THP RUNS: AMBASSADORS
THP is honored and grateful to introduce our first THP RUNS Ambassador Team, a group of individuals who go the extra mile to promote the power of recovery and help others connect to all that The Herren Project offers. Making a difference one step at a time.
North Dighton, MA
What do you do for a living? School Nurse
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Chris Herren came and gave a talk to the students at my school. I reached out to Mr. Herren after the talk he gave and this set into motion a series of events that have helped to save my loved one and my family as a result.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? I don’t have a profound answer for this one. I haven’t followed professional running until quite recently but I have lots of local runners that I consider heroes. Currently, when I see that people I know and love have found their path to recovery through running, I am inspired. Now…if I had to name one athlete who I have loved since childhood, it would be Brian Boitano, ha ha! I stayed up late as a child watching the Battle of the Brians in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and still get chills watching his Gold Medal performance. As an adult I can look back and see that beauty and strength went hand in hand to create what became a work of art and athleticism.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? It is ever evolving. Right now I like the 10K. I used to prefer longer distances but I’m learning to find what my strengths are in each distance. I used to hate 5K’s, but then I started to push my speed and found my confidence. I recently did my third half marathon and again- it was about finding my confidence and trusting I could maintain a speed I was still pushing at.
What are you most proud of? Being a mother of 3 unique smart and strong children. My children looking at me and believing that I am strong too.
What do you do for a living? Writer
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? By writing a piece for Runner’s World about Chris Herren.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Chris Mosier, a Team USA duathlete. Because he is breaking down barriers and paving the way for inclusion in all areas of athletics. Pam Rickard, an ultra athlete and recovering alcoholic. Because she keeps going and going and going and always has something smart and smart-alecky to say (often in the same sentence). Rich Roll, an ultra athlete and recovering alcoholic. Because he delivers inspirational content on a regular basis as he pursues the meaning of an authentic life.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? The .0003K.
What are you most proud of? Getting out of bed in the morning.
Holly R. Gifford
What do you do for a living? Assistant Vice President, Legg Mason, Inc.
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? My first connection to The Herren Project was with Pam Rickard. I reached out to inquire about running for them after visiting the THP Runs site. Ironically, Pam and I spoke the day before my husband died from his addiction. I took that as a sign that I should run my first marathon in support of The Herren Project and to honor my husband’s memory.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Perhaps not a typical “running hero” but someone that I am truly proud of and continually inspired by… Chris Herren. I became aware of Chris and his “story” from my husband Matt. We purchased his book after one of Matt’s rehab attempts. Matt felt a strong connection to Chris and his struggles and I share that connection. I admire his strength, his resilience and his genuine desire to make a difference. His approach to his sobriety and the support he provides to families is unparalleled and beyond words.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? I enjoy half marathons- great distance and relatively easy to train- not a huge time commitment. BUT I love the challenge of a marathon! The training -mentally and physically. The cheers of the crowds. Crossing the finish line- the experience is like no other- nothing compares!
What are you most proud of? I am proud of all my running achievements but most importantly that I have found a healthy outlet to help me handle my grief and provide for healing after the loss of my husband.
Where do you call home? Portsmouth, RI
What do you do for a living? I’m a 3rd grade teacher in Portsmouth, RI
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? My family and I met Chris at the beginning of his recovery. I immediately felt compassion for him having been an adult child of an alcoholic father and knowing firsthand the trials and tribulations of addiction. Growing up in a home with addiction, my heart went out to Chris and his family and I just knew that I wanted to help and support him, any way I could. Chris was getting his life back on track and started giving private workouts for local basketball players. My son Evan along with his good friend Andrew was among the earliest players to attend Chris’ workouts; later, our daughter Jami attended as well. Not only were our kids learning from Chris’ professional expertise but more importantly they were learning about working hard, having self-respect and believing in yourself; Chris became their role model and more importantly, their friend, (as well as ours). We all forged a meaningful relationship beyond the game of basketball. He has served as a mentor on and off the court for my family and we value his friendship along with the friendship of his beautiful family. It has been amazing to witness Chris’ success over the past 9 years through the power of recovery. He serves as a beacon of hope for those afflicted with the terrible disease of addiction. God works in mysterious ways and little did I know that in the years to come I would lean on Chris and The Herren Project. Addiction has no boundaries and unfortunately two of my nephews struggled with addiction in one form or another. My heart is full of love and gratitude for Chris and The Herren Project for the support given to us and our family through the years. I am grateful to say that today my nephews received treatment through THP and both are doing well and on their road to recovery. Having been an avid runner for over 30 years, I was thrilled when I learned that THP started the THP RUNS initiative. This provided me a chance to give back by helping my loved ones and other families struggling with addiction, realize that anything is possible.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? I have a few….One is Pam Rickard! – her love for life and the passion she exhibits for others is infectious! Plus, I’m in awe of her energy and she inspires me beyond belief! I also have great admiration for Chris Herren and everything he has been able to accomplish through the gift of recovery and all of the more than 400 THP runners who are making a difference!
