Mike Erwin is an Army man, so right away you know he’s tough.
Commenting on the 100 miles he plans to run this week to raise money for his Team Red, White & Blue organization, he says he’s not especially worried about fatigue or injury or the possibility of sweltering summer temperatures.
“My biggest concern is the logistics of it,” Erwin told Military Times.
His worries are justified. Erwin began his epic four-day fundraiser on July 31 with a 25-miler in Chicago. Today, he heads to Phoenix, and after that, it’s off to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., where he’ll kick off his final 25 miles on the National Mall.
There’s a lot of travel to coordinate, but Erwin says it’s worth it. His goal is to raise awareness—and $40,000—for Team Red White & Blue, an agency that aims to “deliver consistent, local opportunities for veterans and the community to connect through physical and social activity,” according to the official website.
Erwin, who teaches psychology and leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, founded the nonprofit three years ago, while studying for a master’s degree at the University of Michigan.
“I realized there was no veterans support nonprofit organization focused on fitness—running, triathlons, CrossFit, etc.—for the average veteran, or for veterans who might be struggling psychologically,” he told Military Times. “Lots of the organizations that existed out there were primarily focused on supporting veterans who had physical limitations from combat.”
Already, Team Red, White & Blue has more than 15,000 members in 55 cities, and with this week’s initiative, Erwin hopes to bolster the group’s ambassador program, which organizes fitness camps, subsidizes race-entry fees for veterans, and provides T-shirts for participants.
“We raise money essentially to lower the barrier of entry for veterans to be active in their community,” Erwin said. “I’m running specifically to fundraise for that veteran ambassador program, to try to put shirts on at least 1,000 veterans this year.”
Many of the proud vets who already wear those shirts will be joining Erwin this week, and it’s partially for that reason that he’s not daunted by the miles he’ll cover this week—both by plane and on foot.
“There’s anywhere between 15 and 35 people who are going to come out and run various portions of it,” he said. “That right there is going to be serious motivation.”
More info on the D.C. leg of the run is available here.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg