Chris Culp had run toward finish lines for the last six years while competing in more than 20 events as a triathlete. But as he made his way through another normal day of training, something was different as he approached his next finish line. Culp needed more.
Exhausted, muscles cramping and unsatisfied, Culp found himself needing a better reason to put himself through 250-or-more training miles per week for 14 weeks.
"It seemed a little narcissistic to do all this, 15 to 20 hours a week of grueling training, just for myself. I thought, how can I parlay this into helping something else I'm very passionate about?" Culp said.
Culp found his ultimate motivation.
Culp has been a coach, mentor and friend for two years to the 90-plus children and adults in the Air Capital Flyers, the second-largest Special Olympics team in Kansas.
He helps coach swimming, track and field and basketball, and helps with golf.
For the last 10 weeks, Culp has raised money for the Flyers by garnering training donations leading up to the Ironman Wisconsin, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run on Sept. 12.
Friends, co-workers and family sponsor him anywhere from a penny, a nickel or even more per mile during the 14-week training regimen and Culp matches every donation up to a nickel each mile. He hopes to raise $2,500 when he is finished. Donations can be made at acflyers.com.
September's race will be his first attempt at a full Ironman distance.
"As the weeks pass by, you tally up the miles and the donations and realize, maybe I just covered the state basketball tournament (in donations) and now the athletes get to just go play," Culp said. "Fundraising is a year-round thing for them and if I just helped out just a little, it's totally fulfilling."
The Flyers were founded in 2002 and compete in 11 of 21 sports offered by Special Olympics Kansas. They rely on volunteers and fundraisers to keep it going, which is why team director Glenn Jones knows just how important people like Culp are.
"We are always looking for volunteers, and we hope and pray to have someone just to be there," Jones said. "Having someone step forward with no ties with an individual like what Chris has done is amazing."
Jones has seen Culp's ability to take every practice, every event with a smile and laughter.
"To have someone already tied the way he is with us, coaching and volunteering, and decide he wasn't doing enough... I don't know any other words to say than he is amazing and everything he does is very appreciated," Jones said.
The Flyers, never in an offseason, are practicing for bowling, soccer, boccie and volleyball while wrapping up golf for the summer.
But for Culp, his next finish line comes in 3 1/2 weeks.