What’s your favorite running/race distance? My favorite running distance is 3-5 miles and for races I enjoy 10 milers.
What are you most proud of? I’m most proud of my beautiful family! As a child /young adult I endured many challenges growing up in an alcoholic home. As difficult as it was I grew from the experience and it’s made me a stronger person. It’s also given me a greater appreciation of what is really important in life. I am thankful that God has blessed me with a loving, supportive husband and two beautiful children. I feel incredibly fortunate that I have been able to give my children what I yearned for growing up… a safe, loving home, where family comes first.
What do you do for a living? Flight Attendant
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? My friend, Barb Bowen. She told me she wanted me to run The Boston Marathon for this organization. I first told her “No way I can run Boston with a group I’ve not ever heard of, it’s the Boston Marathon I’m too slow, and I don’t even like basketball”. She repeated, “I want you to run Boston.” About a week later I called her told her I filled out the application; but, she needed to send it! She did. About a week after Jenny Swider called me. I literally dropped the phone. After I called Barb on speed dial it went to v/m & pretty sure I said something to the effect of “OMG! You need to call me now!” And sent a text shaking and tearing. About a week after that Chris Herren & Kevin Mikolazyk reached out welcoming me to the very first THP Boston Marathon team.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Steve Prefontaine! He was not a typical athlete in stature or form; but, he had grit, conviction, passion, went full throttle giving his everything for not only his sport; but, challenged others to always give their best, and had a bit of a cocky edge that, for me, wasn’t arrogance; but, instead it was a deep confidence in himself that told others “think what you want I’ll prove you wrong.” He also fought for US Olympic Athletes. Most people don’t know how he challenged the system that has brought better care for the US team.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? I don’t really have one. When I have a training run or a race. That “number of mile(s)” I need to complete when I finish is my favorite because I did it. So, my favorite distance is my next run.
What are you most proud of? I’ve been lucky to have some great accomplishments, like running the Boston Marathon and the Badwater Cape Fear 50 miler. I also run a half marathon each September honoring the friends I lost on 9/11 to “name a few.” But, my most proud is knowing I’m living proof that when I made the decision to live me, live sober, magical things happen. I can wear flowers in my hair, dance barefoot in the sand, and conquer every goal with gratitude, peace, and joy.
What do you do for a living? Mom of two beautiful little girls: Maya 7 and Emma 5. 8th Grade World History Teacher at Sky View Middle School in Leominster, MA. I also am the Varsity Boys and Girls Cross Country coach at Leominster High School.
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? I first heard of Chris Herren in 2014 when he came to our middle school to speak to our 8th grade students. I was instantly connected as I have had family who have fought with addiction. When I got home that day and got the mail, he was in my Runners World magazine, and I held on to that magazine knowing he was coming to my school the following year. That year I also ran a marathon, earning my BQ. Not long after, I had saw a post on Facebook about THP Runs and the Boston Marathon, I had run marathons for charity in the past and had qualified for Boston ’16, so I wasn’t planning to run for a charity. But I have had many close family members fight the battle of addiction, some have won and others have sadly lost. I took a loss of a cousin around this time as a sign, so I emailed Pam Rickard and asked if I could join the 2016 THP Boston team with my own bib. THP has such a strong message I felt that I could help someone by raising some money and running Boston for THP. Emailing Pam was one of the best decisions I have ever made, as I feel connected to THP and wish that I had had access to the resources they provide when I was younger and needed direction in helping family members.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? My athletic Heroes would have to be Dick and Rick Hoyt, as they are pure inspiration. I have had the privilege to run in many races that they have participated in, and I find it so inspiring watching him push his son and witness the bond that they have.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? Favorite Running Distance would have to be the 5k but will pretty much run anything up to the marathon.
