STJ senior runs the race to support World Youth Day

Thousands of Catholics from around the world will gather together for World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain next August. World Youth Day is an international festival where Catholic youths pray along with Pope Benedict XVI.

People come from all corners of the globe to attend the event, which happens once every three years. However, this pilgrimage comes with a hefty price tag. Many parishes are holding fundraisers to help send their parishioners on this life changing trip. One such parish is Holy Family Roman Catholic Church.

The idea to enter the Movement Challenge was presented to Holy Family and St. John’s University by senior Timothy Zappel. When he was searching for possible fundraising ideas, he came across the New Balance Movement Challenge, a five month long challenge where participants gain points by running races and gathering fans to help cheer them on.

The winner will receive $25,000 for the cause of their choice. Zappel entered into the race at 652nd place a few weeks after it had already started. As of right now, he is in 20th place. 

Due to an outpouring of support from his church, family, and friends, Zappel was able to make the incredible jump in hopes of going to Spain.

“It wasn’t until after I started that we realized that I could catch up to the leader by getting people’s e-mails and use them to get points,” said Zappel.

Every time a person signs up as Zappel’s fan and cheers for him on the Movement Challenge’s website, he earns ten points. By signing up as a recruit people can also join the Movement Challenge as a runner on Zappel’s team which gains him 100 points. He currently has over 1,000 fans and more than 30 recruits.

“I am truthfully so grateful for all the support,” he said. “The only shot I have is if there are people out there willing to help me.”

Although the fans are a great part of Zappel’s success, he must run the races in order to have a possibility of winning. For each mile that he runs 100 points is added to his score. Every time he improves his record, he gets an additional 500 points. The races range anywhere from 3k to half marathons, and Zappel runs at least once or twice a week to prepare for the challenge. The increased amount of running has already had an effect on his body.

“Whenever I wake up after races I feel like an old man. I’m 21 but I feel like I have the knees of a 45 year old,” said Zappel.  

The urge to go to Spain is the most significant motivator for Tim to keep running, but these races mean so much more to him.

“All these races have a bigger meaning,” he said. “They’re held for different charities such as fighting obesity and in memory of fallen firefighters and police officers of 9/11.”  

Zappel’s motivation also comes from the people who have signed up as his fans on the Movement Challenge’s site.

“When you’re a fan you get the ability to comment. Everyday there’s new comments wishing me luck and quoting the Bible. There are some really incredible quotes up there,” said Zappel.

With everyone cheering Zappel on, it seems like the entire spotlight is on him now. However, he doesn’t look at it that way.

“I don’t see this as something I’m doing for myself. I’m trying to help everyone out by lowering the price of the trip.”

Zappel discussed how running has changed his life. Although tiring at times, he enjoys running and plans to continue after the challenge is over. Besides a great way to get in shape, it’s also a very soothing experience for him mentally.

“There’s something peaceful about running. When you’re at the starting line and the gun goes off all you hear are footsteps. There’s just something peaceful and beautiful about that,” said Zappel. 

The challenge still has a few weeks left before it’s over. With everyone running to help benefit their cause, it’s going to be hard for Zappel to catch up to the current leader. Anybody who is willing to help out his cause can sign up on the Movement Challenge’s website.

“There are plenty of other worthy causes out there but none of them are faith based,” said Zappel. “To help send 25 young adults to see the Pope, I can’t think of anything better to run for.”