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Donate a Kidney, Save a Life, and Win a Marathon.

Donate a kidney, win one of the crucial grueling ultramarathons on the market? No downside. And for lively responsibility US Military Strategist, runner, and residing kidney donor Matt Cavanaugh, it was only a warm-up. This 12 months, along with instructor, athlete, and one other residing kidney donor Hilary Baude, they’re taking up 12 marathons to indicate runners that “they will save lives,” as Cavanaugh stated. As part of this 1K12M Mission, they’re coming to San Francisco this month to beat the hills of our stunning metropolis and unfold their message.

Written & edited by Pavlína Marek

Hilary Baude & Matt Cavanaugh at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, one of their 1K12M marathons

Hilary Baude & Matt Cavanaugh on the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. Picture credit score: Steve Wilson/NKDO.

1K12M: 1 Kidney, 12 Marathons

The 1K12M challenge is backed by Dwelling Donor Video games, a company that goals to showcase “the spectacular well being and health of donors from across the nation” and thus alleviate doable fears and considerations about changing into a residing donor. Because the identify of the challenge suggests, Cavanaugh and Baude’s objective is to run 12 marathons in a single 12 months. Throughout their marathon journey, they goal to unfold consciousness about residing kidney donations and encourage individuals to turn out to be residing kidney donors.

We wish runners to know that they will save lives. That they will donate a kidney, save a life, after which go on to do all the massive and daring athletic issues they have been doing earlier than. For some runners, that’s simply going to make sense.
—Matt Cavanaugh

As of now, the athletes have accomplished six marathons, touching the lives of individuals in each metropolis they ran in. The San Francisco Marathon is subsequent and identical to all over the place else, Baude and Cavanaugh are able to make a distinction. Take a look at the challenge web site to see how one can assist, study dwell kidney donation, and see the place the athletes are headed subsequent.

Why are Dwelling-Donor Kidney Transplants Essential?

Even when we skim over the truth that there are merely not sufficient posthumous donors, there are numerous different components at play. One of many extra important points is the lifespan of a donated kidney; kidneys from residing donors final virtually twice so long as kidneys from deceased donors based on the Nationwide Kidney Donation Group (NKDO). This implies an extended and higher-quality life for the kidney recipients in addition to an total decrease demand for brand spanking new kidneys.

When an individual wants a kidney, donors are normally looked for inside shut household. Nevertheless, members of the family aren’t all the time a great match. Because of this the Nationwide Kidney Donation Middle makes an attempt to match up kidney donors and recipients from all around the US. If you donate a kidney, you’re given a ‘voucher’ for a kidney for your beloved. A match is normally assured inside one to 2 months. Individuals who don’t want a kidney again are essential for beginning this chain of donations and rushing up the method, thus saving extra lives.

“[The doctors] advised me I used to be very sick and that the typical lifespan of a dialisys affected person like me was about three to 5 years, perhaps much less,” stated Wilson Du, a kidney transplant recipient. In accordance with the medical doctors, he didn’t have a lot time left. “I used to be considering giving up,” he stated. “I used to be younger, I had a lot forward of me, I had numerous hopes and desires. After which, hastily, inside just a few weeks, I had no hopes and desires. My solely hope and dream was to dwell.”

Because of a stranger who determined to turn out to be a residing kidney donor, Du received his want granted. The donor almost definitely saved his life.

The Highway to Operating: Deserts, Despair, Donation, and Willpower


Earlier than 1K12M, there was the 4 Deserts (or 1K4D) challenge. Previous to that, the boundary of comparatively secure house in Iraq. Earlier than Iraq, an ice hockey profession that spanned all through school and ended abruptly with a damaged leg. However how do a fractured leg and years spent on deployment result in successful a multi-stage path run via Antarctica, one of the crucial difficult races in existence? The key sauce is desirous to do extra than simply win.

Matt Cavanaugh runs a 10K at a base in Iraq, early 2006.

Matt Cavanaugh runs a 10K at a base in Iraq in early 2006.

The Previous

Matt Cavanaugh got here to operating later in life. Like a real Minnesotan, he grew up taking part in ice hockey. He caught with the game all through college. Then an damage put an abrupt cease to his profession. Cavanaugh broke his leg and through a following knee surgical procedure, the medical doctors eliminated a 3rd of his patella tendon. That was the top of his athletic life—at the very least in the meanwhile.

