Enduring the pain for those in need

Last November, the story of a Marine who ran from Florida to Texas carrying the American flag to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project touched me. The WWP is a nonprofit that helps physically and psychologically injured soldiers readjust to their civilian lives back home.

The Marine's story was a calling for me to participate. Later, while driving down Coast Highway in Corona Del Mar, I felt guilty for how wonderful life is for all of us here and how often we forget about the sacrifices that our soldiers and Marines make for us. The day-to-day issues that we may struggle with are trivial in comparison with what our servicemen and women struggle with after ending their tours of duty. I decided that, to make a difference, I needed to do something impressive, dramatic, and beyond the comprehension of most people.

So on Saturday, I will begin a 50-mile, 13-hour trail race at Lake Hughes, west of Lancaster and Palmdale, which will take me along the Leona Truck Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. I will be running in the Leona Divide race, an off-road race in those mountains, where the elevation ranges from 3500 feet to 5500 feet above sea level, is tough enough, even more so while weighing 235 pounds.

I have set a goal of raising $100,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project and, to date, I have raised more than $40,000.

While the experience to get to this point has been a painful and a time-consuming one, it has also been single-handedly the most rewarding experience of my life. The old quote "when you give, you get twice back" is a gross understatement of fact.

I have been touched by the stories of mothers whose children were injured in battle, Marines who lost dear friends, and veterans who were personally aided by the project itself. The amount of generosity people have showered us with has been astounding.

Most people equate the completion of an ultra-marathon to the same physiological experience of a high-speed auto accident. I will suffer through a tremendous amount of pain, both physically and mentally. Without a doubt, the most motivating thing that will keep me going as a I struggle along is how easy my life is compared with a wounded veteran's life upon returning to civilian life. For me, this will be the greatest mental test I have ever attempted to take on.

So far, I have run farther and trained harder than I ever thought possible. Previously, the farthest I had ever run was 6 miles in a single stretch, and I loathed the idea of running for sport, mainly because of my stature and build. Today, the trails at Crystal Cove State Park and the Back Bay loop are my new best friends. When I feel like I can't take one more step further, it is the memory of the injured officers who need our help and all of my supporters who carry me forward.

The preparation for an event like this has been an education in and of itself.

Melissa Metzke and Carl Borg, of Crossfit Newport Beach and Crossfit Endurance, have played a tremendous role in counseling, coaching, and advising me. I started my training larger than most runners — at 265 pounds with 19.7% body fat — and have been focused on shedding as much weight as possible, while still retaining muscle mass.

In training a combination of six days of intensive Crossfit workouts and running sessions a week, sometimes twice a day, I have shed over 30 pounds and 5% body fat over the past four months, through a combination of disciplined diet and rigorous exercise.

My diet is very restrictive, as nutrition plays a huge role in my recovery and energy levels and I must ensure that my everyday dietary intake is sufficient and promotes progress. While exercising for such extended periods, one must struggle through trial and error to ensure that their individual salt and electrolyte supplements are ample, and that one's stomach doesn't react to whatever food they consume. A lot of funny things start happening when the body is exercising for 4-plus hours, and race day isn't the place for experimenting.

I've dedicated a huge part of my life to this endurance challenge, and while the support for me has been above and beyond any expectations I had, I ask anyone who reads this and is touched by my passion and dedication to please participate in this amazing cause by donating at http://www.50miles4heroes.com

SETH DAVENPORT is a Newport Beach resident and senior vice president at Voit Real Estate Services.

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