What drives people to push past their own physical boundaries and endure pain by participating in a sporting event for a charitable cause has always been a fascination for me.
The Leukemia Lymphoma Society launched a program called "Team in Training" over 24 years ago. It has since raised over $1.2 billion from athletes who have received specialized coaching skills in exchange for agreeing to recruit donors to contribute to LLS. The dynamic between athlete-sponsor-LLS coach is efficiently reciprocal and a strong example of how accountability drives an athlete to push past an unknown physical boundary for a cause greater than themselves.
In Daniel Pink's book Drive, he highlights the concept of creating individual accountability for a personal goal. The more a person shares with others their personal goal, the more committed that person becomes to achieving the goal. When an athlete solicits donations from friends and family for a charitable cause in the form of sponsorship for competing in an athletic event that is longer, farther tougher than anything they have attempted before the urge to quit is suppressed.
Two weeks ago, I competed in the 31st annual Race Across America - a 3,000-mile solo bicycle race. I finished in 11 days, 4 hours and 47 minutes. I slept about three hours a day and cycled an avergage of 270 miles a day for 20 hours each day to complete this race.
I was very surprised to have placed first in my age group and 10th overall in a field of 46 athletes representing 14 countries, since my main goal was to finish within the 12 day cut off. My primary goal was to raise $150,000 for a charity that I founded called Hopecam.
Hopecam helps children with cancer connect to their friends a school using web cameras to stave off the loneliness and isolation associated with chemotherapy treatment. Many friends have fairly asked me if there was ever a time that I felt like quitting. The race is considered the toughest bicycle race in the world. It is one-third longer than the Tour de France in half the time.
The answer of course was an absolute "no." The fact that I had convinced hundreds to contribute over $150,000 to my cause allowed me to completely refuse the thought of quitting to enter my mind. My accountability to these donors over ruled the emotions that would normally creep into my mind, especially when the weather conditions caused more pain than I anticipated.
There were some sections in Kansas that were hotter than the Mojave Desert. Another cause of inspiration at the frequent low points during the journey was the children that I was racing for each day. I would dedicate my daily ride to a child who had participated in the hopecam program.
Often, I would have the oppportunity to phone many of these children during my rest breaks in the heat of the day or before dark. Finally, I had a crew of 11 volunteers who had given me two weeks of precious vacation time away from family to support me. Respecting the generosity of the donors, the perseverence of "Hopecam" children and unselfish contribution of time and energy of my crew gave me the motivation to endure the challenges ahead.