It Starts with Why

Life as an ultra-runner is a parody of sorts. It’s painful, it’s dangerous, it’s expensive, it wears on you physically, mentally and emotionally. You train really hard for these events, sacrificing your body and your free time in the process. And you do this all not for money, not for fame and not because there’s some shiny trophy waiting for you at the finish line. Ultra-running is way more primitive, way purer than that. That’s the beauty of it. It hasn’t been corrupted by dollars and doping. You do it to challenge yourself, to push pre-existing limits, to see how far and how fast you can go under extreme circumstances, to share an incredibly deep experience with your fellow competitors, and you do it solely with what’s in your heart and what’s in your pack. And when you reach that finish line, you feel such a sense of accomplishment yet complete curiosity over what the heck just transpired. It sucks you in. Hopefully you’ve learned a little about yourself and your newfound friends in the process. Afterall those newfound friends have grinded and absorbed immense amounts of pain and suffering for hours & days by your side. Sounds fun huh?

People always assume I was a big runner in high school or college. Not so much. I hated distance running, like most people. And I wasn’t very good at it. Clearly I don’t have the traditional runner’s body. But the older you get, as the body evolves, you need to adapt and find new ways to compete and test your boundaries. What I love about ultra-running is that it doesn’t require any fancy equipment. You can basically do it anywhere. It’s what’s in your heart that matters.

I feel very blessed to have befriended Mike Horvath when I did and learned much from watching Mike and his wife Jolie compassionately raise a beautiful little girl with a serious medical condition. I’ve been so inspired by Luci over the years as she battles and continues to persevere (with a huge smile on her face) despite facing the type of sick days that I can’t even imagine. And experiencing them on a way too consistent basis. And I’ve been equally inspired by the hundreds and thousands of families/children I’ve met over the years within the MAGIC community. You all have provided so much fuel and motivation for me, I could never properly return the favor.

Making the decision to run across the Sahara for Luci was a simple one. As has every decision since. Yet everyday now…sometimes only once or twice but usually much more frequently I get the common questions…what insane adventure are you planning next? Are you crazy? Do you have a death wish? Are you running to your next meeting? I usually just chuckle and robotically shake my head in agreement…of course I’m nuts (thinking wow if only you saw me in college!). But then I ponder…how is anything nuts when you’re following your heart and doing what you love to do? And how is it crazy when that passion sparks such life, such desire, and so many intense emotions – fear, excitement, wonderment, jubilation, heartbreak? Sounds pretty sane to me.

Running for The MAGIC Foundation sparked a passion and carved a path in my life I would’ve never expected. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that distance running could provide an avenue to drive a message and push for change. But I guess it’s human nature to be drawn to danger. And drama. That’s what ultra-running provides in spades. And if you’re following someone who’s willing to put it all on the line for a cause, maybe you want to learn just a bit about the “Why”.

I know I’ll never win an ultra. I simply don’t possess that level of talent. But that’s completely fine with me. Winning can be defined in a host of ways. To me, winning is knowing I left it all on the field of play, driving hard with each and every step until that finish line is reached. Quitting is the only way you fail in this sport. I’ve never done that once in my life, and I have no intention on starting now.

It’s clear that this country has reached a scary crossroads. We war with each other, spew hate on social media and look for reasons to tear each other down. The years of scar tissue and resentment has left no room for compromise, only division. We don’t listen to one another anymore, we only attack. If we continue on this path it’s certain to lead to our own demise.

Through all of this our veterans, our military heroes, the protectors and providers of our freedoms, the men and women who allow us average civilians to live freely, without fear and chase our dreams every single day, have been forgotten. They heroically risk their lives on the battlefield for us. Some make it home. Some don’t. Those that do are often treated as afterthoughts and left alone to fend for themselves after experiencing a hell I couldn’t imagine in my worst nightmares. Of course the transition will be challenging. Of course they will face periods of deep dark depression. Of course they will look for ways to fill that empty space previously occupied by intense gunfire, death & despair. Yet we too often abandon these men and women when they need us most. It has to end. Abraham Lincoln was right “Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”

This is why I’ve chosen to put my life on hold to run across this great nation. It’s why our tremendous team of patriots have sacrificed much to be apart of this event. American Sniper Chris Kyle, who founded The Guardian for Heroes Foundation said it best when he stated “It’s our duty to serve those who serve us.” That’s what The Run Across America is all about. Our vets don’t get the necessary resources and help they require upon returning home from battle. Their struggle is real. Their depression is real. The 22 number is real. It’s devastating and too often ignored. And once again, these individuals are the protectors and providers of our freedoms! We should all be so grateful. We all owe. This problem isn’t going to be solved strictly at the governmental level. Us civilians can do more. I know I can do more.

With all that said, it’s time for change. It’s time to get off the couch, stop the social media armchair quarterbacking and do something about it. A little less talk and a lot more action. We’re officially taking a stand going BeastMode for the Brave, grassroots style, to do our small part to serve those who’ve served us heroically each and every day. After 15-months of planning, in support of The Guardian for Heroes Foundation to provide direct aid to our veterans, our heroes, the men and women who make everything possible for us average civilians in our day-to-day lives, and alongside a phenomenal team of loyalists who’ve endured huge sacrifices to make this event a reality, I’ll be departing from the deck of the USS Midway the morning of 9/11 and running 50-miles/day for 60 straight days finishing at Ground Zero on Veteran’s Day, 11/11.