The Nerd Herd

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CANCERCON 2017 – An Epic Event

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For those that follow along with Nerd Herd Running on Facebook, you saw that a group of us made it out to this year’s CANCERCON to witness first-hand how Stupid Cancer helps young adult cancer patients to “get connected, get educated, get inspired, and get busy living”.  Not only did we get to interact with the patients, survivors, and care givers personally impacted by our fundraising efforts, but we also found time for a little bit of shenanigans on the side.cancercon1v2

Here are some of the highlights from our trip:

The Fun Run.  The Nerd Herd was fortunate to hook-up with The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults before the conference.  Ulman sponsors a “Cancer to 5K” training program designed for cancer survivors where survivors run/walk alongside a running “Sherpa” with the ultimate goal of completing a 5K goal race. As they say, “Take your life back from cancer… one mile at a time!”  They hosted the Stupid Cancer Fun Run/Walk for the CANCERCON attendees, and we were able to play along.

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A big “Ears Up!” from the Fun Run!

For our part, we were able to add to the participants’ fun run experience by handing out Nerd Herd t-shirts, and awarding them some Nerd Herd Trilogy finisher medals.  We were energized meeting so many fans of our past trilogies, and excited by the reactions from those who were just learning about us.  We’re hopeful that many of these folks will get a chance to enjoy this year’s trilogy and keep the momentum going for Stupid Cancer.

The “org” of stupidcancer.org.  Some of the Herd have had the distinct pleasure of previously meeting the leadership and staff at Stupid Cancer. For those of us in Denver, however, it was a true pleasure being able to finally witness their energy and their enthusiasm at CANCERCON.  Matthew, Alli, and Thea went out of their way to make us (and everyone else) feel like family. Their personalities created a climate that clearly motivated the conference volunteers to do their best, empowered attendees to take action in the fight for young adult cancer advocacy, and made every individual survivor and caregiver feel that their story was important to everyone at the conference.  Everyone we witnessed from Stupid Cancer genuinely cared about the people who came to the conference, were available and ready to help in any situation, and were truly empathetic with the joys and pains experienced by attendees.

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Ears Up! It’s Matthew Zachary!

I appreciated having the opportunity to personally thank Matthew Zachary for making my own cancer “suck a little less.”  At a low morale point in my cancer journey (see my story here), I hopped onto Stupid Cancer’s website hoping for some advice and guidance. Unfortunately, I only saw the “cancer survivors from 13 to 39″ staring at me at the top of the screen. “Seriously?!” I said to myself angrily. “I’m too old for Stupid Cancer?!” (I was 41). Nerd Jamison got wind of this and sent Matthew a note. A short time later, Matthew had recorded a video for me – offering a special dispensation so I could be considered a “young adult.”

The Red Lanyard.  When attendees first checked-in at CANCERCON, they were given a chance to pick a lanyard color to represent why they were there; patient/survivor, caregiver, advocate, other.  Initially, I selected the “other” color since our primary purpose for attending was to be recognized for our fundraising (see below).  However, based on the strong urging of Nerd Erinn (and, I believe, conspiring with my wife), I went back and switched to the patient/survivor red lanyard. I’m so thankful I did. It had an immediate impact to my CANCERCON experience.  The red lanyard was an invitation to share my story with others, and learn about my fellow survivors’ own journeys.cancercon4

The beer.  According to the Denver Brewer’s Guide, there are over 80 craft breweries in and around Denver.  And while the CANCERCON schedule didn’t afford me an opportunity to visit them, I was still able to sample a good many of the beers they offered.  As a matter of fact, across the three days I was in Denver, I sampled over 28 different craft and regional beers! (it helps when there’s a Yardhouse in the hotel lobby). Denver truly is a craft-beer lover’s paradise.  And with access to so many amazing craft beers, it makes you wonder why the citizens of Colorado have to rely on a different substance to get them through life. But I digress…cancercon5

The Skirt Sports experience.  Nerd Erinn stepped away from the conference to explore the greater Denver region, which included a stop at the Skirt Sports flagship store in Boulder. There she met founder Nicole DeBoom, Noelle, Keri and a group of lively local Ambassadors. She went on a snowy run with them (for as long as she could keep up at 6,000 feet altitude), talked shop and taught them the all important “Ears Up” salute!cancercon6

The Epic Award.  By far, the highlight-of-highlights was being part of the CANCERCON awards ceremony.  Over the past four years, the Nerd Herd Running Racing Series has raised over $85,000 to support Stupid Cancer’s advocacy of young adult cancer patients/survivors.  At this year’s CANCERCON, they wanted to recognize the Herd’s efforts and generously bestow upon us their annual Epic Award.  Head Nerd Jamison had conflicting shenanigans for the weekend, so the rest of the team in Denver had the distinct pleasure of walking on stage and accepting the award on behalf of all the Nerds. Of course, being absent from the event didn’t prevent Jamison from getting himself in front of the crowd.  In a pre-taped message, Jamison thanked Stupid Cancer, and announced the Nerd Herd stretch goal of trying to surpass $100K in total fundraising for Stupid Cancer with the 2017 racing series.

