Strums & Strides

7 marathons. 7 continents. All for the healing power of music.

Join Nick Stark (Stukel) on his journey to become the first medical student to run marathons on every continent while raising funds and awareness for Musicians On Call.

Crazy? I think so.

It took me a few weeks to gain the courage to actually mention this idea to my family and friends. "Run a marathon on every continent...during medical school?" The idea sounded a bit 'out-there' to say the least. That was November.

Some of you will know this story better than others, but I think my journey to this new adventure can use a little background:

I have always had a lot of passions. Music has been my obsession for as long as I can remember, and I recall telling people science was my favorite class in elementary school. Ironically, I absolutely hated running until around three years ago (I even quit track in high school). 

I never really had a problem balancing things until I was struck with the realization that I actually needed to choose a career path during my junior year of college at Creighton University. Thankfully, I was not alone, and a few friends and I switched through majors faster than Katy Perry changes hair colors. My dilemma was this: I absolutely loved music and wanted it to be a large part of me for the rest of my life. But, I also felt that I could make a big impact on the world through medicine, and the idea of building meaningful relationships with patients attracted me. 

I took a few detours on my way toward figuring things out: spending a summer setting up clinics in the mountains of the Dominican Republic led me to take a year off to volunteer in Guatemala, work in Colorado, and walk across Spain before medical school. I ultimately decided that medical school was my next step. I know my journey will not be as clean-cut as solely practicing medicine for the rest of my life, but I am content and excited with where I am at now as a first-year medical student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. 

You may be thinking, "Okay, that's great. But I still don't really understand why you decided to do this." Honestly, some days I wonder the same thing. In the end, it boils down to an acoustic lunch hour and a late-afternoon run.

Around Halloween, my friend Lisa and I performed at a lunch-time acoustic show at the medical school. Halfway through our set, the realization that I had all but ignored music since starting school hit me (like cars almost do on my bike ride to school every day). I knew things needed to change, and I ordered a keyboard for my room the next day. 

After a long day in class a few days later, I decided to pass on the studying I should have been doing and went outside for a run. It was a beautiful day; the sun was warm but the air was crisp, the Potomac was calm, and the Washington Monument glowed on the horizon. Slowly, a thought started creeping into my idea to bring together my two worlds of music and medicine in an unorthodox way.

Long story short (because let's be honest: I don't like typing long posts any more than anyone likes reading them), after a few months of planning, writing and then re-writing contracts, and working on the media side of things, Strums & Strides was born as a way to raise money for an incredible organization, Musicians On Call, and to promote the power of music in medicine for both patients and physicians. Asia and Africa are on the docket for this summer. It is going to be a crazy journey, but I am thrilled to have you along for the ride!



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