Cavanaugh finally joined the military. A Lieutenant, he spent the primary few years of his service in Iraq. It’d sound like an unlikely place to begin a operating profession; he did simply that. On the finish of his second 12 months there, Cavanaugh laced up his footwear and went for a run across the military base the place he was stationed. A two-by-four-kilometer perimeter of “secure sufficient” house that surrounded the bottom made up his operating monitor.

Cavanaugh began to run across the border, steadily rising the gap. At some point, he might run all the perimeter; the boundary turned too small for him.

“I ultimately received to the purpose the place I might run the entire perimeter,” he stated. “It was a giant deal… It was a interval of my life that was not optimistic to say the least, and operating gave me one thing to deal with.”

In Cavanaugh’s personal phrases, there’s “an terrible lot of untamed canine” in Iraq. At some point, as he was operating his common lap, a couple of dozen of them slipped below the fence that ran across the base and went after him. A thought shot via his head; “I made it via two years of fight and I’m gonna finish with being consumed by a pack of untamed canine… or get rabies.”

Fortunately, a tower guard seen what was occurring and fired a warning shot, scaring the canine away. As an alternative of rabies, Cavanaugh got here again from Iraq with a brand new operating behavior.

The Donation

“Operating gave me a wholesome self,” stated Cavanaugh. Understanding how laborious it’s to not be wholesome, he needed to offer that feeling to another person. That’s why, on September 15, 2021, he headed out to a hospital to donate a kidney.

At 3 a.m. on the Walter Reed Nationwide Army Medical Middle, Cavanaugh went into surgical procedure. Quickly, his kidney was flying to Seattle. It was “the primary penny within the tray.” Cavanaugh’s donation set off a series response through which individuals who had a ‘voucher’ for a kidney have been capable of get one.

“Seven extra individuals have been capable of obtain a kidney as a result of I didn’t want one again,” stated Cavanaugh.

He spent one evening within the hospital and “walked out the following day.” Cavanaugh by no means met the recipient of his kidney and he doesn’t have a single photograph of himself in a hospital robe pre- or post-donation.

“I didn’t take into consideration any of this,” he stated. “I didn’t assume that I’d sometime be speaking to you for instance.”

27 days post-surgery, Cavanaugh went out for a jog whereas the recipient of his kidney was beginning a brand new, higher life.

Matt Cavanaugh runs a ridgeline during the Namib Race. Photo credit: Thiago Diz/Racing the Planet.

Matt Cavanaugh runs a ridgeline throughout the Namib Race. Picture credit score: Thiago Diz/Racing the Planet.

In accordance with Cavanaugh, most residing donors are out of the hospital in a single to 2 days. The largest concern is normally how the stomach heals—Cavanaugh might jog flippantly one month after the surgical procedure. Probably the most distinguished change he needed to do in his life (and one that each residing kidney donor must do) was to modify painkillers.

Cavanaugh had a “bon voyage” glass of purple wine earlier than the donation and celebrated with one other one the day he got here out of the surgical procedure. The process had no impression on his sexual well being both. Cavanaugh, identical to hundreds of others, can go on together with his life virtually as if nothing occurred. Solely virtually. There is one factor totally different from earlier than; Cavanaugh’s life received higher.

“My life now has been amplified by the donation,” he stated. Whereas he felt no distinction bodily, Cavanaugh stated he was “upgraded mentally:”


You’re by no means allowed to overlook that in some unspecified time in the future in your life, you probably did one thing for another person.”
—Matt Cavanaugh

For Cavanaugh and plenty of others, having donated is a “everlasting psychological increase” akin to runner’s excessive.

“You may exit and beat your self up after you donate,” stated Cavanaugh, and that’s precisely what he did. Whereas he began with gentle jogging post-op as suggested, he didn’t actually take it as gradual when it got here to racing.

The Trans Rockies Run is certainly one of Cavanaugh’s favourite races. Throughout this long-distance journey, runners cross a complete of 200 kilometers (roughly 125 miles) over the span of six days. It’s a supported run, which signifies that the organizations present and/or switch shelter, sleeping luggage, meals, water, and different essential provides.

Then again, Racing the Planet’s desert races are self-supported. Which means that athletes who tackle the problem must cowl 155 miles carrying every thing they’ll want over the span of the race week. And Cavanaugh determined to finish 4 of those grueling races.

