Running the Good Race
Writer // Rebecca Wood
Pastor Jerry Deck believes helping others begins with taking one step forward. However, some members of his Zionsville Presbyterian Church congregation are taking more than one step.
In November, a crew from Zionsville Presbyterian Church (ZPC) will participate in the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon in Indianapolis. It will be an eclectic group of runners comprised of all abilities and experiences but unified in purpose. Each runner will race for Team World Vision, a charity dedicated to bringing clean water to Africa. This is the second year ZPC will partner with Team World Vision for the race.
Over two years ago, Team World Vision approached Pastor Deck about forming a team. After research and prayer, Deck agreed to the collaboration.
“Team World Vision is Gospel-centered in a holistic way,” says Deck. “They strive to make individuals healthy spiritually, physically and emotionally.”
Team World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to tackling global poverty and injustice. World Vision strives to provide safe drinking water, good water resources and improved sanitation and hygiene. According to its website, World Vision is the largest non-governmental provider of clean water in the world.
Pastor Deck says the ZPC affiliation with Team World Vision provides numerous benefits. Church members and other teammates have the opportunity to support a charity while also deepening relationships with each other.
First on his agenda, Pastor Deck recruited ZPC member Kelly Antcliff to serve as the team captain. As the Zionsville Middle School Athletic Director, Antcliff possesses the skills and experience to lead groups and organize sporting events.
Antcliff expected 20 runners to join the first ZPC team. Instead, the group blossomed to 47 teammates, spanning in age from 16-70 years old. About two-thirds of the participants registered for the half marathon, and one-third of the teammates signed up for the full marathon. Many individuals joined the team without any previous running experience.
ZPC member Greg McDaniel labels himself a novice team member. McDaniel recounts how he joined the group.
“I was sitting in church, and a Team World Vision representative said, ‘If you can run a 5K, you can run a marathon,’” McDaniel recalls with a laugh. “I raised my hand to join the team and thought I was running a 5K. A few weeks into training, I realized I was running a half marathon. I had never run over three miles.”
Despite the confusion, McDaniel completed the 18-week training program and finished his first half marathon with the team. McDaniel raised over $3,100 for Team World Vision, enough to provide clean water for 63 children for a year.
“You don’t have to be a professional runner to run with Team World Vision,” McDaniel states. “Most of us are not runners, but we feel called to do it.”
Pastor Deck also joined that first ZPC team. “I didn’t want to ask anyone in the congregation to do something I wouldn’t do myself,” Deck comments. “I’m not the fastest runner, but you don’t always have to be the best, fastest and most gifted to have something to offer God’s Kingdom and your neighbor.”
While training, Pastor Deck says his congregants witnessed another side of him. “I think they saw a more vulnerable side of their pastor. That’s probably a good thing.”
Deck completed the 2017 Monumental Marathon and raised over $5,000 for Team World Vision.
For the 2017 Monumental race, Antcliff wanted the group to raise $10,000. To her surprise and delight, the ZPC team raised over $39,000.
“The response was above and beyond my expectations,” Pastor Deck says. “It was an encouragement to the entire congregation. We had a sense of what we could accomplish. We are not just a church that meets together on Sundays; we can make a difference in the community and the world.”
The experience was so positive that ZPC decided to organize a team for the second year. Antcliff will continue to serve as team captain. She hopes 50 people will sign up to join the ZPC group and run the 2018 Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon. Her goal is for the ZPC team to raise over $40,000 for Team World Vision.
Antcliff encourages anyone in the community to join the group; ZPC church membership or attendance is not required. Team World Vision provides an 18-week training plan with a catch-up option for those who sign up later into the training cycle.
On Saturday mornings, the ZPC team joins other Team World Vision groups on the Monon Trail in Carmel. Nearly 100 runners complete a long run together. The pace varies among individuals, but a sense of camaraderie radiates from the group.
“There are all different ages and body types. Everyone has different goals,” Antcliff says of the group runs. “It’s a fun way to cheer each other on. Anything where adults can encourage each other is a great thing to join.”
McDaniel plans to run the 2018 Monumental Marathon with the ZPC team. He hopes to raise $5,000 for Team World Vision. McDaniel drums up support and donations on his social media accounts using the hashtag #unlikelymarathoner.
This fall, Antcliff will run the Monumental Marathon and the Chicago Marathon for Team World Vision. She will run both races within the span of a month. Antcliff maintains that she’s not a runner, but she is inspired to support Team World Vision and encourage others to do the same.
“A lot of individuals are stepping outside of their comfort zones to do something for someone they will never meet,” Antcliff states. “When I start to feel tired in a race, I think about those children in Africa who have to walk for miles to get clean water. That’s always on my mind.”
Pastor Deck adds, “This is a great opportunity to say it’s not hopeless. Maybe it’s not changing the world, but it may be taking one step. We all really can make a difference in the world.”
For those interested in joining the ZPC team or providing donations, contact Zionsville Presbyterian Church at 317-873-6503.