What are you most proud of? I am most proud of being a mom, I don’t think anything else in life that I will do could possibly rival being a mom to Maya and Emma. But qualifying for Boston is a close second.
What do you do for a living? Cell Genetic Technologist. I grow and then study people’s chromosomes to look for any abnormalities. My main focus is Pediatric Oncology with the Cohens Children’s Hospital working on bone marrows to detect leukemia.
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Pete Navatto. We did the Blue Ridge Half in 2014 together. I have never felt so strongly connected to a charity before and I am glad to continue to be a part of it.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Am I allowed to say Pam Rickard? She’s quite legit and strong and I aspire to be more like her every day. I love Kara Goucher, her honesty about the sport, her outspokenness to keep it clean and fair, and what role she plays in it. There are too many to pick one, but those are top 2.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? Half Marathons. I love that I can keep myself in shape to go out and run 13.1 miles on any given day.
What are you most proud of? I am most proud of the fact that I went from someone who in July of 2011 wanted to cry when Couch to 5k said to run for twenty minutes straight to March of 2016 and completing my first 50k. Also, I am proud of those moments in between when I began to believe in myself and call myself a runner.
What do you do for a living? New York State Senior Court Officer
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? I found THP through Caleb Daniloff, he shared a fundraising link and I looked to see what races THP was doing. Then decided to join in November 2014 for the Blue Ridge Half in 2015.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? My athletic heroes are the people around me that overcome obstacles to succeed. There are many professionals that I root for, but they aren’t my heroes. I have friends that overcame injuries to climb mountains. People that couldn’t run 300 yards straight and now run multiple marathons a year. When I see a friend fail, and immediately decide to do that race again, that inspires me. Or those that overcome self-doubt to achieve their lofty goals. These are my athletic heroes.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? My favorite race distance is, all of them. Every race distance offers a different way to challenge myself. (however, if you desire a definitive answer to this, it’s the 5k. It’s so hard to race that distance at an almost maxed out effort.)
What are you most proud of? By far, being able to show that people can find recovery and live a fun, rewarding and joyful life.
Lock Haven, PA or On Any Trail
What do you do for a living? “God gave us the gift of life, it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well” ~ Voltaire My idea of living well is being a loving husband to my beautiful wife Elisa and sober father to our four amazing children. To pay the bills and cover race fees, I am a Licensed Professional Counselor working as a psychotherapist at both UPMC/Susquehanna and Keystone Counseling and Evaluation Services. I also work part time as a Veteran Service Officer at the North Central PA VFW Benefits Center.
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Originally learned about THP while following The Icebreaker Run. I then connected through David Clark when he was recruiting for the THP Ultramarathon Team. I loved the mission of THP as much as running ultramarathons, so it was a perfect way for me to help break the stigma of addiction, raise awareness, and hopefully raise some money for those still struggling.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? There is no possible way I could just list one! My true heroes are the middle and back of the packers who go out and run the challenging trail races for fun! They do it without sponsors knowing they aren’t going to be on the podium or win a big payout! They do it for the love of running! I also look up to David Clark, Charlie Engle, and Pam Rickard because not only to they talk recovery and running, but they lead by example. They embody and live the values I admire and strive to live by.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? All of them! Overall favorite is 50K
What are you most proud of? Getting sober and staying sober for 5 years and some change (as of today). Honestly the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life!
What do you do for a living? Retired Real Estate Broker
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? I connected with Pam first then met Chris & Kevin in New York in 2014.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? My running hero would be Bart Yasso since he introduced me to Pam and he also overcame addictions of his own.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? Favorite distance would be either 10 miles or a half marathon.
