The Seacoast Science Center’s Ocean Runner, Nichole Rutherford, successfully completed one of the most challenging goals of her life: completing the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in Florida. The race, held January 5-8, 2017, consisted of a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon, totaling 48.6 miles.
Although the half-marathon was cancelled due to severe weather, Nichole walked 13 miles in the park that day. On marathon day, the temperature was a cold 35 degrees, with a wind chill of 5 degrees.
A novice runner who knew she had to endure months of training in preparation for the race, Nichole chose to run for greater purpose than her own personal satisfaction. As Vice President of Advancement at the Seacoast Science Center, her choice was easy: run to raise awareness of the importance of ocean health and ocean education.
Nichole took on the persona of Ocean Runner in April 2016 and began hosting a weekly video blog, #OceanRunnerNH. In the blog posts, Seacoast Science Center naturalists answer Nichole’s questions that arise while she is running along the coast of Southern Maine and New Hampshire. The entertaining and informative videos address topics including creature features, marine conservation, and more.
Approximately 30,000 runners participated in the Dopey Challenge, many of whom adorned costumes to promote a cause. Nichole’s Disney-inspired costumes (Ariel, Tinkerbell, Snow White, and Darth Vader) were branded with the OceanRunnerNH hashtag and motto “Healthy Ocean or Bust!”
“The support from my family, friends, colleagues and community has been outstanding,” said Rutherford. “This trip combined three of my favorite things: running, Disney, and ocean education. To be able to share that with my family during the race was tremendous.”
Nichole’s husband, Adam Hilbourne, and 8-year-old son Jack of York, Maine, cheered Nichole on at the race and the family celebrated by extending their visit to vacation at Disney. “During the whole trip, we have kept an eye on environmental education in the parks. I will be posting the educational highlights of our trip on my facebook page, Ocean Runner NH, and in future blog posts.”
Nichole’s ambition did not stop at the Ocean Runner blog or Disney Challenge. She set another goal: raise funds for a new community action ocean conservation program to be launched at the Seacoast Science Center this year. The new program, Healthy Ocean or Bust Bandits, will inspire children to design, organize and promote mini-campaigns to educate and motivate citizens to think blue.