For his 70th birthday, Strider Mike Brooks pledged to run seven marathons in seven days in seven states, all to raise money for Camp Sunshine, a Maine retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Find out how the races and fundraising went in Mike's race report below.
By Mike Brooks
Hello from the back of the pack. This is a race report, but more important a report on a fundraiser that is still going but already very successful. I wanted to do a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine on my 70th birthday (11/17/2015). My original plan was to run/walk 70 miles in a Lewiston park. After talking to Mike Smith at Camp Sunshine we decided that doing seven marathons in seven days would draw more attention to Camp Sunshine and raise more money.
In preparation for the April 2016 races I got a cortisone shot in my bone on bone knee and another one in my spine. I have a herniated disc and it was pushing against a nerve causing pain down my left side. These two shots minimized the pain I would have in all seven races. I'm glad there was no drug testing (smile).
The races were in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois, in that order, and were part of the MainlyMarathons Riverboat Series. They had a 5K and half marathon also. There is no time limit on any of the races and the only awards are for first-time marathoners and whoever finishes last. They do have excellent finisher medals.
The goal of most runners is to just finish the race. Some runners do all seven, but most do fewer. If someone is trying to do races in every state this is an easy and economical way to do it—one plane ticket and fewer motel stays and rental cars. As slow as I am, no time limit really helped me.
Marathon #1: Louisiana (April 17, 2016)
My brother Walter and I flew into Memphis taking in a few sights before driving south to the first race in Louisiana. We also stopped at the Vicksburg Battlefield in Mississippi.
The first race was in a city park on an out-and-back course with one hill that took 22 laps to complete. All these laps might seem boring, but there were turtles to watch (one passed me on lap 19), ducks, a very large snake on the side of trail, and always someone to cheer on or talk to. Each lap I picked up an elastic to keep track of my mileage. There were lap counters also and a camera at the turnaround to keep everybody honest.
In a previous race, Hanna, the R.D.'s wife, had put a garter belt on my leg and added a dollar bill on one of my laps. That gave me the idea to wear a garter belt in all seven races to raise money. With the garter belt on my left leg I started out on my first race after Clint, the R.D., announced why I was wearing the garter belt. The girls put the money into the garter belt while the guys would hand me the money.
As in all these races I did laps with friends talking as we ran and walked. I have done hundreds of marathons with these friends and we still find plenty of things to talk about. Each lap you go by the aid station that is well stocked with a wide selection of food and drink.
Norm is the cook who travels with his wife Kathy to all the races. He cooks burritos, beans and rice, soups and many other delicious dishes. Be careful or you could gain weight doing these races. When it is hot Norm hands out freeze pops. His wife counts laps, helps with registration, and does several other jobs like reminding me to pick up my gear at the end of each race. I stopped during the race to do a TV interview that lasted about 20 minutes.
My only goal in these races was to get the word out about Camp Sunshine, raise money, and finish. The race went well, sunny, in the high 70s, and I had fun.
Finishing it I was off for a 100-mile ride to our motel. Brother Walter did all the driving, packed up the car, and kept the beer cold. Driving we went by a lot of very modest homes and I wondered if there was some poor kid suffering from a serious illness inside. What a blessing it would be for that child and his family to spend a week at Camp Sunshine. My other goal was to let people in the Southeast know that Camp Sunshine is available to them for free.
Marathon #2: Arkansas (April 18, 2016)
Race #2 was in an Arkansas state park on a very flat out-and-back 1.31-mile course that is paved and also has some crushed gravel. It takes 20 laps to finish the marathon on this scenic tree lined course. The last time I did this race it poured and had thunder and lightning. I was running with Sabra when Clint told her "go jump in your car. Mike, keep running."
This year it was sunny and in the 70s, and there was more chatting with old friends and new ones. On these out-and-back courses you see all the runners on every lap, which really makes for a social event.
