This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Town of Holly Springs.

Can you imagine running a marathon once a month for 15 months in a row? Holly Springs resident Ryan Moneteleone did just that from December 2017 until February 2019. Even more unbelievable is the fact that Monteleone wasn’t always a runner; he took it up after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“I saw the bombing on TV and I was really upset about it. I resolved to run the Boston Marathon the next year to show [the bombers] that they don’t scare me. I didn’t realize that you had to qualify to run it, so I got in through a sponsor’s exemption as I raised some money for charity,” Monteleone explained. “After crossing that finish line for the first time, I thought about retiring from running, but three days later I told myself that I could do better and that I needed to go back the next year.”

The rest, as they say, is history; or in this case — sneaker dust.

Since that first race, Monteleone has clocked in 22 marathons, countless steps, more than a few sore muscles, and lots of sweat. It wasn’t long before Monteleone’s love for running became a passion project that is now known as the Holly Springs Half Marathon.

One day, Monteleone and his Holly Springs Run Cub buddies discussed how it would be cool to host a local half marathon in town instead of having to drive to Raleigh or other nearby cities to participate in one. He realized that there would be challenges along the way with something new like this in town, but challenges, as Monteleone said, “fire him up.”

Motivated to get the race up and running, Monteleone and his friends worked with the Parks and Recreation department, as well as the local police department to get the necessary requirements in place. Monteleone also secured the race’s presenting sponsor, Edward Jones, thanks to his connection at the company — he’s worked as an Edward Jones financial advisor for the past 15 years.

It took teamwork, but the first Holly Springs Half took place in 2016 and it’s been a hit ever since. Endurance Magazine voted it the best race in eastern North Carolina in 2017.

The out-and-back course starts at the Ting Stadium and weaves its way through the Holly Springs Greenway system, various parks and Bass Lake before looping back around. Runners are able to celebrate their victory with a custom beer, Runner’s High, which is brewed specifically for the race by the local, women-owned Bombshell Beer Company.

“It’s rewarding when I get to see the runners and the finishers at the end of the race, and how excited and happy they are, and the organizers — how proud of themselves they are for what they’ve done,” Monteleone said.

This year will be the 4th Annual Holly Springs Half Marathon, and Monteleone explained one of the goals of the race is to provide funds for the health and wellness community of Holly Springs. Last year the race raised $60,000 for charity — $15,000 of it went to the Parks and Recreation department, while the remaining money was donated to school wellness programs, athletic scholarship funds and other causes. As Monteleone pointed out, races are some of the nation’s most charitable organizations and giving back to his community is something that helps keep his flame alight.

Monteleone emphasized that while running can be a solo activity, it’s also a great way to connect to others in your community. After all, his conversations with his friends at the Run Club helped spark the idea for the Holly Springs Half, and he’s quick to declare that the things he’s accomplished wouldn’t have been possible without the help of “awesome people.”

It was another conversation with running friends that inspired the idea for Pace Yourself Run Company, a specialty running store that will be opening in downtown Holly Springs later this summer.

“We all went out for a run and we started talking about how cool it would be if we had a run store. We’re all driving 30 to 40 minutes to go to one or ordering things online. We realized there are 2,000 people in the Holly Springs Run Club and we have one of the best races — why shouldn’t we put a store here?,” Monteleone said.

Pace Yourself will be co-owned by 10 business partners, including Monteleone, and will sell speciality shoes, gear and nutrition for runners. Additionally, it will have a small bar with eight beer taps for runners to congregate and enjoy a cold drink.

“You’ll be able to come to the store, have a beer, fellowship and hang out. The hope is to continue to develop the running community,” Monteleone said.

Community is something that Monteleone has helped build over the past 20 years that he’s been a resident in Holly Springs through running, entrepreneurship and big ideas. His advice is to not be afraid to share your ideas and make connections.

“I’ve got a family, a regular day job, I’ve got this and that — don’t be afraid to partner with great people who are willing to help you like I did. Share the glory and the reward, but also share the work. Get out of your comfort zone, start talking with people, invest in yourself and have faith in yourself,” he said. “You’d be surprised how many great things you can create if you just get out of your own way.”

This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Town of Holly Springs.