Russ Funk: Reshuffling his cards

Russ FunkRuss Funk was scheduled to have knee replacement surgery in September of 2010. It was a hard reality to face having been an athlete in high school and college. But after 25 years of arthritis developing in his knees, he couldn’t escape it. His knees were in constant pain.

So it came as a shock when Russ announced to his family that he would be running a half marathon with Team World Vision that year. (You might already know that you can’t run on knee replacements.)

Russ had rescheduled his knee surgery in order to run the race instead. He couldn’t sit without aching and moaning, he hadn’t run a step in 25 years, and the race was 12 weeks away. Never mind that just a month earlier when asked how many races he had run, he had humbly replied, “None. Running is not in the cards for me.

But when he had asked his doctor about running the half marathon, the doctor told him, “Your knees are already shot, so if you can stand the pain, you might as well completely break them.” So Russ decided to reshuffle his cards.

He indeed ran that half marathon in 2010, and since then has completed 20 half marathons, 2 full marathons, and 7 triathlons (including a Half Ironman) on behalf of kids in Africa. He’s been a team captain in Phoenix, encouraged team members across their finish lines, and traveled to Africa with his wife, Pam, to meet their sponsored child in Kenya.

And on March 19, 2016, Russ ran the World Vision Global 6K for Water in his hometown of Phoenix. After 5 years of defying the odds, Russ celebrated his last running event with 8,000 of his closest friends across the country. Just 10 days later, Russ finally had that knee replacement. 

But that won’t stop him from doing whatever he can to help provide clean water to communities in Africa. At the Global 6K, Russ talked about taking on the Legacy challenge this year and what events he could do to help him raise $10,000. He’s already signed up for a triathlon relay with his sons (he’ll do the swimming and biking portions), and is looking into cycling events for once he has recovered from surgery.  

Russ, for five years you’ve endured relentless pain for the sake of others. You’ve literally broken your knees to care for children around the world. You’ve run for water, hope, and life. You are an inspiration to all who know you and we’re so thankful to have you on the team. Here’s to many more races!

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