, I’ve had athletes around me and I try to work out on a regular basis. I just know that recovering under normal circumstances in the same city that you just ran a marathon in is hard enough. How do you recover? Seriously, how do you physically recover on a plane when planes dehydrate you, planes have their own challenges? How do you recover from just running a marathon in those ten hours and are prep for the next one?
Jared: Yeah. Well, fortunately for us it’s just the runners on the on the plane which kind of helps space-wise. We had a little bit more room but I’d worked with this group, Wise Wolf Pack out here in Portland, Oregon. Yassin, he trained me to run and then I worked with Flex and Flow Yoga Studio and they gave me some stretches to do while I was on the plane.
Jared: So I had a whole kind of–
John: Protocol, you had a protocol.
Jared: Yeah, totally.
John: Seriously, Jared, no one because this is in many ways uncharted territory, where do you get the protocol for dealing with dehydration, altitude stuff, all that kind of stuff and also just what your body takes for natural recovery processes? I mean, what did you eat? I mean, how did you eat and how did you even sleep besides the stretching and that stuff which I told we get? Eating and sleeping, how’d you do that just to recover?
Jared: Yeah, so you kind of just got to force down calories when you can and you get the opportunity. The plane had food so that the plane essentially becomes your hotel. So it was basically catnapping, stretching, and consuming calories until the plane landed and it was time to run again.
John: Was the adrenaline of the camaraderie also just like electrifying?
Jared: Yeah, that’s like none other. I mean, the community that you get surrounded by is they become your family. I mean, you’re sharing foam rollers, you’re sharing stories. It’s really unreal and you just meet so many inspiring people. There was a gentleman with Parkinson’s that ran all seven marathons. There’s a woman who did half marathons on a prosthetic leg. Just incredible people out there that keep you going for sure.
John: Are there trainers, doctors, nurses physical assistants, all that kind of stuff, PT’s also helping you get through this?
Jared: Yeah, there’s a doctor on board which which is really helpful and then it’s you’re kind of on your own after that, but they definitely had medical so that was a good thing.
John: So now you’re in Cape Town. Number two, talk about that.
Jared: Yes, so Cape Town was really interesting because so as I mentioned, I’m connected to the International Dyslexia Association branch here in Oregon and the president at the time was from Cape Town, South Africa. So she was actually at the first race, so she met me so I had a support while I was on the course there. We were running in the heat of the day and that one took a lot out of me, I think, to get through that marathon out there. It’s an unreal place to run, just really thankful for the opportunity to be out there.
John: So, now from Cape Town, where did you go?
Jared: So we go to Perth, Australia, and it’s like perfect conditions. T-shirt and shorts were running actually at night on this boardwalk.
John: It sounds great.
Jared: Yeah. It’s amazing. It was like and I’m finding my stride at this point too. I didn’t know what Antarctica was going to be like. We had the heat but I was on kind of back towards where I was running on pace to where I thought I should be and everything was just perfect. All the sudden at mile 22, I hear a pop and I am all locked up on my left side. No rotation, no stride, I didn’t know if it was a cramp or what had happened.
John: Was it an ankle or a knee?
Jared: It was neither. It ended up being the IT band and I remember a runner came up to me and he’s like, “Just think about getting to Dubai and finishing.” We’d already had somebody drop out, I guess, of the race that night that I was unaware of it at the time. He’s like, “Just think about getting to Dubai”. So I hobble through these 4 miles and I called my coach that night and I’m like, “I don’t know what to do because I’m all locked up on my left side.” He’s like, “Oh it’s like in the middle your knee?” I’m like, “Yeah”. He knew exactly where it was. He seemed just knew where everything was. He is like, “I’ve had this before. It’s going to be really painful but the good news is you can run on it. I did for my 100 Miler”. Yeah, and this is the coach. He’s like, “I remember I trained you to get hit by a sledgehammer and keep going”. I go “Yeah, that’s right.” So it reminded me back to when the doctor told me that having dyslexia is going be like running with a cut on the bottom of the foot. So these parallel stories that have now come into play. So I go down the hall, I put ice, I get the ice towel. I turn the bath as hot as I could take it and I’m back and forth doing hot and cold. The leg just feels really unstable, the pain is gone, but it’s just it doesn’t feel stable at all. So I go down and the runners [crosstalk]
John: You’re doing this when you’re supposed to be resting and sleeping?
