Gary Allen believes every person was born to run, and he's proving it by running 500 miles from Maine to the Super Bowl (in New Jersey) in the bitter winter cold to raise money and awareness for wounded veterans.
Photo credit: Kevin R. Morris
The 57-year-old is covering 50 miles a day, 11 or 12 hours non-stop in sub-zero temps, through the Northeast, and he doesn't even have tickets to the game. He figured he'd capitalize on all the hype to bring attention to a cause that's more important to him.
"One of my passions in life is running," Gary tells the Good News blog. "Running at times can be a pretty selfish endeavor, so it feels good to take something you're passionate about and make it not selfish, and do it for the greater good."
He adds, "I don't want anything, I just want to get there, and raise awareness that we have a lot of men and women that get really, really hurt doing their jobs that they're sent to do. I felt like if I could combine my passion and this football game that gets a lot of attention, and throw those ingredients into a mixing pot to give attention to our hurt troops, that's a good thing."
Gary spoke to us after hitting the 300 mile mark in Western Massachusetts, roughly 20 miles outside of Connecticut. He's been running for a week now, and has raised $11,000 in the process. Along the way, strangers and supporters have shown up, offering hot tea, cheers, and at one point, a huge stash of Girl Scout cookies. A swat team even came out and joined him for a leg of the route.
On day five, the cold momentarily broke Gary. He had to be hospitalized for dehydration, and was given three liters of water. Doctors told him to take a day off, but Gary kept running.
"What's really helping me is, as I go along, when I'm sort of feeling pretty awful, all the sudden someone shows up and says, 'I'm a wounded vet and thank you,'" he explains. "It makes me suck it up and keep moving. When you look at someone right in the eye who has been hurt in battle, you realize the money you're raising might help them and that's pretty powerful."
While the mission is certainly tremendous, for Gary, who resides in Great Cranberry, Maine, it's becoming a part of the routine. Last winter, he ran from Maine to Washington DC for President Obama's second inauguration. Over the years, he's completed more than 90 marathons, including 21 Boston Marathons, and on average, he jogs 10-12 miles daily.
Gary's current job is organizing a marathon in his home state, but he's also worked as a carpenter and boat builder.
Despite what others have told him, Gary says running as much as he does has only made him stronger, and that taking care of his body has kept him from injury. He eats somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 calories a day to stay fueled on his current mission, and he's wearing several layers of clothing to stay warm.
"I'm not worrying about what's behind me or ahead of me, for something like this you're all about constant forward motion," Gary notes.
The athlete says seeing the impact he's had on others makes it all worth it. "Yeah I'm cold and I'm miserable, but then I think about what our troops go through and I know I can handle it."
You can track Gary's status and support him via his website.
Photo credit for second image: Mary Ropp, Crow Athletics
Did you do something kind for a person or cause, and never confessed to it? Share your story with us!