Nick and Neasa Waaler
My name is Nick Waaler, I am 46 years young. I was born in Japan to an English mother and a Danish father. I grew up in England, two years in Japan when I was seven, went to college in Switzerland and then returned to London. I moved to the United States in 1998 for a job opportunity, whereupon I met (1999) and married (2002) my beautiful Irish girl, Neasa. We have two amazing children, Aidan (aged 12) and Teagan (aged 8) who keep us both on our toes. We moved to Sandy Hook in 2005 and cannot think of another place to live which has so much love and so many great friends.
I was never a runner. The only time I ever ran was if I had a ball and someone was chasing me or if someone else had a ball and I was chasing them. I never understood why people would just run for the sake of running – what was their goal, what was the point, what penance had they received – really!?!? It took the ripple effect of a tragedy, an inspirational group of people, but really it took one person in particular to show me the bigger picture of what running is all about. There is a universal bond among runners, but each runner carries their own unique goal.
Six or so months after the shooting at Sandy Hook School, one of the victim’s father, Ian Hockley, who was and remains a good friend, asked me if I was interested in running a “Ragnar” to benefit his new charity “Dylan’s Wings of Change” in memory of his beloved son Dylan. My initial reaction was “I don’t run and what is “Ragnar?” Well, Ragnar, it turns out, is a 198 mile relay race, which takes place in Cape Cod. I repeated “I don’t run !” To which Ian replied “You can drive, right – we need drivers. Come to our introduction meeting and hear what it’s all about from our runners who did it this year.”
Clearly “no” was not going to be an option. Yes, I could drive, he had a point. I showed up to this meeting. Numerous people stood up and described their experiences. We watched a “Rocky” inspiring video of their Ragnar race. After which, the reasons for their running really needed no further explanation. It was a uniquely authentic experience for each runner and, ultimately, it raised money for a charity that benefits autistic children. I was sold. I turned around to Ian and said “I can do this, I CAN do this – I want to run, you need to find a driver, I AM GOING TO RUN!!” It wasn’t even the beer talking, it wasn’t bravado, I had a goal!
Furthermore Ian had this great idea that all the men should grow their beards out – another goal which I carried out with a passion. I even ended up dyeing it purple, Dylan’s favorite color and the color of our charity. Ian and everyone else bailed on the beard thing after a couple of weeks, I kept it going for months. I had conquered the ultra of beards.
Not long after the intervention, both Ian and I were sledding and, to cut a long story short, I ended up fracturing a couple of ribs which put a two month halt to my training. But I plowed on as soon as I could start running again and completed my first Ragnar, purple beard and all. I was now hooked.
I have since run two more Ragnars, three in total, and signed up for number four in 2017. I have run multiple 5ks and, this past September, I did my first Sprint Triathlon. I loved the Triathlon so much that I upped my game and signed up for an Olympic Triathlon (1mile swim, 40km bike ride, 10km run) in June 2017.
I understand now that each person has a deeper meaning to why they run and it is not always obvious with a glance. I know why I run, I run for those who can’t. Thank you Ian for believing in me – I had no idea.
Nick and Neasa
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