Jared: Right. Yeah [crosstalk]
John: Okay, this one I mentioned that too. This is the same.
Jared: We have four races left to go and I put everything into this race and I really believe that I have prepared.
John: You’ve come too far to fail now.
Jared: Right, exactly. We get to Dubai and I start running and I’m actually back on pace for 23 miles before it locks up on me again. This time I just had a plan for it. I put my headphones in and just hobbled through the last part of the race the best I could and then got through it. I was swinging the leg out really wide, but it was working.
John: You proved to yourself you can do it and that this was like all was not lost.
Jared: No. It felt like it was for a minute, but no. You get it back.
John: Right, but then your mind started to calm, the emotional side of you, the mind side of you start to calm down. All is not lost, we’re going to get through this. We’ve come this far, we’re going to go the distance.
Jared: Yeah, exactly right.
John: For our listeners who just joined us, honored to say we have Jared Blank with us. He’s a speaker, a motivational coach, an author and a runner and he’s telling us one of the greatest running stories ever. I asked you all to look at his great website, runningthedistancebook.com, buy a book, support the cause, it all goes to the International Dyslexia Foundation. Jared, from Dubai, where did you go for number five?
Jared: Yeah. So we go to Dubai, we go to Lisbon. In Lisbon, it hadn’t rained forever and the night we get there it rains. Ever running on cobblestone wood and concrete and wet.
John: Cobblestone wet is a bear.
Jared: Yeah, and just I set a record for myself that night. It’s the longest time I’ve spent on a marathon course. I think I finished that race somewhere around five hours. I was just hobbling on it.
John: I mean, cobblestone is hard to run on when it’s dry in perfect conditions.
John: Wet, it’s a nightmare.
Jared: It is, yeah.
John: Wow. How is your knee now? How is your leg now?
Jared: It was fine. It was a 10-day injury. It was just one of those things that it was time. Yeah. Now everything’s just healed up great.
John: My question is when you were in Lisbon, how was it? How was now go through Dubai, mentally you’re good, now physically, where were you on level of pain and operation?
Jared: Operation, I was as probably in a 3 on a scale of 10, but I was just thinking I was in a good positive mindset at that point. I knew what I had to do. I knew what the challenge was going to be. I knew that the challenge is kind of transformed for me. So it was really just kind of staying the course of keeping one foot in front of the other.
John: So technically you knew you could work around it because you had done this your whole life doing technical workarounds. So you then created the workaround and you knew that you would be able to work around this hurdle that was your knee at this point.
Jared: Yeah, exactly.
Jared: Yeah, that’s what had occurred. It just it became how to work when something doesn’t work the way you wanted to.
John: That’s awesome. So now from Lisbon, where do you go?
Jared: We go to Cartagena, Colombia and it’s amazing there.
John: I mean kidding aside, I’ve had friends who’ve gone to Colombia and this is in the wake of all the Netflix specials that everyone is seeing now. I heard that Colombia’s maybe one of the most gorgeous places on this planet.
Jared: It’s by far, it just blew me away. It was so awesome.
John: So talk about this. Tell me about this run.
Jared: I’m on the bus and I actually I’d worked at the University of Washington and I call one of the trainer’s that I stay connected to. His name’s Rob Scheidegger and I call him up and we’re talking and he’s like, “You need to start Advil, like take Advil”. I hadn’t taken Advil for five years.
John: Wow. That’s interesting. I didn’t realize that, okay.
Jared: I didn’t know so we start, he’s telling me how to do it. So you properly take an Advil and so it builds up in your system. So I’m starting to take Advil at this point and then he told me about this pressure point that you have that I might be able to get some relief from the leg on. So you push on your leg and it kind of releases the IT band. So what I was doing during this next race in Cartagena was I was at the rest stations like it were the larger stops where I would take a minute and push on my leg. The leg would actually become more like it would continue to rotate for me. So I was actually getting my momentum back and I was able to finish that race kind of back where I was starting the week time-wise and started feeling like I could actually run again.
John: So how much was the Advil helping in terms of cutting the pain?
Jared: I don’t know if it was maybe changes some of the inflammation or what, but it just I think between it’s kind of I always say it’s doing all the little things that you might not know whether it’s the Advil or the pressing on the leg or the eyes or what. If you do all the things and you just try to do them to the best of your ability, I always say that’s kind of where you get the winds. So I think just between all the little things that I was doing, things were starting to change for me.
