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Amy Donaldson: Ragnar CEO learns life's best lesson — keep trying

Published: Thursday, Nov. 11 2010 12:54 a.m. MST

Chris Infurchia wasn't contemplating quitting the race, but he was hurting when the 62-year-old Tennessee woman in pink passed him.

"Tell them I put up a fight," he said as she passed him. "She just slowed down and started talking to me."

Infurchia was running through that part of the race when runners question their desire, their ability and their judgment.

"I was doing what I call the old man stumble," said the Connecticut native who now lives in Park City.

Running doesn't come naturally to Infurchia.

"I wasn't designed to be a runner," said the former high school football player and wrestler, who became the CEO of the Ragnar Relay Series last January. It is an unspoken understanding that to work for the company, one must experience the races just like anybody else.

That means sleeping on a picnic table, struggling with what to eat and when, making the agonizing choice between sleep and a shower, and running three legs of one of the Ragnar Relay's 15 races.

When Infurchia took over as CEO, he was recovering from surgery.

"When I came on, I had an ACL replacement, so I had an excuse (for not running)," he said with a smile.

After his knee healed, though, his co-workers began questioning him about which race he'd like to run.

He chose Las Vegas. It was during his training for that race that he began to experience a common issue for runners — IT band pain.

"It was leg 3, the uphill," he said of when THAT moment overcame him in Las Vegas. "I didn't think I was going to quit, but I wanted to try and complete the race without walking. I had to walk about a half mile."

It wasn't until the sponsor of the Tennessee race, Healthways, asked him about running from Chattanooga to Nashville that he thought about running back-to-back races.

Infurchia had felt the emotion of the races; he'd witnessed the moments of victory, listened to the stories of transformation. But it wasn't until he found himself battling a hill by himself that he realized why the relays are so different from other races.

"I didn't really get how important it was to do well for your team," he said.

Unlike Las Vegas, Infurchia knew what he was getting into when he put a team together for the Tennessee race.

He chose the last leg for himself, and that's where he was, struggling to continue, when he met Verita.

When she slowed to encourage Infurchia, she told him she was running an extra leg for a teammate who'd been injured during the race.

"She totally helped me out," he said, acknowledging that he achieved his goal of running all three legs. "As soon as we started talking, I forgot about the pain. I told her she didn't have to wait for me, but she said she'd rather hang out and talk with me."

After they crossed the finish line, he moved through the crowd of their respective teammates and they embraced.

"I gave her a hug and said, 'You got me through it,' " he said. "I told her teammates, 'She got me through. She's the one.' And they said, 'She's the one for all of us.' "

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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