Blue Butterflies in Heights of Greatness


"It's a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness" - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Sometimes your reason for running is personal. Maybe you just like to run, or maybe like me you run trails to take in the beautiful canvas in front of you. You let your thoughts take the place of the wares and cares of everyday life and just reflect in an intimate setting the Lord provides. “Being a Ragnarian is more than crossing the finish line of a 200-mile running relay. It's about being a part of a supportive, inspiring, active community.” Each runner on the Team Nate Trail team this past weekend was inspiring, from start to finish! 

Russell Bly started us out as runner one, wearing a Team Nate shirt! Out of the hundreds of people there, that Team Nate shirt drew attention. A runner from another team asked to take a picture of his shirt because she remembered NCBF story from the Ragnar Trail in Richmond earlier this year.  The mission of NCBF, Nate's story, our teams’ reason for running, had made an impression on her!  The truth is we all run for Nate!  Nathan’s Uncle, Mike Cannon tells us why he runs: “At the Richmond Ragnar I was asked why I put myself through these races, I do these things to honor Nate.  It's not about the shirt or the medal. I do it to raise awareness for a foundation that means very much to our family.  Though I still get emotional, I get to tell countless people who Nate was and what the foundation stands for.  Running through the last half mile or so hearing hundreds of people cheer on team Nate is something I always cherish and hearing the announcer tell the gathered crowd about the foundation; who we are and that they are glad we are there.  I want to do this as much as I'm able. I want to help grow this foundation because Nate deserves it." 

It’s amazingly great what comes over a runner who is running for a cause and on a mission.  The strength that can be pulled out from deep inside that the runner themselves didn’t know they had.  Lisa Fleming tells us her account of digging deep: "The Ragnar road to greatness proved to be rocky… literally! This weekend I embarked on my 2nd Ragnar trail race and my 5th race for Team Nate.  I have been inspired by Justin and Katie’s greatness over the last few years and it has been an honor to be part of Team Nate. When the opportunity was presented to run for Nate, I jumped at the chance. Except this time, I grossly underestimated my physical rock shimmying capability… by A LOT. I completed the red loop first, the trail called “mother of crack” and I would say that name about sums it up!  6.5 miles of hills, rocks, mud, boulders, more hills, even more hills, and THE hill of .5 miles straight up.  I finished in blistered shape way behind my estimated time. It didn’t feel like there was much greatness in that run, but I was glad to be done. I bandaged my blistered feet and cheered on my teammates as they took off looking pumped and they returned looking…. Hot and exhausted.  The time came for my second leg, the yellow loop in the dark. All started off well and while my pace was slower than I liked, I was working my way through the rocks and mud. That is until mile 3, when I stepped the wrong way off of a series of staggered rocks going downhill.  I knew in the first step I took, I was hurt. There I stood, alone, in the dark, not even sure I could make my way to the finish 1.6 miles away. As frustration and disappointment set in, I began to doubt myself. My ability, my strength, and any perseverance I may have had. At that moment, I thought of the reason I wanted to be a part of this GREAT team in the first place. I thought of the GREATNESS that Justin and Katie embody as they work to share Nate’s legacy. I thought of Nate. So there, in the middle of that dark trail on a mountain, I decided that if I had some small piece of potential greatness somewhere deep down, now is the time to use it. I moved forward step after painful step. I slowly made it to the finish of that run and I was off to the medic tent!  The verdict was a sprained ankle (the first one I have ever had in my life) and landed on my knee which was sore.  Ice and rest for the night and reevaluate in the morning. Morning came, the knee felt good, but the ankle did not. It was coming time to run my final leg of 3.5 miles. Several of my amazing teammates offered to run my final leg for me in addition to theirs. After the medic took a look, I tried to run a few strides to see how it felt.  My knee said NOPE, my ankle said NOPE…. But my heart and mind said YES I will. I taped, and wrapped, and taped again my ankle so it wouldn’t move.  I set out on the green loop and what should have been a 45 minute run took me 1:15, but I kept my mind focused on the reason I was running. For Nate, and bringing notice to the GREAT foundation in his name.   I finished my loop to the encouragement from amazing teammates and we finished as a team what we set out to accomplish while spreading the word about NCBF. Hearing the shout out by the race announcer in recognition of NCBF and the purpose of the foundation as we finished was a great end to the race. I am so proud of our Ragnar team and to be a part of Team Nate!" 

The WV Red course was tough! Although I was unable to run, I watched as runner after runner, come in exhausted from running such a rough leg. Exhausted from the terrain, hills and sun that beat them down. When the next runner went out to tackle that course, they went out with optimism and excitement to beat that red leg. As each runner finished, they chilled out together talking about how they made it through.  Jenelle Cannon was the final runner, and in the hottest part of the day she set out to tackle her final leg, the dreaded red course. The team all watched the clock and counted down to her return.  As the team gathered together to bring her in, standing in the group with their Team Nate shirts, the announcer gave a shout out for Team Nate. Without being prepped he gave a brief description of what the foundation does over the loud speaker! As the team stood there and anticipated Jenelle to return utterly exhausted, she rounded the corner, with a smile, a "pep in her step" (as Russell put it), cheering the rest of the team to cross together. In amazement the team crossed together and were inspired by her unbroken spirit! The truth is, Jenelle was beat down, she was tired, she was hot and thirsty and she had a secret. It wasn't a special running/energy candy or drink, it was the thoughts of Nate that brought her in.