1 Kidney, 4 Deserts: Racing the Planet’s Grand Slam

Six weeks after Cavanaugh donated his kidney, he proposed creating and finishing the 1K4D challenge. He might end the Trans Rockies run, donate a kidney, after which full one of many hardest challenges in existence. In his personal phrases, donating a kidney wasn’t a subtraction; it was addition if not multiplication. Cavanaugh was stronger for having carried out it, not the opposite manner round.

Cavanaugh ran the primary of the 4 Deserts race collection, the special-edition ‘mud desert’ Georgia, solely seven months after he donated his kidney to avoid wasting a stranger’s life. He received The Final Desert in Antarctica solely six months later. By operating the 4 Deserts challenge, he needed to show that one can donate a kidney and never solely hold residing their life however thrive. He hoped that it might encourage extra individuals to turn out to be residing kidney donors.

He was proper. In the course of the 4 Deserts races, many individuals messaged him on social media. Two of them needed to share the information: Cavanaugh’s story impressed them they usually have been beginning their journey to turn out to be residing kidney donors.


Not all heroes put on capes. Hilary Baude is a “regular individual,” as she described herself. She’s a kindergarten instructor, a mother, a spouse, a scholar, an athlete,… oh, and a hero.

Baude didn’t all the time run. She was an avid swimmer. Then just a few very traumatic experiences hit in fast succession and shortly, as counterintuitive as it would sound to some, operating was the a method for her to maintain going.

“Operating is one thing that saved me in a manner,” stated Baude. It gave her “an outlet and a technique to course of feelings in a productive manner.”

1K12M living donor athlete Hilary Baude with her husband and daughters

Hilary Baude along with her husband and daughters. Picture Credit score: Dayna Cass/The 50 Athletes

The Previous

After Baude and her husband received married, they knew they needed to begin a household. For 5 years, they struggled with infertility. This was adopted by IVF therapy, a course of that’s typically traumatic in and of itself. Lastly, Baude received pregnant, and collectively along with her husband, she seemed ahead to welcoming their equivalent twins into the world.

About midway via the being pregnant, the couple misplaced one of many twins. The opposite one wasn’t anticipated to outlive, both.

“It’s like a stroke for the surviving twin,” stated Baude. “If she did survive, we have been advised that she’d have very extreme mind injury.”

The medical doctors urged terminating the being pregnant. The Baudes determined to maintain going. Ultimately, Baude gave beginning to a lady. She was untimely, solely 2 lbs 3oz, and spent six weeks within the NICU. The pores and skin on her legs didn’t kind correctly and with two holes in her coronary heart, she survived till she was 5 months outdated when she had open coronary heart surgical procedure.

The surgical procedure was profitable. Regardless that she nonetheless wanted and, till at present, must have just a few extra surgical procedures to enhance the pores and skin on her legs, issues began to lastly search for for the Baude household. It was time for them to take a deep breath and begin therapeutic collectively. The Baudes celebrated their daughter’s first birthday— “after which… my husband was identified with most cancers,” stated Baude.

The strong floor they lastly discovered was in a short time ripped from below their ft. After that, “We have been simply attempting to outlive daily for a few years,” stated Baude.

Baude by no means thought she’d ever run a marathon. The folks that have been doing it have been certainly loopy. No regular individual might or would do it. Operating 26.2 miles was laborious… however not as laborious as what her household has been via previously few years, Baude realized.

“If my daughter can battle what she’s battling, and my husband can battle what he’s battling, certainly I can run a marathon,” she stated.

Thus, across the time of her daughter’s first birthday, Baude began operating. As she ran, she pushed her daughter in a stroller. Each time the going received robust, she checked out her and knew that she might hold pushing. Baude treasured the time they spent collectively. She realized she was “actually grateful and blessed” to have the ability to run. Particularly since “there are such a lot of individuals on the market that may love to do that, they usually can’t.” For Baude, operating has turn out to be a “celebration of life.”

Having been via a lot hardship, Baude discovered one necessary lesson for all times in addition to operating:

“If you’re going via it, you simply do it.”
—Hilary Baude

Baude’s husband finally recovered and shortly, they welcomed their second daughter into the household. Issues lastly quieted down and Baude had the time to begin processing all that had occurred over time. Operating was good for that. It gave her the house wanted for therapeutic.

