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Buckeyes run with Wolverines for charity

Members of the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta, Brian Myers, Travis Alfriend, Craig Althoff, David Zehnder and Brian Kress stand with the game ball for the Ohio State, Michigan game after the Rivalry Run in 2010.

Brothers from Ohio State’s fraternity Phi Gamma Delta ran more than 90 miles to Findlay, Ohio, as part of the annual Rivalry Run between OSU and Michigan Sunday morning.

The Rivalry Run between the two schools was inspired in 2004 when members of the respective Phi Gamma Delta, or FIGI, chapters do a relay-run from Columbus to Ann Arbor, Mich., carrying the OSU-Michigan game ball. The event is a charity run to raise money for cancer research charities.

OSU’s FIJI chapter donates money from the Rivalry Run to the Stefanie Spielman Fund. Michigan’s chapter donates earnings to the American Cancer Society.

“This event means so much to both me and the fraternity. I have had so many family members affected by cancer so this philanthropy is something I really enjoy supporting,” Travis Alfriend, co-chair for the Rivalry Run at OSU, said in an email.

The total distance of the Run is 187 miles and is expected to take 30 hours to complete, according to the FIJI chapters’ website for the event.

OSU’s FIJI brothers started at the FIJI house on E. 15th Avenue at 2 a.m. Sunday and ran a 14-hour relay run to Findlay, Ohio. OSU will pass the game ball to brothers of Michigan’s chapter of FIJI to run it to Ann Arbor.

“We run through the night, it kind of stands in solidarity with cancer and those affected by cancer,” said Michael Cox, philanthropy co-chair for OSU Phi Gamma Delta. “It’s a sacrifice kind of thing for the chapter to run over night.”

Two groups of 10 runners at a time ran relay-style to Findlay. As one runner ran the ball one mile, a pace car drove up the next mile and passed on the ball to the next runner as a “waterfall relay race,” Cox said.

There are seven groups, and each group ran its part of the relay for two hours. More than 60 brothers total ran the ball to Findlay, Cox said. OSU’s FIJI members reached Findlay by 4 p.m. Sunday, and Michigan started its run.

Michigan runners were divided into nine 10-mile runs, with about 80 participants running, said Michael Harrison, a representative from Michigan’s Phi Gamma Delta. Harrison estimated that runners should arrive in Ann Arbor Monday night.

As of Sunday, OSU has raised about $7,000. Last year, OSU’s FIJI raised $13,250 and this year the brothers hope to earn $15,000, Cox said.

Michigan, however, typically has out-earned OSU. Last year, Michigan donated $37,000 to the American Cancer Society and this year the goal is $40,000.

“To my knowledge we’ve always out-raised OSU in this event so it’s nice to be able to hang our hat on that during this decade-long losing streak we’ve had on the football field,” Harrison said.

FIJI hosted events at various restaurants including Buffalo Wild Wings, Donato’s and Pizza Rustica and collections were donated to the Stefanie Spielman fund. FIJI also collected donations from sponsors, including Miracle Catering, Orton Ceramics and RadioU.

The Rivalry Run is Phi Gamma Delta’s biggest event of the year for both schools and many of the brothers take a lot of pride in the event.

“It also means a lot to our fraternity. In terms of our time and effort we put into it, this is our biggest event of the year. It’s one of the reasons I joined FIJI,” Alfriend said.

Harrison, despite his dislike for the Scarlet and Gray football team, enjoys teaming up with OSU for the run.

“The event is still extremely rewarding and a great chance for us to work together for a common goal within our chapters as well as with OSU FIJIs,” Harrison said in a. “That our two houses, separated by the greatest rivalry in all of sports, can come together for a noble cause, unified through Phi Gamma Delta is something really special and I think it says a lot about the strength of our brotherhood on a local level as well as a national level.”

Alfriend ran for the second consecutive year. Alfriend said he was excited for the run, but was also nervous for the event as a whole.

“We have 60 guys going out in the middle of the night to run down country roads, and it’s my responsibility to make sure everybody knows exactly where to go, when and where to pass off the ball, and who to give it to,” Alfriend said. “It took a massive planning effort on my part and I just hope it all runs smoothly.”

Cox said that FIJI brothers made it to Findlay with no problems along the way and everything finished on time. Alfriend said he enjoyed his part of the run and the tradition.

“Great time to hang out with my brothers and it was for a good cause,” Alfriend said. “It was fun and everything ran smoothly.”

OSU plays Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., at noon on Saturday.

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