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Running 77 Miles of the MST to Benefit Triangle Bikeworks

Proceeds are being collected by Nathan Toben


Based on 77 miles, each worth $94.01

79 pledgers

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Leveraging Passion for A Purpose

On October 21st, I completed my intended fundraising run in a time of 12 hours, 24 minutes and 19 seconds.

Thank you everyone who came out to see me off at the start, who made appearances along the route, and those of you who made the finish line so special. Those memories will stay with me forever.



The Story

My name is Nathan and I run ultra distances on the trails of my beautiful home state, North Carolina.

I have loved ones who qualify as, “People Who Are At Higher Risk For Severe Illness“ from COVID-19 (CDC) and this limits my capacity to contribute to the fight for racial equity. Because of the nature of the disease (people can be asymptomatic yet contagious), a choice to attend protests would inevitably be a choice to threaten the health of my loved ones.

I could easily use the pandemic to rationalize sitting-on-my-white-butt (a highly technical term). But COVID-19 and the fight for racial equity has left my normal life in shambles and insisted that I examine my values. What do I want to do - who do I want to be - in this one, chaotic life I’ve got?

Drastic times call for creative measures. So….

How do I contribute to the fight for racial equity while adhering to stringent social distancing protocols?

For me, the answer was: I don’t know…

…but I think I know someone who does!

Lynice Pinkard

Who is Lynice Pinkard? It is an impossible question to answer.

Lynice’s distinct character cannot be depicted with the broad brushstrokes of adjectives and qualifications. An innocent attempt might say she is a black, lesbian, pastor, holding Masters Degrees in Counseling Psychology, Divinity and the Arts. In the 80s, she worked with LGBTQI communities during the crack and HIV/AIDS epidemics. Lynice was the first lesbian associate pastor, and eventual Senior Pastor, of The First Congregational Church of Oakland.

Author of Jane in the Blackboard Jungle, The Downward Mobility of God, The Master’s Mehserle Can Never Dismantle the Master’s House, and Revolutionary Suicide, Lynice is a profound essayist; a magnetic community organizer; a resilient educator. She is an unmistakably original human being with intimidating genius. And she has recently relocated from Oakland to the Piedmont to continue her work here.

To me, Lynice is all the aforementioned descriptors, but she is also my warm, loving, extremely tough friend. Generously informing the trajectory of this endeavor, I owe the vitality of this campaign to her.

In a sense, Lynice is the heartbeat of this fundraiser.

You see, initially, I was full of fear.

I worried that these efforts would be cast aside as a vehicle for latent white guilt. That I plainly did not know enough yet to commit to this very public project. I remember, in one of our zoom meetings, Lynice sat at her computer desk, nodding and listening to my trepidations. And then, well, she proceeded to categorically obliterate every one of them.

Lynice told me to take a hard look inside myself; to honor the tremendous suffering I experienced through years of addiction, alcoholism and subsequent sobriety. “Suffering unites us,” she stated. “Tap into that suffering. Everyone is passionate about some thing. Use what you are passionate about: you have your running. Your running came from that unifying power of humankind’s shared suffering.”

In her perfect blend of sternness and empathy, Lynice insisted I make time, listen to, people of color in my communities: the education is never over. But she also asserted that white people need not be scholars of racial equity before getting involved. There are no prerequisites in the fight to end suffering and inequality. She explained that what I described - an insidious form of “white paralysis”, whether as a result of fear or sloth - is all too common. The white person who does not act due to a sense of inadequacy, of fraudulence, of feeling like an imposter or being humiliatingly uninformed,  that idleness actively reinforces the imperialistic status quo. When she said this, something broke in me and I was freed of fear. Tears started to form.

Lynice ushered me back to my beginnings. She reminded me that my running was borne of suffering; what began in rehab as 2 miles on a treadmill each afternoon has become competing at the front of 100-mile ultramarathon races. Over the last nine years, through a curious alchemy of running ultra distances, my health, my love for life, has returned to me. I am now a professional Distance Running Coach with The Endurance Collective (Durham, NC). I specialize in coaching athletes of any skill level to complete distances they thought impossible. With tears rolling, I closed my eyes and Lynice ended our call with a prayer. She blessed this fundraiser, asking that I receive the support I need and that it bring people together.

In a daze, I walked back inside my house to ask for a hug from my partner, Carina. I was just so floored by the conversation. The details were still a little fuzzy, but in that moment, I knew exactly what shape the fundraiser should take.

I will raise money for Triangle BikeWorks by running Segment 10 of The Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

The Cause: Triangle BikeWorks

Triangle Bikeworks (TB) is a non-profit based in Carrboro, North Carolina that provides youth of color with opportunities to engage in organized cycling. Their mission is:

“To level the playing field and inspire youth to conquer fear, achieve audacious goals and discover who they’re really meant to be.”

  • Kevin Hicks, Founder

Click on the video below to learn of TB’s incredible work!