A virtual race series deserves a virtual acceptance speech.

A virtual race series deserves a virtual acceptance speech. Nerds Erinn, Julie and I were joined by a larger-than-life Nerd Jamison.

I’m not one who generally likes to jet off to a conference and miss time with my family.  But CANCERCON proved to be more than a worthwhile experience for me. I came home feeling more confident about dealing with my own cancer survivorship, and re-energized to work, with the rest of the Nerds, in getting our next race series up and running. Clearly, Nerd Herd Running has made an impact to Stupid Cancer, and I’m so fortunate to have (and continue to have) played a small part in that success.  Ears Up!cancercon8

A Welcome “Nuisance”

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When one thinks of running their first half or full marathon, it’s the condition of their feet, knees, or lungs they are most concerned about on race day.  But any experienced runner will tell you that it’s often a different body part – their bladder – that they most worry about before a race starts.  The bladder, you see, can be a nuisance:

  • “When’s the best time to empty it before the race begins?”
  • “Where are the best places on the course to empty it during the race?”
  • And for most of my races, “How quickly is this beer I’m drinking going to make me have to empty my bladder again?”
Another beer stop on the way to marathon success!

Another beer stop on the way to marathon success!

Ironically, it’s my running that is now credited for saving this little nuisance of an organ.  You see, for over a year now, I have been living with Micropapillary Bladder Cancer (MPBC).

This all started when I began experiencing complications after my training runs. My hopes that these were related to something simple like kidney stones were dashed when an ultrasound showed I had a tumor on my bladder. After a month of being poked, prodded and tested, I had the tumor removed.

It was a toomah!

It was a toomah!

The overwhelming majority of cancers in the bladder are easily treated through a medical process. Unfortunately, pathology reports confirmed that my tumor was MPBC.  MPBC is so aggressive that by the time it’s diagnosed, the cancer has usually spread to the point that doctors must immediately remove the entire bladder.

This is where being an active runner changed my fortunes.  My doctors believe my running caused me to experience the symptoms much earlier than someone who lived a more sedentary lifestyle.  As a result, the tumor was still “non-invasive”.  This low level of MPBC tumor progression is so rarely seen that specialists and both Johns Hopkins and GWU advised that there was no precedence on which to base a treatment recommendation.  I was that rare!

There's a tee shirt for every occasion - or diagnosis

There’s a tee shirt for every occasion – or diagnosis

Fortunately, GWU believed I was still “too young” (40’s are the new 20’s) to have my bladder removed.  So we embarked on a strategy to avoid surgery and see if the standard medical treatments could be effective.

A little over a year later, I still have my bladder, and I’m still running.  Bladder cancer is something that will require a lifetime of monitoring and treatments, so who knows what the future will hold.  That said, a couple weeks ago, I PR’d in my latest half-marathon, during the Runner’s Marathon of Reston.

I wasn't "Rest'n", I was "Run'n"!

I wasn’t “Rest’n”, I was “Run’n”!

I can assure you that during the entire race, I never once thought of my bladder (and its fullness) as a nuisance.  Instead, it was a steady reminder of what my life could have been if I wasn’t a runner.

Enough Said

Enough Said

Medal Monday – Illinois Marathon Relay 2010

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Welcome to Medal Monday! This is where we share with you our favorite or not-so-favorite medals earned over the years and the stories behind them. Feel free to share your own medal memories with us by emailing Nerd Erinn at erinn@thenerdherd.info. Maybe YOUR Medal Monday memory will be shared here!

Somewhere in the boxes in my basement, I have a box of nothing but old medals and ribbons from my 10 years of competitive swimming. I remember lovingly displaying them in my childhood bedroom, a reminder of my 6 a.m. practices before school, the hours of back and forth in the pool, the thrill of competition. Those medals no longer have the same impact they once did, and I blame running medals. Maybe because as an adult my job is no longer student and athlete, but as an employee. Maybe because now when I finally do get out to run it is no longer about what place I get, but the fact that I get to finish at all. Or maybe it is because running medals are bigger and fancier than my old swimming medals. Whatever the reason, I have them now displayed in my home office to remind me that I am getting to do something awesome.

