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Fifth Annual Destin Ultra Weekend Raises $55,000, More Than Just a Race

Tuesday, March 17, 2015  
Posted by: Wendy Bourland
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Events in 2015 Included 100 Mile, 24 Hour, 50 Mile, and 50K Individual Ultra Races; a 50 Mile Team Relay and 5K Run, and a Shadow Run for Deployed Military Personnel

The Destin Ultra Weekend is increasingly becoming a “must-do” for running enthusiasts across the country.

Not only is it well organized, there’s the Florida Panhandle’s gorgeous coastline, the friendliness of the residents and business owners in the region, the camaraderie among the participants, and the uniqueness of restaurant aid stations along the beach.

 The Destin Ultra Son of a Beach 5k (left) is popular with runners.

In 2015, the Destin Ultra Weekend, Feb. 14-15, raised over $55,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, says Race Director Zane Holscher.

Since its inception, this event has generated nearly $200,000 for the SOWF.

*  *  *

Zane (left) was an active duty Air Force special operations pilot stationed at Hurlburt Field in the Destin-Ft. Walton Beach area in 2010, when he conceived and organized the original Destin 50 Beach Ultra Run, held in February of 2011.

He chose to support the Special Operations Warrior Foundation after meeting the family of one of his classmates at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Capt. Derek Argel, who had been killed in Iraq, and seeing how the foundation assisted Derek’s wife and son, who is a future SOWF scholarship recipient.

For that reason, nobody was really surprised when a transfer in 2013 failed to stop Zane from commuting back and forth to Destin to oversee planning and preparations for the race.

*  *  *

 Eileen Czabaranek (right, with husband Joe) was the first-place female finisher in the Destin 50 mile run for the second year; while Joe won his fifth straight 50-miler.

*  *  *

Today, Zane is back in the Panhandle, flying in the Air Force Reserves for the 5th Special Operations Squadron.

And as they have done each year, Zane's parents, Larry and Phyllis, and big brother Nick – also a special operations veteran – came to Destin to help out.

Now a nonprofit itself, Destin 50 Beach Ultra, Inc., invests almost all entry fees into the race, setting aside only a few thousand dollars each year to help fund the following year’s race.

The staff, volunteers and board members – all unpaid – put in thousands of hours of work to plan and execute this growing event, Zane says.

*  *  *

This was the third year Christy Johnston signed up for the Destin beach runs. In 2013, she registered for the 50-kilometer course; then moved up to the 50-mile run in 2014.

This year, she took on the 100-miler, which was new in 2015, and was one of only five finishers out of the 19 runners that started the race.

For Christy (left), a Destin resident and military spouse, it was much more than just running along a beautiful beach.

“It’s an entire weekend devoted to raising funds and awareness for the SOWF, as well as seeing old friends,” she says.

“It’s a well organized, fun and challenging race, delivered by people who are genuinely interested in not only helping the SOWF, but also seeing each runner succeed.”

*  *  *

Numerous businesses commit themselves to the Destin Ultra Weekend, and through it, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Six have backed the event all five years – Tops’l Beach and Racquet Resort, ResortQuest by Wyndham, Graffiti/Funky Blues Shack, The Back Porch, Pompano Joe’s, and Run With It.

Just like the winning runners and top fundraisers, they received engraved AC-130 105mm shell casings as awards this year, in acknowledgement of their steadfast support.

*  *  *

Having a large corps of dedicated volunteers is also critical to the success of the Destin runs.

That’s how MaryEdith Malin first got involved. She has served in various roles since 2011, including volunteer coordinator.

This year, she was not only the Destin Ultra Weekend chief-of-staff, but one of eight female classmates from Zane’s Air Force Academy Class of 2001, who formed two Ladies Fired Up! teams to run the 50-mile relay.

“These women came from all over the country, ranging from stay-at-home moms to active duty officers and pilots,” MaryEdith says.

They ran about 13 miles each, and contributed $18,000 of the $55,000 fundraising total for 2015.

As with Zane, the cause is personal to MaryEdith and her teammates.

“Several of our friends and 2001 classmates were special operators that were killed in the line of duty, and the SOWF has supported their families tremendously,” she says.




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