Bikes, Water & Soul

I had been made aware of Triangle Bikeworks through a family friend. After reaching out to TB founder, Kevin Hicks, his enthusiasm for the project made for a serendipitous partnership! While TB’s educational model has a strong element of endurance, my personal history with cycling informs this ultramarathoning discipline.

After watching the U.S. Cycling Team on TV during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, I was on fire. I vowed to pursue bike racing and make it to the Olympics. My dad bought me a $1000 bike. He hired a personal trainer. He provided me with everything I needed to tackle the dream. For four years, I trained like a Junior Olympian, winning many races.

Though I never turned pro, the self-refining effect of exhaustive training was so ingrained that - many years later - when it came time to get sober, when the substances were removed from the picture, my enduring drive to excel remained. To this day, I attribute much of my continued sobriety to a resilient inner-belief cultivated by those long days in the saddle.

My primary wish is for this project to support the mission of Triangle BikeWorks. To give more kids the same access that I got in my youth; opportunities to discover who they are, deep down, through acts of endurance and self-powered travel. Such transformational experiences stay with a person into adulthood.

Let’s do this!

The Course: Segment 10 of The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (76.8 miles)

I am running Segment 10 of The Mountains To Sea Trail: Eno River State Park To Falls Lake Dam (76.8 miles). As of now, there is no Fastest Known Time (FKT) claimed for this segment. I intend to set one. An FKT is a peer-validated record time of a pre-established route. I have made my intentions known to the FKT organization and will provide essential documentation afterwards so that my finishing time will be reviewed by the board. If my run is found to be legitimate, then, second to the process of raising money for TB, I wish to bring love and appreciation for the exciting efforts of Friends of The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (click the link to make a donation! Let them know Nathan sent you!).

How fortuitous is it that Triangle Bikeworks leads tours educating youth about our state’s beautiful watershed areas when this run follows the Eno River eastward to Falls Lake Dam. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail spotlights our state’s beautiful rivers, lakes, streams, beaches, and Segment 10 in particular highlights the beauty of North Carolina’s historic waterways.

How It Works

Ok, Nathan! We get it! So how does this fundraiser actually work?

Unlike a typical GoFundMe or Kickstarter, you can pledge a dollar amount per mile that I run!  How cool is that!? This means that if you pledge a-quarter-per-mile and I tragically succumb to demoralizing defeat at 25 miles (gulp!), your donation will be a lithe $6.25. But if I heroically conquer the 77-mile course (hooray!), your quarter-per-mile donation will blossom into a heaping $19.25! The further I run, the more we collectively benefit Triangle BikeWorks!

This means: every pledge will add significance to every step along the trail.

When Is The Run?

The run starts at 6am, Wednesday, October 21st and ends around 8-9pm.

I will start running at 6am sharp from the Pleasant Green Road Trailhead (Durham, NC). I will wear a GPS unit called a SPOT Tracker that provides LIVE TRACKING during the run. A link to live tracking will be provided to pledgers as the event approaches. During the run, my crew will leap frog past me in cars, meeting me at strategic road crossings to restock my food and water stores. My crew will also provide photographs, video and text along the way via social media updates so that you can experience the trail from the comfort of your own home! Will I be on pace for a sub-14 hour finish?! Are things starting to go south at the 50-mile mark?! Is Nathan’s left foot falling off?!! Find out in the next update!

In terms of entertainment value, imagine something between watching paint dry…and CBS’s The Amazing Race!

Final Thanks

Thank you all for pledging. Every component of this project means a great deal to me. The people, the cause, the trail, the support. Finding a creative solution to raise money while socially distancing has brought a driving sense of purpose to my quarantine.

Training is going well, despite the heat, but I need to start getting in those long-long runs of 25-30 miles, with another 20-miler the day after. This takes a lot of motivation that I often lack after long weeks of landscaping and coaching.

I will be reaching out to local news publications to garner interest in broadening the reach of this project. I think it is an endeavor worthy of regional exposure, don’t you? If you have any friends in journalistic positions, please contact me.

If a monetary contribution is not in the cards at this shaky moment, I understand. A simple share on social media, newletters, mailing lists would be deeply felt.

Thank you Lynice Pinkard for your guidance. Thank you Kevin Hicks for the incredible work you do and for supporting this project. Thank you everyone at Friends of The Mountains-to-Sea Trail for your stewardship of North Carolina’s green spaces and for making this route a reality. Thank you Carina for being my editor-in-chief and partner-in-life. Thank you to my masked family for crewing me and for carting my stinky body off on a stretcher (actually, let’s not have that happen!).

If the trail is closed due to COVID-19 or extreme weather events, we will reschedule the run and let pledgers know. The run will only be attempted in compliance with park regulations.

Proof of donations will be emailed to all supporters upon completion of the event. Reach out to me with any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you!

Now it is time to get my butt out of this computer chair, get outside, and GO RUN!

Nathan Toben


10/21The Run77$7,239

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