Not just a runners’ high: Addison Group Recruiting Manager supports charity through grueling race
A 200-mile trek through the muddy Oregon woods, naps in vans along the side of the road, and an event so exclusive, it fills up almost immediately every year.
Addison Group’s Denver finance and accounting recruiting manager, Matt Thulson, lives for these moments in the annual Hood to Coast race — a 10-team relay race that starts at Mt. Hood in central Oregon and finishes on the Pacific Coast of the state. Each of the 12 team members run three legs about five miles a piece within the allotted 36-hour time limit, making it as physically-taxing a race as any.
While finishing such a grueling race satisfies him, it’s the charitable donations raised throughout that make the grind worth it.
“It’s exhausting because you have to run three times in the course of about 18 hours,” Thulson said. “You try to rest while you can by sleeping in a van on the side of the road or in tents in a field, so you’re exhausted by the end of it.
“And there’s no stopping the race. It doesn’t matter the weather or the time of day. One of my teammates a couple years ago ran in a monsoon at 3, 4 in the morning in the middle of a forest. Rain, sunshine, middle of the night, it doesn’t matter.”
2020 marked the third time Thulson participated in the event, the first two coming in 2015 and 2016. However, this year was a little different. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no runners were allowed to make the trip out to the West Coast, making the relay race fully virtual.
“There’s so many virtual races this year where you run it when you want to and record your time,” Thulson said. “It feels a lot less special when you’re doing that. But it was really well done this year. They still made it really special.”
Hood to Coast and Thulson’s team went through different measures to keep the same feel of the race alive. They still had to finish the race in a 36-hour period and run the exact distances required for each leg, but at home.
Thulson and his teammates used the Slack app to communicate when they were finishing their portion of the race, virtually tagging the next runner up with a picture of their hand reached out like one would do in-person. Some of his teammates even camped out in one of their backyards to make it feel as authentic as possible.
A majority of the teams in the Hood to Coast race partner up with a charitable organization that further enhances the runners’ experiences. They’ll bring in guest speakers, former Olympic Gold Medalists, and hand out different items to each participant. Thulson’s team’s partner, World Vision, kept their tradition of a Thursday night team dinner alive, albeit via Zoom.
“They also sent every runner a huge box with different boxes in it saying, ‘open at the team dinner,’ ‘open before you start your first leg,’ ‘open when you finish,’” Thulson said. “They did lots of different, memorable things to get you excited for the race this year. It was my wife’s first time, so I really appreciate all of that happening. It was memorable for her and I’m hoping she’ll want to do it again next year when we’re hopefully running again in Oregon.”
Thulson’s teams have always worked with World Vision to raise money for the Water Well Project to provide clean drinking water for kids in South Sudan. Each participant has a goal to raise at least $10,000 for the cause — something that’s been fairly attainable the past two races.
But as is the case in 2020, COVID-19 posed more of a challenge on things than usual.
“In a pandemic year, asking people to donate was a little more intimidating than usual,” Thulson said. “But all the teams were able to collectively raise $1 million, which has only happened a couple times before. It just felt so cool because we hit the $1 million mark just after the race ended Saturday afternoon and you get a real high from that. It’s not just running a race to run a race. That’d be cool enough as it is, but you’re doing it for a good cause.”
Thulson was pleasantly surprised by his friends and coworkers’ continued support in times like these when money is decidedly tighter than usual. He was able to reach his $10,000 goal with ease, helping his team raise a grand total of $284,000 for the Water Well Project, providing 5,680 children in South Sudan with clean drinking water.
“Addison Group has always been really generous,” Thulson said. “The first time I did it, they matched any Addison employee’s donations up to $2,000. They donated $1,000 to it this year, which was a tenth of my goal. So that was really, really generous. It’s really cool when a company gets behind you and backs you like that with something that’s important to you.”
Thulson and his team helped make a long-lasting difference in thousands of kids’ lives while doing what they love. His efforts are a true representation of the positive impact we can have on those around us when we put People First.