Once an athlete, always an athlete, according to a Houston-based amateur athletic competition called The D10.
"Most of what we do in life lacks that true air of competition, and The D10 is the most fun competing that I've had since TCU," says 2018 competitor Cash Cameron, a former TCU football player and current vice president at Citi. "It works in a way that puts that fire in your belly, lets you feel that anticipation ... that fire that's hard as hell to ignite, The D10 does that."
The D10 is an all-day event in which amateur athletes compete in challenges that are common at the NFL Scouting Combine, in Olympic track and field, and on the playground, from a 400-meter run to pull-ups to a 20-yard shuttle. In order to earn a spot on the field, athletes must meet The D10's fundraising requirements through performance-based pledges, which can double based on how well a competitor performs in a given event.
All the money raised goes toward North America's premier cancer institutions (in Houston, funds raised benefit The University of Texas MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital). Since its inception, The D10 has raised nearly $12 million for pediatric cancer research.
"The D10 is a different kind of training than I'm used to," says Abby Liu, the captain of a team that's on track to raise more than $50,000. "I like my leisure runs, when I don't feel like I'm being chased!"
No stranger to high-intensity fitness, Liu, the owner of a Houston Montessori school, played varsity tennis at the University of Texas and now instructs at Houston gym SWEAT 1000. She says she derives motivation to tackle The D10's diverse physical challenges from her students as well as her D10 teammates.
"Not much could be more meaningful than knowing the money we raise by competing in The D10 supports advanced treatments for prolonging and improving patients' lives," she says.
While many of The D10's participants are former collegiate or professional athletes, others haven't competed in a sport since high school. But where a person starts their journey isn't important — it's where they end up that counts.
They get there with the help of D10 executive Adam Nelson, a three-time Olympian and the only world and Olympic champion in the history of the shot put. He's trained multiple Olympic athletes, national champions, NFL athletes, MLB pitchers, PGA Tour members, and professional power and Olympic lifters, and with The D10 he leads weekly training sessions geared specifically toward The D10’s events.
"These folks are making a pretty serious commitment — three to six months of training — and it's a big sacrifice in order to achieve this level of excellence and have this amazing impact," says Nelson. "It's pretty awesome to see them at the end of the competition, when they realize how much money they've raised and how many ill kids they've helped."
In addition to providing coaching and training in the months leading up to game day, The D10 offers athletes complimentary massage, physical therapy, and cutting-edge recovery tools in the week prior and throughout the event itself.
During the event, one end of the field is set up as an "athletes' village," with a big tent where all the competitors can fuel up, hydrate, rest between events, recover, and bond. They can also check real-time standings for both the athletic and fundraising competitions on big-screen leaderboards.
"When we're growing up, competitive athletics provides an immersive sense of identity," says D10 founder Dave Maloney, a former collegiate track athlete. "You get a uniform, a coach, teammates, and a sense of purpose larger than yourself. The D10 sets out to recreate that sense of athletic identity, and the motivation that comes with it."
It seems to be working, as four out of five D10 competitors re-register following their "rookie" seasons.
"We will all 'fail' multiple times during The D10," says multi-year competitor Megan Light, who works at Cheniere Energy, "but it is not the reps we cannot do that matter, it is all the ones we can. It is about pushing harder, getting better, and going all in every time."
For details on competing or attending on November 3, head to The D10's Houston website.
Not able to attend but still want to cheer on the athletes? You can watch the livestream here, which uses The D10's proprietary platform called NORMA. The software allows you to follow certain athletes, receive notifications when it's their turn to compete, browse more than a dozen camera angles, and make real-time donations to any athlete on the field.