The Donation

On New 12 months’s Eve of 2020, Baude noticed a information story a couple of man who’d been on the lookout for a kidney. When the information story got here out, he’d already been looking for about 5 years. He had a younger daughter and, although dialysis remedies have turn out to be higher, not numerous time left.

“I knew immediately that I’d donate,” stated Baude.

Baude turned out to be the proper match. To organize for the donation, she was matched with a mentor who’d stroll her via the method. He was a kidney donor himself and will reply all of Baude’s questions relating to the method. The very first thing Baude requested? If she might hold doing endurance sports activities.

“And he stated, ‘Nicely, really, I’m an Ironman. So, sure.’ It was an ideal match,” stated Baude.

Identical to Cavanaugh, Beaude received extra out of the donation than she bargained for, in all the perfect methods possible.

“In its personal manner, donating my kidney to somebody and serving to heal them, healed me in so many deeper methods than I ever anticipated,” stated Baude. “I had no concept that I’d get extra out of this than I gave away.”

1K12M athlete Hilary Baude with her race medals

Hilary Baude along with her race medals. Picture Credit score: Dayna Cass/The 50 Athletes

Two weeks after the donation, Baude was given the inexperienced gentle to begin operating once more. In her personal phrases, “That’s not normally the norm.” Her surgeon felt snug with letting Baude run as a result of she had good core energy. She wasn’t on the market doing laborious 10-kilometer exercises, however she was jogging flippantly.

Six months post-op, Baude accomplished the New York Marathon.

Whereas each Cavanaugh and Baude plan to take a break from operating marathons in August, Baude is heading out to finish an Ironman with the hopes of qualifying for Ironman Kona.

The Why: The Resolution to Donate

Donations don’t simply occur on their very own. Dwelling donors must resolve that they wish to save a life after which actively take part within the donation preparations. On the Nationwide Kidney Donation Group (NKDO), they’re matched up with a mentor. They should prepare each bodily and mentally for the donation. Regardless of understanding all the great info—not solely are they going to avoid wasting a life, however the process can be very secure—the entire course of may sound a bit of scary to donors. To stroll via it, it helps to have a why.

Hilary Baude

Living donor Hilary Baude during a run in a 1K12M official tee. Photo credit: Dayna Cass/The 50 Athletes

Hilary Baude on a run within the 1K12M official tee. Picture credit score: Dayna Cass/The 50 Athletes.

“Precisely what I shared was my why,” stated Baude after she recollected the painful previous. In reality, had she recognized dwell kidney donations have been a factor, she would have carried out it sooner.

The person to whom Baude gave her kidney spent 5 years looking for it. That was about the identical period of time the Baudes spent attempting to conceive. One thing about that connection sealed the deal. Baude knew properly the pure despair he should have felt and needed to finish it instantly.

“I might relate to that feeling of being determined. Of ‘any person, assist me.’ And I’d have given something on the time that we have been going via our struggles for somebody to say, ‘I’ve the answer for you. I’ve your treatment.’ And I had the power to just do that for Mark,” stated Baude.

Matt Cavanaugh

Living donor Matt Cavanaugh takes a break during the Namib Desert Race. Photo credit: Thiago Diz/Racing the Planet.

Matt Cavanaugh on the Namib Desert Race. Picture credit score: Thiago Diz/Racing the Planet.

“Operating gave me a wholesome self, and a few years later, once I had the chance, I needed to offer a few of that again,” stated Cavanaugh about his motivations.

As soon as he discovered about dwell kidney donations, it wasn’t a query of ‘if’ however ‘when.’ Cavanaugh himself was saved previously. Paying it ahead was as pure as respiration.

“The power as an individual to be resilient sufficient to offer a bit of little bit of your self in order that another person has a extra regular life, a greater life, that makes each second of it price it,” he stated.

How 1K12M Got here to Be

Operating deserts is nice however there’s one downside: you don’t meet too many individuals there. To unfold the phrase about dwell kidney donations extra successfully, Cavanaugh needed to provide you with one thing else. Thus, the 1K12M challenge got here to be. He would run 12 of the most important marathons he might discover in populated cities throughout the US to make as a lot affect as doable. He received in contact with the Nationwide Kidney Registry (NKR), the Nationwide Kidney Donation Group, and The Dwelling Donor Video games and the challenge might take off.