 "As I was hearing everyone come back from the red and the day was getting hot I was feeling really worried and stressed about my last leg of the course as my legs started cramping from the previous two runs and I knew I hadn't trained for hills like this. A few hours before my turn, I decided that I needed to just try to think positive, I was just going to have to make it through even if I had to walk a lot of it. So to help I started editing my playlist that I run with to all upbeat songs or ones that specifically were my "Nate songs". As I started the last run I decided that the way I was going to deal with this run was that I was going to walk during the verses of each song, run during the choruses and pause in between songs for a drink when I needed it. The first 2 miles I felt great, the right songs were coming to me at the right time as many runners probably understand and my system was working well. However, near mile 3 I was starting to feel worn down and tired and my current chorus came on and I thought to myself, I don't know that I can run this one maybe I'll walk it and I felt discouraged and no sooner did I think these thoughts than a small familiar looking blue butterfly came right in front of me across my path and instantly it reminded me of Nate.  You see, not long after Nate's  passing, my sister in law Julie had talked to me about her tattoo that she was getting in honor of Nate, something that reminded her of him from a special memory that they had shared together and I had remembered seeing it and thinking how nice it was that had gotten it, but honestly had not thought of that little blue butterfly since she had shown me years ago, but instantly my mind flooded with the memory she shared with me and thought wow that looks just like it. And I got that strength I needed to run, I just needed to think to myself, "this is for Nate remember... Run the chorus!" So I did, and then I got to the hill that everyone was talking about, the BIG one. I pushed up it, power walking as best I could and it felt like it was taking forever to get up that hill and I was feeling the hurt and feeling like it was never going to end. Then I got right near the top and was thinking I have to stop doing this to myself, signing up for trail runs like this..haha, but right near the top I couldn't believe my eyes as the small blue butterfly flew right in front of me again and I was shocked a bit and thought of Nate telling me "you made it to the top of the worst aunt Jenelle, I know you can do it" and I smiled. I also thought to myself how many butterflies are out here? I hadn't seen one outside of the woods and I really felt the significance of seeing this one twice, but I still wasn't going to share about it, it was just something that I felt personal and didn't want to be let down by others if they felt it was just coincidence. So I kept moving and was nearing mile 5 with only 1.5 to go and boy was I tired now, I had only trained to 4 and was pushing it and you may not believe it as I barely could myself, but in that discouragement that butterfly came on the path again and this time it didn't fly across. It went in front of me and went right up the path for what seemed like a very long time, now what butterfly flies up a path for so long?! Wow, I thought and I immediately began to cry. I ran toward it and I cried and smiled because I knew without doubt now that Nate was trying to get my attention and I literally said out loud, " I see you Nate buddy, I see you" You may think I was just putting things together to make myself feel better, but I truly felt it, the presence of his love and I know he was letting me know that he does see us doing these runs, he knows about the foundation and I could feel his pride in his family and in us. And these feelings made the rest of the race fly by as I felt that I needed to share this with the group, that it was for them too. When I got to the finish line I saw them all at the end ready to run in with me and I felt so overjoyed, in two days we were a team and we became a group of friends honoring this special boy and the legacy he has left behind of love, of going out and being great by sharing that love with the world. I love doing these races in his honor for this foundation and this Ragnar in the Appalachia will always be special to me not only because of it's beautiful landscape, the feeling of being up high on the mountain closer to God and to those I love and miss, but because that last leg where I felt I couldn't do it on my own, God and Nate let me know I didn't have to, they were there for us all." ~ Jenelle Cannon

Two weeks before I was supposed to run the WV Ragnar, I went in for an unexpected surgery. My husband and I had originally planned to run this trail with the team together, but the Lord had other plans. Although I was disappointed I would not be able to participate, I decided I would go, cheer on and encourage the team. Instead, they encouraged me.  With their strength beaten down, they endured the next leg anyway. With their positive attitudes in their physical exhaustion they encouraged each other anyway. With their hearts through injury they ran for Nate anyway! I missed running, I missed what it brings me; but being able to watch the team bond together through Nate was inspiring. Watching the accounts of what brought each runner through first hand, was amazing and such a blessing to my heart!  Running the trails brings me peace. Running with Team Nate inspires me. Together they bring GREATNESS.

Go Out. Be Great.

Ganelle Bly


From left to right: (back row) Russell Bly, Chris Fleming, Mike Cannon, Dave Sheppard (front row) Ganelle Bly, Jenelle Cannon, Keith Ruch, Lisa Fleming (Shane-not pictured)

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