John: In between each leg, were you FaceTiming with Mom, Dad, brother, sister? Who are you leaning on? Who are you calling? Who are you talking with and drawing strength from in between each of these journeys?
Jared: Yeah. I think I try to talk to each of my family members. My brother Josh was actually at the Lisbon race and he did the last lap with me, which was amazing.
John: Amazing. That is awesome.
Jared: That was pretty cool. Then I was talking to my middle brother Adam a lot. We were going back and forth like just mentality wise we were talking about how it’s kind of like the seven-game series. He might be down 2-3 or 3-2 but now I’m coming back closer to home court like time detention center amped it up. So we were just trying to, between my whole family and coaches and stuff, there is just so much support and love that I’m truly grateful for.
John: On the courses, you listen to music or you just tried to take in the surroundings or a little bit of both?
Jared: A little bit of both. I don’t mind running with music. I don’t mind running with or I just try to just kind of go by feel for what I needed at the time.
John: In Jared Blank’s life of running and during this challenge, most listened to song?
Jared: Oh gosh, that’s a great question. I don’t know that I could even answer that. My music list is so eclectic.
John: First thing that comes to mind, though, just give me one of your top songs [crosstalk]
Jared: Eye of the Tiger, I would say.
John: Come on, I love it. Come on, Rocky still rules. That’s all we all have to know. The world is still on its axis. I mean, in 2020, Rocky still rules. I love it, for a young guy like you to go back to Rocky Balboa, that’s awesome. Come on, it’s the best. I love it.
Jared: Yeah, it’s so cool. Yeah, I mean you [crosstalk]
John: It’s hard not to get excited when you listen to it. It’s going to fly now.
Jared: Yeah, it’s so hard not to get excited.
John: When you hear it, going to fly now, you look on this great song, I mean, come on, that’s as good as it gets.
Jared: So many classics.
John: So many classics. All right, so now you’re on to the final. Seven, where’d you go and how’d it go?
Jared: It was awesome. It was in Miami, Florida, so it’s only a two and a half hour plane ride from Colombia to Miami. So sometimes you kind of wanted it to be a little bit longer to get your legs back, but we land there. A large portion of my family come out to Miami for the last race.
John: Now, how many hours did you have in between Cartagena and Miami?
Jared: So it’s a two and a half hour plane ride. I think it must have been seven hours before we ran again, I’m sure.
John: Oh my God. That’s incredible.
Jared: It might have been a little bit more but I know it was at least seven.
John: What was your go-to best recharging fuel in terms of food or drink or whatever you were eating at the time that kept you energized, but what didn’t rumble your stomach and your bowels?
Jared: Yeah. I know totally it’s part of the ordeal.
Jared: Yeah, so I was actually the thing that I think helped me the most was I was using the stuff called Trail Butter, which is like a nut butter of some sort and I was putting that on everything. I would make a smoothie with it. I would use it to put on the bread that we had.
John: Were there people who we’re making some of these things for you or how are you making your own smoothie? I mean, I got to understand what is going on here.
Jared: I made my own smoothie after when we were in the mess hall at Antarctica and it was literally just, I mean it’s not great, but it was water and Trail Butter and a powder that I had and I just kind of put it all together and mixed it with a spoon. It wasn’t the perfect smoothie but it made it work on the go.
John: Got it.
Jared: Truck stop smoothie, right?
John: Right, and like the Stones used to say, if you can’t get what you want you get what you need, that’s all that matters.
Jared: All that matters.
John: So you’re in Miami now seven hours or so in between which is nothing and you’re on the last leg and a lot of your family’s there, talk about that.
Jared: It was just incredible. You get off the bus, see all the people there. It was just a lot of people running were from Miami, so they had their family there or at least had Miami connections where there was just so many people there and just start running on the boardwalk there.
John: That’s amazing. Approximately what time of day did you cross the finish line?
Jared: It must have been just dinner time. I think it had been, it’s just getting dark, I think, when we finished or when I finished that last race.
John: So how did you guys celebrate? How did you and your family celebrate?
Jared: We just hung out that night. I think everyone and we went to dinner and everyone was kind of hanging out. Nothing crazy, but it was awesome to be around family.
John: What was your victory meal now that you can have actually a proper meal before going to get some rest. What was your victory meal?
Jared: I think we went to eat Chinese food, I think.
