From March 5 to 7, runners around the world participated in the 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge, a virtual ultra-distance run that involves running four miles (6.4K) every four hours for 48 hours. This event was created and popularized by American ultrarunner David Goggins, and finishers run 48 miles (77K) in two days. There are many 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge runs and fundraisers around the world every year, and in 2021, a new Canadian event joined the list. Running in support of The Maddie Project and the North York General Hospital Foundation, the event’s many participants and donors raised an incredible $110,000 for youth mental health initiatives.
Nicole German founded The Maddie Project in 2015, after her daughter, Maddie, passed away suddenly. Since then, working with the NYGH Foundation and other organizations, The Maddie Project has raised close to $3 million for youth mental health services. The 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge added to that total, and the event far exceeded the expectations of German and Michael Neale, who proposed the idea of a running fundraiser.
In December, not long after plans for The Maddie Project 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge were announced, Neale told Canadian Running that the goal was to raise $12,000. At the time, he said there would only be spots for 48 runners, but German says their event page was flooded with interest, and they quickly decided to remove that participant cap.
“We were going to keep it small, but then we realized there was no real reason to do that, so we opened it up,” she says. It was an entirely free event, but while participants could register and run without paying any fees, everyone involved was encouraged to donate or raise $250 — a total surpassed by many participants.
“On top of the 200 runners, I think we had over 1,500 donors,” German says. “People who didn’t run but just wanted to support the cause.” That group of 200 people who ran featured individuals from nine countries, and German says there was a broad spectrum of entrants, from experienced ultrarunners (like Neale, who has run multiple ultramarathons) to people who were completely new to an event like the 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge.
German fell into the latter category, and she ran the challenge in a relay with her two sons (and Maddie’s younger brothers), Sawyer and Zac. “We wanted to be a part of the event,” German says, “so we decided to tag-team it together.”
The Maddie Project 4 x 4 x 48 event gained so much traction that Goggins himself even gave everyone involved a shoutout.
“What can I say about The Maddie Project?” Goggins said. “It’s truly amazing what you all are doing out there to raise $3 million for youth that are having trouble out here in this world.” He continued, saying he went through tough times when he grew up, but he acknowledged that today, with social media and so many extra pressures in the world, it’s likely even harder to be a child or teenager.
“I truly appreciate what you all are doing,” Goggins concluded. “Once again, this is very near and dear to me, and for you to be out here doing the 4 x 4 x 48, you guys are really out here grinding for an amazing cause.”
German, who sent Goggins info about The Maddie Project event, says his response was completely unexpected. “I had reached out to him, but I thought it would be a long shot to get an answer,” she says. “At first, he just mentioned The Maddie Project in a video when he listed a bunch of organizations doing their own 4 x 4 x 48 events, and we were over the moon to just get a shoutout.” A personalized video was even more exciting, and Goggins sent it just a few days before the run’s March 5 start date.
In December, along with Neale’s goal of raising $12,000, he said he hoped they could create an event that was successful enough to become an annual fundraiser. The team smashed that fundraising goal, and they essentially guaranteed that the 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge would happen again next year, as German says the response was overwhelmingly positive when they asked participants if they would sign up again.
“We definitely want to run it again,” she says. “And our goal will be to create an even better event next year.”
To learn more about The Maddie Project and to donate to the cause, click here.