Chip Gaines knows all about the challenges in home improvement, but when the co-host of HGTV’s Fixer Upper decided to take on his first marathon, he quickly learned how humbling a 26.2-mile test on foot can be.
Gaines not only completed the inaugural Silo District Marathon on Sunday in Waco, Texas in 5 hours, 21 minutes and 54 seconds, but along with his wife and on-air co-host, Joanna Gaines, the couple hosted the race in order to raise money for the Brave Like Gabe Foundation.
How successful was it? Well, more than 6,000 runners registered for the full marathon, half-marathon or 5K combined, and it raised $250,00 for the cause, which supports research for rare cancers and was created by 31-year-old professional runner Gabriele Grunewald.
Chip Gaines met Grunewald, a fan of his show, in Central Park last fall. That’s when the 43-year-old learned that she has fought cancer four times in less than 10 years, but still continues to compete, and even became the national champion in the 3,000 meters in 2014.
She has adenoid cystic carcinoma, which is a rare cancer, still without a cure, that occurs in the secretory glands and most commonly affects the major and minor salivary glands of the head and neck.
Inspired by the meeting, Gaines talked with his wife, and they decided to take on the responsibility of organizing a race of Texas-sized proportions.
“After hearing Gabe’s story, I realized two things: I didn’t want to spend another second standing on the sidelines, and secondly, given what she’s gone through, I didn’t have any excuse not to give this a shot. So I committed,” he wrote.
Gaines, who had not run a mile since college and never raced before, began training in January. His first run? A 1.7-mile test in his neighborhood.
“Honestly, I thought it would be a piece of cake,” he said. “But it wasn’t. Turns out I would have been better off running to the mailbox and back because by the time I rounded the first mile mark, I was gasping for air and it took everything I had not to keel over right there.”
Grunewald helped him with his training plan and, slowly but surely, he built up a strong mileage base and peppered his training with long runs into the double-digits.
Five months later, he crossed the finish line exhausted but full of smiles. As for the pro runner’s assessment of his performance?
“It’s an admirable thing to take on a marathon when you’ve never done any race before,” Grunewald told Runner’s World. “I think it went well, I think he has a lot more in the tank, though. If he wants to run faster, he can for sure.”
Gruenwald was floored that Gaines wanted to donate 100 percent of the proceeds to her foundation.
“Chip is a guy who just wants to give back to a variety of causes, and I feel very fortunate and grateful that he sees rare cancer research as one of those worthy causes,” she said.
Now he can add race organizer, major fundraiser and marathon finisher to his already impressive tool belt.