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Nerd Erinn asked us to write about some of our favorite running medals for Medal Monday, and what better place to start but at the very beginning. I started running because of the first Illinois Marathon Weekend, back in 2009. co-workers and I volunteered on the race course by helping the police direct traffic. It was an eye opening experience, watching world class athletes running past, then some other speedy runners, and then those of every shape and color and fitness level. A co- worker and I both agreed that we could do the marathon relay. Running is for everyone! After all, I used to swim five miles a day! She ran track in high school! We could certainly run 1/4th of a marathon! Maybe a normal person would run a 5k to start their running career. Nah, we decided six or seven miles was the way to go.

Seven months later I started my training, and I struggled through one mile. In fact, I struggled through every long run for five months. A five-mile long run had me napping my afternoons away. When I finally lined up to take the second leg of the marathon relay for a go, I was ready. Luckily, I got to sleep in my own bed, and my starting point was Meijer in Urbana, just a few miles from my house.

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Even the littlest of family members came out to cheer.

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Sister Lindsey and niece Madeline show their support of Aunt Ra Ra

I had a great cheering section, with my family traveling south from my hometown to cheer me on for all of one minute as I ran past them in Campustown.

Just shy of seven miles, my leg of the race took me past my old University of Illinois dorm, my apartments, through the very campus that I love so much. It was emotional. It was awesome. It convinced me that I needed to run my first half marathon, where I met some fellow nerds. The rest is history!

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Sara runs past her former dorm.

For those interested, the Illinois Marathon weekend is April 20-22. More information can be found here.

Medal Monday — Minnie’s Debut

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Welcome to Medal Monday! This is where we share with you our favorite or not-so-favorite medals earned over the years and the stories behind them. Feel free to share your own medal memories with us by emailing Nerd Erinn at erinn@thenerdherd.info. Maybe YOUR Medal Monday memory will be shared here!

Today’s medal is a favorite based on the experience behind the medal. The Inaugural Walt Disney World 10k design from 2014 is a cute running Minnie design. It’s one of my favorite medals purely based on the race we shared for it. It was the most fun I’ve had on course. The Nerds decided to race together to earn our Minnie bling:

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Image credit: RunDisney

Nerds could not simply run a race together. We had to have a plan. And costumes. This is how “Nerds Assemble” came to be one of our battle cries … we dressed as the Avengers!

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The Avengers storm the finish line (Photo credit: Helen Dunn)

This race was so enjoyable because we stuck together for most of the miles. When we were separated from Nerd Sara and Jack, the rest of us decided to wait to re-assemble before finishing the race. This resulted in an impromptu cheer stop just inside EPCOT where we cheered, high-fived and Hulk Smashed (fist-bumped) other runners on their way to the finish. The Disney castmembers we joined were entertained and even recognized us in the parks later that day. My favorite moment from the race is a tie between the photo above as we all were coming in to the finish line together and the moment I “Hulk smashed” the finish line.

Running in a full body costume, a wig and ginormous fists was kind of a pain, but it was so worth the fun — and the cute Minnie medal.

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Medal Monday — a Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Princess

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Welcome to Medal Monday! This is where we share with you our favorite or not-so-favorite medals earned over the years and the stories behind them. Feel free to share your own medal memories with us by emailing Nerd Erinn at erinn@thenerdherd.info. Maybe YOUR Medal Monday memory will be shared here!

Today we are featuring RunDisney’s 2017 Princess Half Marathon medal. Nerds Julie and Erinn along with Nerd Friend, Tina, and a few other Nerd Friends found on the course completed the race for this gem yesterday. It is a beautiful medal, but it isn’t my favorite.

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Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

I have a problem truly embracing this medal because it is the Princess Half, not the Beauty and the Beast Half. Sure, the Glass Slipper Challenge is very specific to Cinderella, but that makes sense to me in some weird way given that Walt Disney World is home to Cinderella’s Castle and it is the Challenge’s name, but not the individual race name. Previous half marathon medals have not been so specific to any one princess. They have featured tiaras and specific colors, but not so bluntly yelled out “HEY! THIS IS AURORA’S RUN!” RunDisney’s nod to the upcoming release of the live action Beauty and the Beast movie is marketing genius, sure, but I just wish the medal was a bit more generic and representative of all princesses. Admittedly, I might change my thought process on this if RunDisney created a medal themed after Ariel. The struggle is real.