What are you most proud of? I am most proud of becoming sober and regaining all the trust and love back from my family.
What do you do for a living? Realtor/Broker
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Charlie Engle was about to run the Icebreaker Run across the US with the team, and we met in Wilmington. He suggested I connect with Pam Rickard, as I was searching for a charity to do my Ironman NC for and raise money for mental health. Pam and I connected and it was sheer joy to find a magnificent new “Family” of recovering athletes, like myself, to join in this fight to help others find sobriety. I did my IMNC in 2016 for The Herren Project.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Charlie Engle and Pam Rickard are my heroes – as they have battled addiction and not only overcame, but have thrived, in spite of it.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? Sprints to be honest, I am more of a fast twitch athlete.
What are you most proud of? Training and completing 2 IM events, as I had huge hurdles to overcome. It was in celebration of being 9 years sober that I first took on this endeavor, but I never thought I could get through the training, let alone the day of the event. I suffer with lupus too, and that curtailed any long-distance training I could do for about 5 years. Once it was identified and I started medication, I saw a small window of hope to try and achieve this Bucket List item. I not only did it once, but twice….. I am still striving to do a few more long distance events, but it is hard on my body… but not on my spirit! I continue to learn everyday what real recovery is all about, to strive and thrive, not just exist in being sober. And to SHARE my story so others may find this path.
What do you do for a living? Mobile App Development/Software Development, Social Media Marketing
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Via the Icebreaker Run
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Can’t narrow it down to one. Everyone that participated in running and putting on the Icebreaker Run in 2016. But if I was forced to narrow it down it would be Charlie. Charlie running his version of Badwater while in prison had a big impact on my life and how I apply his attitude what I am going through. I am going to continue to run, and see where it takes me!
What’s your favorite running/race distance? Right now, 50 mile
What are you most proud of? Digging myself out of my depression and ending my need to self-medicate. Proud to be alive!
What do you do for a living? Full time student – Pursing degree in Nursing
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Through David Clark, He is my running coach and mentor
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? David Clark, His story of overcoming addiction and losing weight is amazing. His lessons of love and suffering are something that I have applied to my life. His positive outlook on life and willingness to help so many others is a great example of what I want to do with my life.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? 100 miles on trails
What are you most proud of? Finishing my first 100-mile race at Rocky Raccoon under 24 hours and finishing with a smile.
Where do you call home? Phoenix, AZ
What do you do for a living? Flight Attendant; certified with RRCA as a Running Coach Certified Professional Recovery Coach; Lead Advocate for Heroes in Recovery
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Synchronicity~ My husband was watching ESPN one Sunday and 30 for 30 came on. It just happened to be Chris Herren’s story/Unguarded. I had never heard of Chris Herren at the time, but with my husband and I both being in recovery we watched it and were so inspired by his story and what he is doing now I immediately did more research. Fast forward a few months……being a Lead Advocate for Heroes in Recovery, and being an avid runner, I was asked to join their Ragnar Team in which we recently ran the PNW Passage Ragnar. It was an incredible team and two of the teammates happen to be Tom and Pam Rickard. I knew right away in meeting Pam, and Tom and learning more about THP that it was something I wanted to be a part of.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Being an avid runner for so long I have followed different ‘runners’ along the way but the person I have most resonated with is Kristin Armstrong (not the cyclist J ) who wrote the book Mile Markers. Her metaphors about life, love, parenting and running are inspirational. Here is an an excerpt from her writings~ “There is something magical about running after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further it transcends the mind. A bit further yet and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul”.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? The Half Marathon
What are you most proud of? I am most proud of my recovery. It has given me a life greater than I could have ever imagined. I am also proud of my two boys who are now 25 and 21 who continue to inspire me every day.
What do you do for a living? I drive a School Bus. I live, breath, and sleep for my family, The Herren Project, and ultra-running.
