John here, (the less valuable) half of Team John and Amanda, former SOAR racers in 2012, 2013 and 2014. I had the privilege of racing with my then fiancĂ©, now wife, Amanda in all three years. We’d always been interested in shows like the Amazing Race and Survivor, so much so that early on in our relationship, we’d watch the Amazing Race and would strategize with every challenge we saw on TV -who would do the Road Blocks based on the clues left behind, that sort of thing. Heights were always Amanda’s thing. I think it’s safe to say that it was a complete thrill when we were told we were chosen to race with SOAR in 2012 (even more so because we’d applied before and didn’t make the cut).

Our best SOAR memory can’t easily be picked because there were so many highs, so many lows, and so many learning experiences. For example, I quickly learned that first year that a 6’5” man running at a car shouting at a driver asking for a ride isn’t the most effective way to travel: The path to success is for me to hide in the bushes while Amanda secures the ride. Early in the 2012 race, I was reminded of Amanda’s competitive side when she ordered me to pose nude in front of a professional artist in order to cut a few minutes of our race, she’ll take any advantage that presents itself. Later that day in 2012 was the first time in our SOAR careers that we took the lead. We held 1st place for all of one challenge, maybe about 45 minutes. Still, it was awesome.

Our fundraising strategy was pretty serious. We knew if we raced, we wanted to be competitive and the STOAR’s advantages were a huge draw for us. Our strategy focused on two main areas, one was simply approaching our network of family and friends – early and often. This allowed us to get some initial momentum for a good start. While we hoped and waited for our supporters to lend a hand, we took some time to approach local businesses for any freebies they might have (beer gift packs from microbreweries, grocery store gift cards, etc). We took all that free swag and created a pub trivia event at a rented out venue where we had a trivia contest and raffle. We did this twice and each time it was pretty successful. And so much fun (we were told) that our network asked us to hold a similar event in the future, even if we weren’t racing… just for fun!

Our three highlights would have to be 1) meeting so many fun, dedicated and wonderful people… racers, volunteers, organizers, it’s such a fun weekend each year to see everyone again; 2) knowing that all this fun has real results for our community in support of the Children’s Foundation, and 3) the race itself, the three years we raced were so much fun. The unique and thrilling challenges and all the highs and lows all weekend are a real thrill.

If I can give just one piece of advice to racers: Be sure to book the Monday off of work. You’ll need it! Oh, and have fun!