Medal purist or not, I can’t pass up a good opportunity for a themed race costume. Nerd Julie, Nerd Friend Tina and I decided to embrace the B&B vibe of the weekend and transform into the Bimbettes. We had a ball running around looking for that dreamboat, Gaston, and giddily swooning when we found him.

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Laurette, Paulette and Claudette found the burly, brawny Gaston in the Magic Kingdom.

Princess is a fun race, though can be quite crowded at times. We Bimbettes ran into a few friends on the course (Hey, Team AllEars alums!) and made some new ones, too (shout out to Mary Poppins and Donald Duck!). For the most part, all the princesses out there seemed to have a great time. Even those dressed as Belle, who became the focus of our triplet wrath, played along in good fun.

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The Bimbettes had a ball on course.

Medal Monday — Dwars Door Brugge

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Welcome to Medal Monday! This is where we share with you our favorite or not-so-favorite medals earned over the years and the stories behind them. Feel free to share your own medal memories with us by emailing Nerd Erinn at erinn@thenerdherd.info. Maybe YOUR Medal Monday memory will be shared here!

Today’s medal holds a space near and dear to my heart just for the experience. The medal design is nice with some of Belgium’s Brugge on display, but the actual memories from that day make the medal a favorite of mine to look at and remember the fun from the race.

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The 2015 Dwars Door Brugge 5k medal

My husband and I took ourselves to Belgium back in 2015. During our planning I realized, “Hey, maybe I can run a race in Europe!” After some Googling and translating, I found Dwars Ddoor Brugge (Straight through Brugge). There is a 15k and a 5k. We were planning to visit Brugge anyway, but our dates didn’t match up. After some city and date shuffling, we were all set. Then, my non-running husband surprised me and said he wanted to run, too. I couldn’t talk him into the 15k, so we signed up for the 5k.

Like any good nerd on vacation, our day before the race was nothing if not exhausting. We toured most of Brugge, drank too much good Belgium beer, ate too many good waffles, dipped our frites into a lot of heavy sauces and condiments, and got little sleep the night before the race. I can’t be certain, but at one point we may have accidentally become part of a bachelor party, too.

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Nerd Erinn’s man hands were still no match for this glass of brew.

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This quad from Straffe Hendrik is probably not something one should drink the night before a race.

On race day morning, we made our way across the city to the bib pickup and pre-race area. It was all a little confusing with our language barrier, but we were able to figure out where we needed to end up for the start line.

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Dwars Door Brugge course map

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Ears up from the start line

The start line was like any good race here in America. It had a DJ, a high-energy announcer and lots of energized runners ready to roll. The first mile or so of the race went through the beautiful, older parts of Brugge — think of cobblestone streets wreaking havoc on your ankles. It was pretty, but came with a price! The course went through new parts of the city, too, along the water and back to the bus station area. On course support was great all the way to the finish with spectators and aid stations. I think I even made a few on-course friends despite not speaking their language. My hubs stuck with me for the first part of the course. He had pledged his loyalty and claimed he would finish the race with me. I knew his competitiveness would take over prevent that from happening. And it did. He finished eight minutes before I did and still proudly boasts of being the first American finisher for the 5k (I think there were three of us, total).

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Nerd Erinn and hubs, Mike, at the finish

The main draw for the husband was the race sponsor, Brugge Zot. This is from De Halve Maan brewery, which is also where you can find the aforementioned Straffe Hendrik. All finishers could get a cold Zot at the finish, and it was delightful. Which was a good thing because we got lost on our bus ride back toward our bed and breakfast and somehow ended up in the parking lot of a hospital before finding the right bus back (which ended up being the original bus we had boarded). That’s a story for another day.

zot The main takeaways from this Medal Monday memory is that when traveling — whether it is abroad or at home — signing up for a good 5k is most likely going to provide you a fun way to see more of your destination, give you some awesome memories, and (maybe) fill up your cup with a good brew. Get your ears up and get going!

Medal Monday — Nerd Erinn’s All-time Favorite

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Welcome to Medal Monday! This is where we share with you our favorite or not-so-favorite medals earned over the years and the stories behind them. Feel free to share your own medal memories with us by emailing Nerd Erinn at erinn@thenerdherd.info. Maybe YOUR Medal Monday memory will be shared here!

When I think about my favorite medal I always come back to the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon medal from 2013.

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20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon medal. Photo credit: Disney Parks

There’s no denying it’s a cool medal with classic Mickey and current Mickey spinning around in the center and flanked with quotes from Walt. My love for this medal has nothing to do with the design. This is the medal from my first marathon. It came after running a half marathon the day before as part of the aptly named Goofy Challenge. Completing it wouldn’t have been possible without friends.

