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Second Annual Destin 50 Beach Ultra to Benefit SOWF Expands the Competition and the Fun

Thursday, March 15, 2012  
Posted by: Wendy Bourland
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More and more people are learning about the mission of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and reaching out to us with a desire to help.

While some individuals and businesses prefer to donate privately, others like to hold events to benefit the foundation. As the number of these grassroots fundraisers continues to grow each year, so do the funds they generate for our scholarship program and cash grants we give to hospitalized special ops personnel and their families.

The SOWF is fortunate to have a broad spectrum of supporters, including the very people we serve – active duty special operators. While they are already making an important contribution to our nation, some are driven to do even more; especially if they served with comrades who have been killed or badly wounded; and know their families.

* * *

When he called the SOWF in late 2010, Maj. Zane Holscher, an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt Field, FL, wasn’t just toying with a fundraising idea. He had already conceived the entire event.

The Destin 50 Beach Ultra Marathon would be a 50 mile and 50 kilometer run held Feb. 19, 2011, along the pristine white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle. It would be certain to attract a broad array of participants, including current and former special ops personnel, locals, visitors and adventure seekers. And Zane would be the race director.

After his proposal was approved by the SOWF, Zane used his off-duty time to visit business owners, vendors and volunteers; secure sponsors, and drum up publicity via local radio stations and websites frequented by marathon enthusiasts. A medal for runners and a Destin 50 t-shirt to sell for donations were being designed.

His planning paid off: the Destin 50 attracted 140 runners and generated over $20,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Zane’s parents, Larry and Phyllis, his sister, Stacy, and his brother Nick and his wife Kristen, flew in. Nick, a 41-year-old former special operator, placed 14th in the 50-mile competition.

* * *

Encouraged by last year’s success, Zane was inspired to expand the Destin 50 event in 2012 to three days of activities from Feb. 17-20, including a 5K Son of a Beach walk/run and an Athletic Challenge on Saturday; the Beach 50 Ultra on Sunday; and a runner’s social on Monday, which would be President’s Day and a federal holiday.

* * *

Son of a Beach walkers and runners began reporting to the Back Porch restaurant at 7 a.m., one hour prior to the start time.

When the 5k race ended - it was won by Ben Payne (left) with a time of 16:54 - the participants were treated to beverages, fruit, rice and beans and seafood salad, courtesy of the restaurant.

Local residents and SOWF scholarship recipients April Whitbeck, a civil engineer, and her sister, Stephanie Whitbeck-Kadletz, a wildlife preservationist, handed out medals to the top 5K finishers.

* * *

Mandatory briefings for the Destin 50 Beach Ultra runners were conducted Saturday at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the fitness center at the Resort Quest Tops’l Beach & Racquet Resort. (The resort donated multiple spaces, including meeting facilities and staff rooms; and snacks in support of the race.)

At the end of each presentation, a Special Operations Warrior Foundation public service video was shown, which explained the SOWF mission and featured testimonials from scholarship recipients; and April and Stephanie stood before the group and spoke briefly about their experience with the foundation.

As the runners departed the Saturday briefings, Zane encouraged them to accomplish their mission, and to remember they would have April and Stephanie’s father at their backs, along with all of the other special operations personnel who have given their lives in service to our country.

* * *

Already a seasoned marathoner, 23-year-old Sandi Nypaver of Salida, CO, won a Destin 50 Beach Ultra contest that paid the entry fees for two runners and airfare for the runners and two guests. Sandi and her twin, Rachel Nypaver of Hudson, OH, had learned about the race via social media.

"My sis and I saw the posting on the Beach 50 Facebook site,” Sandi said, adding that she was drawn by the charitable and community focus of the event as much as the challenge.

An elated Sandi (right, with Rachel) would go on to take first place in the overall 50k with a time of 4:49:57, while Rachel placed ninth in the 50 mile run.

The contest’s second and third place winners, who received two free entries each, were Christoper Ballou and Matthew Lebow of New York; and William Liston of Nevada and James Liston of Michigan.

* * *

In the team category, the Air Force Special Tactics Training Squadron (STTS) runners took second place, after the first-place U.S. Military Divers from nearby Panama City, who won with a time of 6:17:10, and ahead of third-place finishers Dirty Sexy Navy Hair from Jupiter, FL.

One of the STTS runners said he was given a week and a half’s notice that he would be on the team, but he had no problem with that.

"You don’t get an opportunity every day to do something to be proud of,” he said, "so I jump on every opportunity I can.”

* * *

Melanie Nestle, who was assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron a few weeks ago to train Air Force combat controllers, was helping out by selling Destin 50 tee shirts. She had seen the same kind of camaraderie among explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians, who are trained at nearby Eglin AFB.

"It’s good that the special operators here have this extended family,” she said.

(Right: team Dirty Sexy Navy Hair, which placed third in the Destin 50 relay. U.S. Military Divers came in first and the STTS team took second place.) 



As they did in 2011, the Holscher clan came to town for the Destin 50 weekend – minus Zane’s sister, who was traveling abroad this year.

Dad Larry, a professional photographer and owner of Impact Images Studio, snapped away as Zane hung medals around finishers’ necks.

(From left: Zane Holscher, Joyce Danser of ResortQuest, Kristen and Nick Holscher and their baby, and Phyllis and Larry Holscher.)


Nick was a Destin 50 spectator this year, rather than a runner. As new father, "I didn’t have time to train,” he said.

Phyllis Holscher, who with Joyce Danser of ResortQuest had entered the previous day’s 5K run/walk, further adorned runners crossing the Destin 50 finish line with strands of beads.

* * *

There were 120 individual runners in 2012, the same as in the 2011 Destin 50 Beach Ultra Marathon. However, the team category added 80 more runners this year.

Two of the weekend’s brand-new events, the Son of a Beach 5K, staged at The Back Porch restaurant, drew 200 runners and walkers who braved the spotty rain and blustery winds. Another 70 people signed up for Saturday’s CrossFit Athletic Challenge.

* * *

The third new offering was a Military Shadow Run, to give deployed active duty personnel a way to participate. One Navy man ran 50 miles on a treadmill aboard his San Diego-based ship; while two teams in Afghanistan completed the Destin 50 as a relay.

(Right: Destin 50 volunteers man a station with provisions for the runners.)

* * *

Thanks to Zane’s vision, everyone’s tireless efforts and extraordinary support from the business community, residents and vendors in the area, the Second Annual Destin 50 Beach Ultra raised nearly $35,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, making it one of the most successful – and fun – events to benefit the SOWF.

"The eight people on the race staff and the 120 volunteers did an amazing job,” Zane says.

* * *

In addition to the sponsors already mentioned, SOWF would like to acknowledge the following corporate and individual supporters:

Air Methods, The Big Day Rentals, Bad Ass Coffee Company of Destin ,The Culinary Gallery, Clif Bar, Copy Systems, 30a CrossFit, Culligan Water, Design by Robyn Patterson, Destin Fire Dept., Bank, Graffiti Restaurant and Funky Blues Shack, Hormel Foods, Image Printing and Digital Services, JohnPac Inc., Kill Cliff sports drink, Myron Chivis Photography, Oklaloosa County EMS, Pompano Joe’s, The Red Bar,, Stinky’s Fish Camp, and Under Armour.

Thanks also go to musicians/post-race performers David Posey and Season Ammons.




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