Running to inspire

FARGO -- A runner for ten-plus years, James Botnen is often training for the next big triathlon or marathon. But since last December, he's also focused on shorter, equally important distances. In a play on numbers, Botnen pledged on his 31st birt...
James Botnen is running a 5K every day this year as a tribute to his father’s gift of organ donation and a way to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation. David Samson/The Forum

FARGO - A runner for ten-plus years, James Botnen is often training for the next big triathlon or marathon.

But since last December, he's also focused on shorter, equally important distances.

In a play on numbers, Botnen pledged on his 31st birthday to run 3.1 miles, equivalent to a 5K, every single day for a year.

His preference is to run outdoors, but when the weather is bad or time is short, he's inside, on a treadmill. The total number of miles he faced wasn't the issue.

"It was more about the no days off," Botnen said, before hitting the pavement at Lindenwood Park recently.

Those concerns would ease after his legs adjusted to the daily pounding. Now, he's nearing the home stretch of his '5K a Day' challenge, which has a give-back element to it as well.

Donations to his effort will go to the National Kidney Foundation, an organization his family became aligned with about a dozen years ago.

Inspired by a WDAY-TV news story about organ donation, his father, Jeff Botnen, would go on to donate a kidney to a stranger.

Since then, the family has been involved in the foundation's local chapter, taking part in walks and other fundraisers. The elder Botnen is pleased his son wants to do his part.

"I'm just proud that he wants to help and give back too, and this is his way of doing that," Jeff Botnen said.

A generous gift

The WDAY news story that inspired Jeff Botnen was about a six-year-old boy whose kidneys were failing.

"It just touched me. And I was the same blood type, so I said, 'You know what, I'm going to go see if I can help him,'" the elder Botnen said.

Turns out, he wasn't a match for the child, who would get a transplant within a few months.

Instead, he ended up donating a kidney to a stranger - a St. Paul, Minn., man who had a genetic kidney condition.

The two would later meet, and Jeff Botnen learned that his donation gave the man years of quality time with family and friends that he would otherwise not have had.

The generosity of that act has stayed with son James.

He decided the 5K challenge and fundraiser were just what he needed, as he prepares for a new chapter in his own life.

No days off

Through his '5K a Day,' James Botnen hopes to raise $1,132 for the National Kidney Foundation.

From the numbers guy he is, that's 3.1 miles per day, multiplied by 365 days in a year.

Botnen has had his doubters - friends who thought he might sneak a day off here and there.

To stay accountable, he uses a smartwatch and fitness app that tracks his daily runs.

On Oct. 7, he ran the Twin Cities Marathon. He would have liked to take a day off afterward, but didn't. That Monday 5K was the most painful ever, he said with a laugh.

The commitment to run will soon get even more difficult. Botnen and his wife Lindsey, who make their home in Kindred, N.D., are expecting their first child in mid-November.

The challenge, however, has kept him organized and motivated as the arrival of their baby son nears. He hopes to someday be the role model his dad is to him and his siblings.

"That'll be a fun experience, going through fatherhood and hopefully raising a kid who looks up to me," Botnen said.

To donate to James Botnen's 5K a Day:

https://team.kidney.org/campaign/5KaDay