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NFE Athlete Spotlight: Rudy Arietta

By June 30, 2021December 4th, 2023Awareness, NF Endurance, Ways to Give

For the last several years, the Tappan Zee Boys basketball team, under the leadership of Coach George Gaine, has hosted a tournament called Two Counties, One Cause. In addition to attracting some of the best teams in the area for some healthy inter-school rivalry, the tournament is a fundraiser for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, in honor of Coach Gaine’s daughter, who lives with NF1. In 2019, the tournament raised over $30,000 for CTF. 

Unfortunately, as a result of safety measures in place due to COVID-19, the tournament did not take place this past season. So, Tappen Zee High School Principal Rudy Arietta took matters into his hands, dedicating his participation in the “29029 Everest” Challenge to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, through the NF Endurance/Choose Your Own Challenge program.

The 29029 Everest is a unique challenge in which participants hike up a mountain 13 times (within 36 hours); once they’ve completed it, they will have hiked the equivalent height of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Rudy took a break from his training to answer our questions. 

CTF: Tell us about the “29029 Everesting” challenge and why are you going to Utah in August?

Rudy: The year 2020 was a challenge for me just as it was a challenge for everyone. Many of us felt powerless as we had little control over many aspects of our lives. However, going through the challenging time was a great reminder that we should focus our energy on the things we can control. To improve my ability to do that I decided to seek out and conquer additional challenges in my own personal life (physically, mentally, etc.). By conquering these challenges, I would be building my resilience and my ability to handle other challenges that I would certainly face in the future. In short, my main motivation was to challenge myself and to come out stronger as a result of taking on that challenge.

For the 29029 Everest Challenge, I will be going to Utah in August. The goal will be to summit the mountain in Snowbasin 13 times in 36 hours. The 13 ascents will equal 29,029 vertical feet which is the equivalent of Mount Everest.

What is your connection to neurofibromatosis? Why are you fundraising with the NF Endurance team?

CTF and our school community have had a connection for many years. Our basketball coach, George Gaine, and his family have been impacted by NF and Coach Gaine has been a champion for the cause for many years. To that end, he and his basketball team have organized a basketball tournament for a number of years that draws teams from Rockland and Westchester counties. The tournament has done a terrific job at raising both money and awareness for CTF.

Unfortunately, the tournament was unable to happen this year as we had a limited basketball season and were unable to have spectators for most of the season. One day as I walked through our gym, I thought that my climb might be a good opportunity to replace some of the awareness and fundraising that was lost this year as a result of the canceled tournament. I approached Coach Gaine and he was receptive to the idea. 

How does your role as a high school principal keep you motivated/inspire you?

I love being a high school principal. Our school is a great place with a real sense of community. Our teachers and students make the school. I feed off of their energy and enthusiasm. While we focus on academics like all schools, we also place a great emphasis on building positive relationships and our teachers do a great job at modeling the importance of being members of a community. Our students embrace these lessons. Finally, our community is very supportive our school and are always looking for ways to rally around each other. It's a great place to be!

What keeps you going through the toughest moments? 

I always try to keep a positive mindset and focus on what is my control. Like everyone, sometimes I lose sight of this but during those times I try to refocus myself and think about the next step. For example, when I am on a long run or hike, I literally think about the next step. Doing that helps me get out of my head and concentrate on the task at hand.

What are you most looking forward to about the actual challenge?

I am looking forward to being at the starting line on the mountain on Utah. I am doing all of the training so that I am prepared but I know that actually being on the mountain with 36 hours and 13 ascents ahead of me will feel nothing like the training. I anticipate that I will feel confident and anxious at the same time. The confidence will come from the preparation but the nerves will come from the unknown. That feeling motivates me. I am also looking forward to meeting the other competitors and hearing their stories about why they are participating in this challenge. I find that when you surround yourself with motivated individuals, it rubs off on you. I am looking forward to seeing what I can learn from these fellow climbers. Finally, I am also looking forward to how my participation in 29029 will impact my outlook on future challenges.

What is your training mantra?

When I train, I think about the improvements I am making and future goals I have. This keeps me motivated to keep moving. When things get tough, I think about the next step only. Once I take that step, I think about the next one and so on.

What is your favorite song to train to?

I listen to music while I run. My favorite song to run to is Bad by U2 which is another connection to Coach Gaine and the basketball team. Bad is always played during the pre-game warmup before the boys take the court. Hearing the song, makes me think of the energy in our gym during a basketball game and it keeps me moving. 

Is there anything else you want to add? 

I have participated in a lot of physical challenges in the past but most have been strength related – bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc. I wanted to do an endurance challenge to push myself out of my “weight lifting comfort zone” but I wanted to avoid something that was heavy on running. This is why I chose 29029 because I thought the climbing would be a better transition to an endurance event.

Little did I know that the majority of the training would involve running. Surprisingly, I have learned to love it. I think the major reason is that because I am truly a novice runner, I am seeing improvements every week. In the beginning, I couldn't run more than a mile or two without stopping and now I am running multiple times a week and have even done an 8-mile run with no stopping. I never would have imagined I could have done that. That type of growth is addicting! I now look forward to my running days.

I have also loved being outside for my training. Again, as a gym rat, I would always be inside. This training has pushed me outside and I have started exploring local parks and trails as I look for more places to train. That has definitely been an added benefit.

I am hoping that my participation in this challenge will inspire others especially my students and that they seek out their own challenges. If we all do that, we will be so much better prepared for the next challenge that life throws at us.

Click here to support Rudy Arietta's 29029 Challenge.

For information about Choose Your Own Challenge and other NF Endurance programs, please visit


The class advisors of the 9th grade came to me and asked if I’d be willing to do the “Tape the Principal to the Wall Challenge” as a fundraiser for their class. I thought it was a cool idea so I said yes. Then they told me that they planned on donating a portion of the proceeds to my climb. They ended up donating $100!

The event was great. I was taped up for three periods (about 2 hours). The whole student body was really into it. In a year where we have had to cancel a lot of our usual school spirit events, it felt nice to introduce something new that got the kids excited. It was a lot of fun.