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? I met Pam for the first time when she just crossed the finish line at Burning River 100 in 2014. I heard a rumor she was going to run Beast of Burden in January of 2015 so I reached out via Facebook. I started seeing all her posts about mentioning The Herren Project but really was not ready to look at that with my first 100 miler in sight. I met Pam, in person for the second time, at Beast of Burden had a quick hug at the start and few times during the race where her joy and enthusiasm blew my mind. By the time I got home and had some time to think about going back to Beast for the summer event I knew it would be to support The Herren Project.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? When I think of heroes I think of everyday runners and people. Each person is battling their own struggles and personal demons yet can find a way to improve the day of another person, be it a smile, compliment, or a good deed for another person or group of people. While everyone is capable, not everyone does it selflessly, which is what a true hero does, at least in my mind. I can see this in action at ultra races where we encourage and check on our fellow runners as we pass to ensure they are doing okay.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? I love ultras. I have many “favorite” races, yet each and every one has a special place in my heart. If I am in training mode my favorite distance is 15-18 miles with just enough suffering yet quick enough to not eat up a whole day.
What are you most proud of? My personal growth. I have so much more confidence now and I know I can accomplish anything I truly set my mind and heart to.
What do you do for a living? Professional Mountain Ultra Trail Runner and work as a Sales Associate at the iconic Boulder Running Company.
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Met David Clark at a book signing for Charlie Engle’s book “Running Man” in Denver.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Scott Jurek for his dominance in The Western States 100 and his advocacy for a Plant Based Lifestyle.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? 100k and 100-miles
What are you most proud of? Being a father of three amazing children and 24-Years of service in the United States Army.
Wake Forest, NC
What do you do for a living? RRCA Certified Running Coach, New Balance Running Coach – Raleigh, Musician, Writer
How did you first connect with The Herren Project? Once in a blue moon you meet someone and you immediately know they’re going to be one of your best friends. Sean Nielsen and I met on a nighttime training run for the Umstead 100 pacer volunteers in Raleigh. We were immediately drawn to one another from a group of well over 20 people and spent the next 12 dark miles gabbing about our alcoholism and recovery as if we’d known each other our entire lives. Shortly thereafter, he invited me on an impromptu road trip to meet the THP folks and run The Quad Boston with David Clark. When I first met THP folks everyone was together in one room and I’d never felt so much positive energy concentrated in one space. The welcoming synergy and immediate connectedness I felt with everyone was one of the more profound moments in my life. I’d never hugged, poured my soul out, and bonded so quickly with a group of “familiar strangers” before. The weekend was emotionally-draining in the best of ways and I knew the planets had aligned for us to meet.
Who’s one of your running or athletic “heroes” and why? Rich Roll. Early during my recovery, I had the intuition that some greater force had “pulled me from the wreckage”. My mind was reeling with a combined sense of gratitude and bewilderment. I read Rich’s book from start to finish in one fell swoop and that it was a decidedly sufficient compass which inevitably lead me to secular spiritual growth. I think that recovery is about strength through vulnerability, finding a way to ground yourself spiritually (in my case meditation), and a path of gratitude & compassion. My athleticism walks together with my gratitude and RR’s been a torch-bearer for me as I navigate the myriad facets and ever-expanding quest for betterment.
What’s your favorite running/race distance? The biannual 50-yard dash at the beach with my wife & son. I’ll honorably mention that I’m also enamored with the cathartic 100-miler. It doesn’t provide me with the luxury of being tentative as I begin ultras with the sole intention of seeing the journey to its fruition (barring unforeseen circumstances that may become immediate health risks). It’s analogous to sobriety as it’s a black & white choice that I’ve made to walk a path with conviction, determination, and (hopefully) a little grace.
What are you most proud of? My Immortal Beloved Mary and our beautiful son Scottie. She and I met at the mall when we were 17, have been attached at the hip ever since and have created one of the warmest empathetic little humans I’ve ever met. They’re everything to me. The greatest gift The Universe has ever given me is our friendship which has morphed and grown with the stages of our lives. Pride is often associated with accomplishment and while I see our ability to navigate life together as an accomplishment – what truly makes me proud is that that “The Powers That Be” saw it fit to bestow this wondrous partnership upon me in this life.