“We needed to go the place the runners are,” stated Cavanaugh. “I really like path operating. However path runs don’t have the numbers that the San Francisco Marathon does. They don’t have transplant facilities close by.”

The challenge is a chance to display sturdiness and resilience and present that one can heal shortly from the donation and get again to the beginning line.

“I’m coming to San Francisco as a result of I need different runners to see in individual that you could donate after which go on to submit a great time,” Cavanaugh stated.

In November 2022, Baude was on the annual NKDO convention. There, Cavanaugh shared his thought for the 1K12M challenge. Baude knew instantly she’d like to participate. Collectively along with her mentor, she approached Cavanaugh, who received in contact with NKR. The Nationwide Kidney Registry agreed to sponsor Baude in addition to Cavanaugh—and the deal was sealed.

Matt Cavanaugh runs next to a water hole during the Atacama Crossing. Photo Credit: Thiago Diz/Racing the Planet

Matt Cavanaugh runs subsequent to a water gap throughout the Atacama Crossing. Picture Credit score: Thiago Diz/Racing the Planet

“I felt it was necessary to have a girl be part of the endeavor,” stated Baude. In accordance with her, it was essential to have a working mom with a full-time job to symbolize girls who “have quite a bit on our plates however that doesn’t imply that we are able to’t tackle these challenges and advocate for one thing that we imagine in.”

The Nationwide Kidney Donation Group & The Dwelling Donor Video games

NKDO goals to advocate for, inform, and assist residing donors throughout their donation journey. They “educate potential residing kidney donors to donate as safely and successfully as doable. (NKDO)” However why live donors wanted? In spite of everything, fairly just a few individuals have that pink ‘organ donor’ dot on their driving licenses.

The Numbers

In accordance with Penn Drugs, “Though virtually 170 million individuals are registered to be donors, solely three in 1,000 individuals die in a manner that enables for deceased organ donation.” That assertion additionally consists of all organs; this statistic will get a bit of worse nonetheless in terms of kidney donations.

The numbers converse for themselves. In accordance with Well being Sources & Companies Administration (HRSA), 17 individuals die every day ready for an organ transplant. The NKDO web site exhibits that 13 of those individuals die whereas ready particularly for a kidney. HRSA writes that 104,234 individuals are ready for an organ transplant, 85% for a kidney. In accordance with the NKDO web site, 102,950 individuals are presently ready for a kidney.

(Please be aware: HRSA information was collected in January 2023. NKDO doesn’t show an information assortment date. Due to this fact, the numbers don’t essentially match up completely and might differ by the point you’re studying this text.)

The Video games

The Dwelling Donor Video games group exists to bridge the hole between what individuals assume residing donors’ lives appear like and what they really appear like post-donation. In fact, you don’t must run marathons or climb mountains after you donate a kidney—however you may.

“In a normal inhabitants survey, 75% of respondents felt that donating a kidney would negatively have an effect on their well being. The Donor Video games refutes this broadly held false impression by showcasing the spectacular well being and health of donors from across the nation.”
— The Dwelling Donor Video games

The Dwelling Donor Video games backed Cavanaugh’s 1K4D challenge. Along with the Nationwide Kidney Registry, the sponsor of Cavanaugh and Baude’s present challenge, it stands behind 1K12M, too.

1K12M and the San Francisco Marathon

The San Francisco Marathon is happy to be supporting Hilary Baude and Matt Cavanaugh on their mission to avoid wasting lives via operating. The group was capable of comp each athletes’ race registration charges. These would in any other case have been paid by NKR. This fashion, NKR can use the funds for different initiatives and to additional assist its mission.

“The San Francisco Marathon has been very supportive of our efforts,” stated Baude. “they’ve actually tried to make it possible for we’re getting what we have to make this endeavor profitable.”

This isn’t the primary time the San Francisco Marathon is internet hosting athletes who’ve touched the lives of others in essentially the most profound methods. A lot of our runners race with a much bigger that means. Simply final 12 months, residing kidney donor Ashley Zirkle tackled the San Francisco hills as part of Diploma’s Not Finished But Marathon Program. Zirkle along with a blind athlete Mike Zampella and a multiple-sclerosis survivor Sagirah Ahmed Norris confirmed everyone that there are actually no limitations to what one can accomplish.

Coming Subsequent: Wilson Du, the Renal Warrior. The Highly effective Story of a Kidney Recipient.



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