“Today was race day - the day I trained for... talked about... fund-raised for - and today was the day I was running not just for myself but for freedom. I partnered with Freedom 4/24 to be a fundraiser and use my race to raise money for their non-profit organization. I love to run but today I truly felt I was running for a greater purpose.”
Have you ever thought about running a 100k ultramarathon? Bethany Williams, Assistant Director of Health and Wellness at Liberty University, was up for the challenge. She conquered the Waldo 100k Ultramarathon in Oregon, all while raising awareness and funds for Freedom 4/24. Read her story and get inspired to fight human trafficking in your own way:
Bethany’s Fundraising Event: August 19, 2017 / Waldo 100k Ultramarathon, Western Oregon
How did you first become aware of Freedom 4/24 and human trafficking?
I first learned about Freedom 4/24 and human trafficking while in college. I got more involved by running the first “Run 4 Their Lives” 5k in Lynchburg.
What about the cause of fighting human trafficking resonates most with you?
When I first heard about human trafficking, I felt a passion stirring in my heart. I believe God has called us to be a voice for the voiceless and advocate for the hurting. When I heard about human trafficking, I wanted to fight through raising awareness and doing whatever I could to help provide freedom for the women. Through believing and following Jesus, I have experienced freedom and wanted these women to be able to experience freedom also.
What gave you inspiration to run the Waldo 100k for Freedom 4/24?
I have done a lot of local races and wanted to do a race out west for a long time. In order to run the Waldo 100K, your name has to be drawn from a lottery so I was very surprised when I got in. I had been asking myself the question through running in 2017, “Why do I run?” I run because I love the outdoors, it’s great exercise, it’s stress relieving, and I believe God has given me the ability to run so I run for his glory. It hit me one day that I could use this race to raise awareness for Freedom 4/24, especially as this race was very unique for the running community that I am a part of.
What was training like for the Waldo 100k?
Training was hard…and fun. I knew I would not be able to really train for the elevation I would experience so I focused on good long runs with hard climbs. This consisted of long runs in the Blue Ridge Mountains that were around 20 miles. I tried to run doubles most Wednesdays (a run in the morning and a run at night) to practice running on tired legs. I also tried to run back-to-backs, so a long run Saturday and long run Sunday. A lot of the running community was training in the summer too so I ran with lots of friends!
How did the stories of survivors help you cross the finish line?
It is very common in ultras to experience pain in the race, especially during the end after 50 miles where you still have one last mountain to climb and 12 or so miles to finish. Whenever I felt soreness, fatigue or pain, I reminded myself that I was running for more than myself, I was running for the freedom of these women. I thought about how the survivors experience so much and yet keep preserving. I thought about different stories I had heard from Thailand and India and really wanted to run hard and push through so that they could have hope.
You exceeded your fundraising goal. What was your fundraising approach?
I sent out letters to my family and good family friends. Then, I posted online on Facebook and Instagram. In addition, whenever people asked me about training for Waldo, I told them I was fundraising to fight human trafficking and that they could donate. But honestly, while I put in time and energy, it was God who provided. He surprised me each time I got a donation.
How did you celebrate crossing the finish line?
My goal was to finish sub 16. I had to run from mile 52 to mile 62 in less than two hours. I ran across the finish line with my arms up in victory then leaned over. My husband gave me a big hug then I leaned against the ski wall, exhausted. We ate some delicious pizza to celebrate and continued to celebrate the next day with some good friends we have in Oregon.
How would you encourage someone else considering doing a run or other fundraiser for Freedom 4/24?
Do it! Life is short and I believe our life is more fulfilled and we experience more joy when we do things that are bigger than ourselves. I had trouble asking people about donating money but then I put that aside because I am passionate about the cause and believe it’s worth fighting for. If you look at fundraising that way, you will find it naturally flows into your conversations and people will give when they are ready.