There is one person who sees promotions for A Most Excellent Race: Virtual and smiles a little bit more than everyone else. Brendan Walton, the owner of the Cleveland Coffee Company, was the founder of the Achievement Centers for Children’s A Most Excellent Race.
How did it all start? Brendan’s high school friend, Dave, had been fighting weight issues for years. He finally trained for, and ran, the Revco Marathon – something many of his friends celebrated. Shortly thereafter, he lost the use of his legs in a car accident. This hit his circle of friends particularly hard. Brendan, who had run competitively in college, was flat-out devastated.
Brendan had been toying with the idea of starting a race and, when he heard about the good work of the people at Camp Cheerful, things started falling into place. He contacted the Achievement Centers for Children and explained what he wanted to do. To his surprise, they expressed interest and pointed him to the Achievement Centers for Children’s still-new Associate Board.
The Associate Board was founded in the early ‘90s. It is a dynamic group of young professionals who are committed to supporting the Achievement Centers through philanthropic and volunteer activities. When Brendan met with the board, he found that he already knew about half of them! He told them about his dream of organizing a run to help adults and children with disabilities and Camp Cheerful was a most excellent fit.
When dreaming about the possibility of having a race of his own, Brendan said the movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure influenced him. The movie frequently used the phrase, “most excellent,” so many of his thoughts were things like, “it would be most excellent to have a race,” “wouldn’t it be most excellent to have a buffet after the race?” or “to hold a race with my running friends would be most excellent.” This led him to name the event A Most Excellent Run (the name later became, A Most Excellent Race to reflect the competitive aspect of the run).
Brendan served as race director for the first five years, as the Achievement Centers for Children became more involved and he saw the race grow from a few hundred runners to more than 1,000. He loved seeing the Camp Cheerful Classic, a spirited, short-distance race for adults and children with disabilities to participate. “I think it’s great to let people see firsthand who they are helping, when they sign up for the race,” Brendan said.
Brendan went on to coach a few runners, but after knee surgery he’s left the running to his 12-year-old daughter and his sons, ages ten and seven.
A Most Excellent Race has raised almost $2 million since its inception. This year, the event has gone virtual and, as with many nonprofit organizations, it is expected to make considerably less than previous years. People wanting to help the adults and children at Camp Cheerful only need to register for the race and spread the word. The Achievement Centers for Children plans on hosting this event for years to come. “How does it feel to see my dream still alive after thirty years?” Brendan said with a smile, “it’s most excellent!”