John: That’s awesome.
Jared: Yeah, it was really cool. It was just super chill and I think we just hang out and had Chinese food with the family.
John: That’s so great. I mean, it just doesn’t get better than that. How long did you spend in Miami before you went home?
Jared: Just a day, I think. I got up the next day and I actually went to the gym and just did kind of my things.
John: Worked out the things?
Jared: Yeah, exactly, just tried to get everything as loose as I could and then we flew home the next day.
John: That’s amazing. For our listeners out there, Jared’s great journey can be read all about in his book runningthedistancebook.com. All the money goes to the International Dyslexia Foundation. How much have you raised so far?
Jared: So for the race, the goal was to raise 50,000 while I was doing the World Marathon Challenge. I finished the challenge and I was still short on the fundraising goal. So I signed up to do this 100 Miler at Lake Tahoe.
John: Of course you did. What did you? Oh my God.
Jared: I spent this spring just trying to continue to talk and get out to different events and share what we were doing and what this organization was all about and through a very generous donation. Right before the 100 mile race, we hit that 50,000 benchmark. Then this past fall we launched a campaign to raise another 70 which will get split between the branch in Kenya and then the national branch.
John: Through the book sales?
Jared: Not directly through the sales but through the Running The Distance Campaign that we’re doing, yeah.
John: Go it. How’s the book sales going so far?
Jared: I think we’re just kind of getting started still a little slow roller.
John: Well, let me tell you why it’s a slow roller. Let me just cut you some slack here because I know you’re an A+ winner on 50,000 levels. I mean, it’s hard to launch or promote a book during a tragic pandemic period. Let’s really be honest here. It’s science so I get it, but for our listeners out there, seriously, I’d love you to just help and support runningthedistancebook.com. All the money gets donated and it’s a great sports story and we all need inspiration. Jared, before we let you go for today, talk about a couple of things. First thing is heroes. Who has been some of your biggest? I look for inspiration, I’m 57 now and I constantly look for new forms of inspiration. You’ve inspired me. I’m going to tell your story over and over again. Who have been some of your stories of inspiration from the time you were first diagnosed at 5 to today, who’s one or two or three people you’ve really looked up to who’ve inspired and motivated you.
Jared: Definitely, so I think to answer that question I’m going to take two parts. One, it’s my parents. My mom from the very get go was jumped on this thing with dyslexia. On her nightstand were tables and stacks of books about dyslexia and she was trying to figure the whole thing out. We didn’t know anything about it at the time and we joke now that she put the whole thing together with string and duct tape, trying to find tutors and do the whole thing back then because no one was really talking about it. My dad would show up to every IEP meeting and made sure that I had the accommodations that I needed. I know how hard it is with dyslexia and without their support, I don’t know if I’d be where I am today. I don’t think I would be and so that’s why I’m so passionate about trying to get back to this community. I feel so responsible to give that to everybody. It shouldn’t just be people that have the resources. It should be for everybody. So that’s where that all generates from.
John: You honor their sacrifice by all the achievements that you go out and do. That’s incredible. That’s really incredible stuff. Well, Jared, I’m going to leave it at that because there’s not much more to say. You are truly a hero, an inspiration. You make so many impacts for and make so many positive impacts for so many of us in terms of helping people who are burdened with the challenge of dyslexia or sensory processing disorder or any other type of mitigating factor that has to be overcome to live your best life. You’ve definitely inspired me. I know you’ve inspired all listeners today and I really want our listeners to go out and buy your book at runningthedistancebook.com. Jared Blank, it’s an honor to have you on today and continued success and great health and keep on winning. I hope our paths cross again.
Jared: Definitely. Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it. I have arrived in Portland.
John: Awesome. I will definitely reach out to you next time I’m in that area. Now if you’re coming down to Southern California or Fresno or any of those kind of areas, please tell me. Anything I can ever do to help continue to get your story out or you have something else you want to promote, you’re always welcome on this show. You could even come back on and bring someone from the International Dyslexia Foundation or some other great athlete, whoever you want. You’re always welcome on this show.
Jared: I appreciate it. Yeah. Now, I definitely looking forward to catching up whether it’s in California or Oregon. It would be great to meet up in person.
John: Continued success, continued good health. Keep up the great work. You’re really an inspiration. Thank you, Jared.
Jared: Thank you. Have a great day.
John: Take care. You too.