“And he’s off!” Liza Sisler posted on Facebook along with a picture of her husband John running down a woodsy North Carolina trail early Wednesday evening.
Liza, a marketing director at Perficient, has joined John on an incredible journey. He’s running 200 miles – non-stop – to raise awareness and funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. His solo Tuna 200 Run began just outside of Raleigh, N.C., and will finish 203.61 miles later at Atlantic Beach.
Liza and John’s friend Ashby Ray, who set the course record last year at 64:50:39, are serving as John’s “crew.” They are driving ahead of John and stopping at turns on the course to guide him in the right direction and provide food, water, and moral support during the 50 to 70 hours it will take to complete the run. Their friend Sarah Gibbons joined Wednesday evening for a while, and more friends will be catching up with them tonight.
“We will do a lot of waiting and make sure John’s OK when he reaches us,” Liza said. “I’m carrying all of his stuff in the car. I’ll make sure he’s eating, make sure he’s staying hydrated. There will be points where he’ll need to walk. One of us will walk with him.”
John’s physical condition is her top concern. She has a scale on hand and will weight him periodically. He agreed before the run that if he lost more than 8 percent of body weight he would have to stop.
She brought plenty of calorie-rich foods to keep his energy level up – 3 pounds of precooked bacon, brownies, cookies, potato chips, honey, almond butter, and creamy Kerrygold Irish butter. “He drinks butter coffee and will put the Irish butter in and shake it up. We also have coconut oil. A lot of it is to get more fats to address calorie deficiency.”
There becomes a point in the run where it goes beyond the physical. It’s also extremely mental.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of cajoling and pushing them forward, and sometimes it’s giving them permission to stop,” Liza said.
Liza and Ashby aren’t the only ones cheering John on. His friends and family from around the world are rooting for him, too. Liza is keeping them apprised of his progress with updates to his Road to 100 Facebook page. The page launched in January 2011 to track John’s training and participation in other ultraruns. He ran 100 miles in the Hinson 24 two years ago, completing 10 10-mile loops. He went for another 100 last year but had to stop due to a bad shoe fit.
The Tuna 200 Run will be the longest run he’s ever attempted. His motivation this time centers on raising awareness of the high suicide rates of U.S. soldiers returning from combat and the challenges they face re-acclimating to civilian life. The cause hits home for John. He joined the U.S. Army after graduating from the University of Akron in Ohio and serving as an Army ROTC member. He went to Airborne School around the time of Operation Desert Storm and was discharged because they didn’t have enough roles.
“He got a check, bought his first computer with it, and ended up in IT,” Liza said. “He didn’t end up with a career he thought he would have.”
John had wanted a career in the armed services and has been struck lately by what returning soldiers go through and how difficult it can be to adjust.
“It’s an incredible thing when you look at what people in this country are willing to do to keep not just our country safe but the entire world safe,” Liza said. “They make such sacrifices and then there maybe isn’t always the support they need. I think it’s a really good thing to raise awareness for.”
John is collecting donations for the Wounded Warrior Project through Crowdwise here. He was 27 percent to his $10,000 goal at the time of this posting.
So far, John and crew are off to a good start – lack of sleep and all.
“You kind of take it one step at a time,” Liza said. “The way he looks at it, if you’re getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other, the distance doesn’t matter.”
Read more about John’s previous runs and motivations for the Tuna 200 in this News & Observer article.
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