I started the race strong and excited with a group of friends from the former Team AllEars. By mile 15-ish I found myself alone, hot and in need of a cold Coca Cola and people I recognized. That’s when I ran into Ellie, Mary Jean and Evelyn, who were also my Team AllEars teammates. It was Ellie’s first marathon, too. I firmly believe we needed each other in that moment and Mickey knew it. We found a cold Coke thanks to yet another teammate who was cheering on the course and off we went for the last 10 or so miles. They were slow. They weren’t pretty. They probably weren’t even fun. But when you end a race like this, it still makes a beautiful memory:

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Helen (far left) joined Ellie, Mary Jean, me and Evelyn for the race’s finish. Make no mistake, Mary Jean and Evelyn were basically holding me upright at that point.

This medal represents camaraderie, perseverance, pride and a little bit of silliness. Each time I catch a glimpse of it on my medal hanger I feel a jolt of inspiration and happiness. It will most likely always be my favorite medal.

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First time marathoners, Ellie and Erinn, taste sweet success.

 

 

Let the Wookiee Win 5k Awards and Results

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Ladies and Gentlemen, you could have been anywhere in the world today, but you’re here with us in Nerd City!  Are you ready for an awards ceremony?!

From May 2-8, we set a little over 350 nerds loose on the world to run the Let the Wookiee Win 5k. Our participants ran amok on three different continents as they played the part of their favorite Star Wars sidekick. Whether it was running along the beaches of Australia, walking on the treadmill in Pennsylvania, or strolling through the city of Minneapolis, we love knowing our nerds were everywhere. Thank you to everyone who registered and helped us raise money for Stupid Cancer!

Our favorite part of each race is picking award categories that make us smile. We want everyone to have a chance to win, so we try to pick themes that any nerd could embrace. Please check out our winners!

Kelly and Orion Ihme of Kansas win the award for Best Costume. Not only are their race costumes totally on point, they’re also reenacting our favorite scene from Star Wars. How can you say no to a great wookiee prisoner gag?!

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Kendra Storm of Alabama wins the award for Best Sidekick. Her little one may not be very big yet, but don’t judge her by her size. Some of the biggest nerds we know started out that small!


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Our third category was originally for the Best Wookiee Roar video. Sadly, none of our nerds were gutsy enough to share their Chewy impressions.  :(   So we decide to award a Wildcard prize to Callie Zerby of Pennsylvania because she looks like she’s having so much fun in her photo!


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And because we know many of you like to see how you did compared to other nerds, we also put together official results. How did you do?

Let the Wookiee Win 5k Results

Seven Days of Giveaways are Coming Your Way!

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NERDS! It brings us great joy to let you know that Seven Days of Giveaways are BAAAACCCKKK!!
YOU get a nerd and YOU get a nerd and YOU get a nerd and EVERYONE gets a nerd!

No, wait, that’s not how it goes.

Beginning on Monday, April 18, we will have seven days of fun and nerdy items to giveaway on our Facebook page. The first six prizes will lead up to the grand giveaway to celebrate our four-year anniversary of the original Nerd Herd Running Virtual Race Series. To be eligible for our prize drawings you must be registered for our trilogy or for the Let the Wookiee Win 5k.  Though it won’t give you extra entries, we invite you to like and share our contest posts on Facebook to help get the word out to everyone else.  Here are some of the potential giveaways:

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It’s Our Time medal plaque

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Chewy figurine

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Companion Tshirt, size Large

 

And now we come to the grand giveaway.

As you all know Nerd Herd Running’s donations go to support Stupid Cancer, a non profit dedicated to supporting young adult cancer patients and their families.  In past years we have honored those we have lost to cancer by paying forward a kindness. Our grand giveaway is just this — we will pick ONE registered trilogy runner.  That runner will receive ONE FREE TRILOGY REGISTRATION to PAY FORWARD to someone else.  Do you know someone that could benefit from the incentives of three virtual races?  You could be the one to give them that incentive for free.

To register for the entire trilogy to run all three races AND receive the bonus medal, click here.

To register for the Let the Wookiee Win 5k only, click here.

We appreciate all of you from the bottom of our nerdy hearts. We can never begin to truly express how much your support has meant to us.  A simple idea has turned into a network of nerdy runners across the globe and over $75,000 netted to support the fight against cancer.  These giveaways are but a small token of us saying thanks and…EARS UP!

It’s Our Time!

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We are so excited to share the 2016 Nerd Herd Running Race Series with you, our sidekicks.

It’s Our Time!

Check out our medals below!

For more information about this year’s trilogy, click here.