Photo: Indianapolis Mini-Marathon 2012
Ryan Betz, one extraordinary sophomore from Park Tudor and avid runner, is known for getting involved in community service projects. Nevertheless, he found his calling in eighth grade during a lunch with his mother, Holly. Ryan decided he would run half-marathons, or 13.1 miles, in all 50 states with the hopes of raising $100,000 before graduating high school to help two charities: the Special Olympics and Project School. He runs to gain donors' attention who are interested in his cause and donate solely for the sake of giving, or who pledge a specific amount per race.
"Ryan expressed his interest is doing something to set himself apart in high school," Holly explained. "We started brainstorming about things that were important to him and playing up to his strengths. [Running] was something that always came naturally to Ryan. Even as far back as preschool, his teachers would marvel at how far he could run...they would tell the kids to run a lap around the track for warm up to gym, but Ryan would just keep going and going, running a mile or two with ease."
Ryan has remained involved in cross country and track since fifth grade. His current coach, Ryan Ritz, expressed the pride he feels for Ryan, "Half-marathon and marathon training requires a tremendous amount of time and effort and Ryan has certainly challenged himself mentally and physically with his goal."
Ryan admitted that when beginning this goal, he operated off talent instead of preparation. He has since learned how to prepare, clarifying, "I try to keep a balance between running good times during the half-marathons but not breaking my body down too much that I will suffer for track/cross country."
Ryan understands the importance behind raising this money. He articulated, "Initially this was about combining my passion for running and trying to give back to the community, but has turned into much more. Volunteering multiple times for these charities has enriched my life in a positive way and made it much easier to run the half-marathons knowing who I will benefit."
Not every race has been easy and quitting has never been an option, as Ryan explained, "This project has meant too much to me that I would never want to quit this project barring something catastrophic." Ritz added, "Ryan is mentally strong, hard-working and extremely disciplined. When Ryan sets a goal, he will do everything he can to accomplish that goal."
"Fortunately," Holly said, "running the half-marathons is probably one of the easiest parts of this project." One of the hardest parts is paying for each race. The Betz family guarantees all donations go to the charities. Therefore, the family covers all out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., registration, hotel, fuel and flights), which Holly explained has been a lesson to teach Ryan the work required to achieve this goal.
To date, Ryan has run 24 races in 24 states, though he has repeated some marathons. He updates his information on http://www.RyanRunning.org and on Twitter @RyanBetzRunning. To date, his best time is 1:27 at the 2011 OneAmerica 500 Festival Indianapolis Mini-Marathon, which he has run five times, ultimately finishing in the top 500 of the runners. His next big race comes this June when he runs in West Virginia. Ryan hopes to get in six races this year, with three already planned in Idaho, Wyoming and Alaska.
Ryan's coach emphasized, "I have seen Ryan grow into a mature, responsible person who understands the importance of helping others and building a strong community." The best part of this, Holly concluded, is "the great benefit of spending all this time with Ryan."
Interested in getting your child active? The JCC of Indianapolis presents the fifth annual Indianapolis Kids Triathlon and family fun day on Sunday, June 24, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Arthur M. Glick JCC, 6701 Hoover Road, Indianapolis, IN 46260. Register online at www.JCCindy.org
Tags: Health, Local, Tweens & Teens