Interviews, Ruck Events

26.2 with Donna – Rucking Interview with Amanda Napolitano

We love seeing more and more races add rucking divisions. The upcoming 26.2 with DONNA The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer recently partnered with GORUCK and will be offering a rucking division in ALL their race weekend events. We reached out to Amanda Napolitano, Executive Director of The Donna Foundation, to find a little more about their event and their thoughts on adding rucking to their races. Oh, and Amanda is offering all of our readers a 10% registration discount with the code RUCKPINK. (Thanks, Amanda!)

As we begin, can you give us a little history of the Donna Marathon?
26.2 with DONNA The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer was launched in 2008 by award-winning journalist and three-time breast cancer survivor Donna Deegan. The race is, and continues to be, the only marathon in the U.S. dedicated to breast cancer research and care. It is a signature event of The DONNA Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance and support to families living with breast cancer and funds ground breaking breast cancer research.

DONNA Marathon Weekend is held each February in the heart of Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach, Florida. Known by locals as the Beaches Town Center, this oceanfront destination twelve miles east of downtown Jacksonville offers a wealth of choices to shop, dine, relax and now race!

February 8 – 10, 2019, DONNA Marathon Weekend will include a 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultramarathon and Event Challenges and will again fill the Beaches of Northeast Florida with thousands of runners – and now ruckers – from all 50 states and many countries.

We are seeing more and more races embrace a rucking division. What motivated you to add a rucking division this year?
GORUCK is headquartered in Jacksonville Beach, Florida and a mutual friend introduced me to their leadership. After learning about the sport, and special ties to our local community with GORUCK – it was an easy yes for me. Breast cancer impacts everyone, so for us this was a wonderful opportunity to have a new audience participate and help us finish breast cancer.

Your race weekend offers a number of different distances. What are they and are you offer a rucking division for all your distances?
There is a rucking division for all of our events! February 8 – 10, 2019, DONNA Marathon Weekend will include a 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultramarathon and Event Challenges and will again fill the Beaches of Northeast Florida with thousands of runners – and now ruckers – from all 50 states and many countries. Our only requirement is that ruckers must complete the race within the published course time limits.

How has the response been to the addition of a rucking division this year?
Response has been slow, but it takes time for people to pay attention with so many messages coming at us 24/7. For those that are paying attention, we have a lot of excitement! For example, a longtime supporter, runner and breast cancer survivor Melissa O’Neil plans to ruck ALL of the races. She’s amazing, you should interview her.

What has been role of GORUCK and how as a partnership worked for you?
As I mentioned before, GORUCK is headquarters in our neighborhood so it was a natural partnership for us. They are first and foremost helping us understand the sport so we can best serve the athletes. They will also handle the weight verification for top finishers. But the BEST part is that they have designed two custom, pink rucks for the top overall male and female Marathon finishers in the rucking division. We are so appreciative of their partnership and vision for this.

A lot of Ruckers wish there were more rucking divisions in races across the US. What advice would you give to them on how to approach race directors to include a rucking division?
I would say don’t be afraid to ask. Most race directors are looking for ways to grow participation, and this is a wonderful way to do that.

Any parting words or anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I would like to personally invite ruckers to join us in this inaugural year of our rucking division. You can use the code RUCKPINK to save 10% off registration. I promise to provide a marathon course that takes them through the four beautiful beach communities of Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach with scenic views and an outpouring of crowd support. Expect water stations nearly every mile, race day temps averaging 55° F, and streets lined with a 26-mile beach block party. And it’s pink. Very pink. There’s a reason this event has been recognized by CNN Travel as one of the “Seven Marathons Worth the Trip” and “Favorite Charity Race” from the readers of Women’s Running Magazine. We are the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. Start Training.

Special thanks to Amanda for this interview. If you want to find more rucking events, check out GORUCK’s map. If you have a local race you wish had a rucking division, reach out to GORUCK and they can help you make it happen.