Marathon #3: Mississippi (April 19, 2016)
Race #3 was in another state park, this time in Mississippi. The course was much like yesterday—1.31 miles out-and-back, scenic, flat, and on paved roads. We lucked out that none of the courses were flooded. The south had record-breaking rain weeks before we arrived and the water had receded just recently from some of the courses and you could still see some minor flooding in places.
Another nice weather day, and more money in the garter belt. As we drove the 175 miles to our next location I did a phone interview with a newspaper reporter. Camp Sunshine had hired a media company to publicize the races. A Poland TV station even picked it up!
Marathon #4: Tennessee (April 20, 2016)
Race #4 was about 30 miles north of Memphis in Meeman-Shelby State Park, Tenn. The course was a 2.184-mile out-and-back paved course and rather flat. It was well shaded by large trees and had temps in the 70s with off and on showers.
Norm the cook and I decided to have a contest to see who could raise the most money wearing a garter belt. Norm bribed runners with his position as cook. When I finished the race we counted the money: Norm $172, me $166. Norm should become a politician the way he talked runners into donating to Camp Sunshine. A 125-mile drive, two phone interviews, and we were at our motel for my next Riverboat Series marathon.
Marathon #5: Kentucky (April 21, 2016)
Race #5 was a on a two-loop course. The south loop was paved with two hills, one very steep but short. This loop had excellent views of the Mississippi River with the constant movement of barges. The second loop was on a grass trail through Civil War Earthworks.
This was by far the toughest course, but also the most scenic. It took 18 loops for the marathon. It poured on our way to the race, but it turned out to be a hot, humid sunny day. I was still feeling good and having fun each day. Afterwards, an easy 60-mile drive and we were at our motel just two miles from the next race site.
Marathon #6: Missouri (April 22, 2016)
Race #6 was in a city park in Cape Girardeau, Mo. The course was a 2.62-mile out-and-back paved trail with easy hills and partially shaded. It was sunny and warm. I should mention that all the courses were open to the public and I did get some strange looks for wearing a garter belt. What did they think, I wonder?
We had to stay about 30 miles north of the next race, but it was an easy two-hour drive including checking out the race site. Most of the meals we ate during the series were fast food. This was partly necessary because of limited time and my brother not liking to try new food.
Well, this night Brother Walter had a craving for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Did I mention he has Crones Disease? KFC had a buffet and Walter really loaded up on the fried chicken, big mistake. He was sick all night and part of the next day, blaming it on the Colonel. He swears he will never do that again.
Marathon #7: Illinois (April 23, 2016)
Race #7 was the easiest course. Tunnel Hill State Park in Vienna, Ill., was the location of this 2.184-mile out-and-back course on a gravel rail trail. Mike Smith from Camp Sunshine came down with his son Caleb to run the marathon with me. Mike had never done a marathon and I was hoping to get a little revenge.
In 2009 I told Mike I was planning on doing a Ten Day race in New York City as a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine. Mike came up with the idea that I should run 500 miles! I told Mike, "That is 50 miles a day. I am 64 and think that goal is a little much." Well, Mike talked me into trying for 500. I did fine the first six days—330 plus miles despite record-breaking heat. I had severe back pain the last four days but only needed 31 miles the last day. I could only go 100 feet and would have to stop, stretch, and sometimes roll on the ground.
Well, I came up short in that race, 491 miles, but I raised $11,000 for Camp Sunshine, $1,000 more than my goal. That was the most painful race I have ever done and the 500-mile goal was the reason. This is why I wanted to see Mike suffer a little in this marathon (smile).
Mike started the marathon, developed a hot spot or blister on his heel and was having some back pain. After a few more miles he felt better and finished the marathon in good shape, bummer. I did a 30-minute TV interview during the race, which included running back and forth in front of the camera. Guess what? The mic was not on so I had to do about 15 minutes of it over again. Mike finished before me, and I was presented a beautiful stain glass award for my fundraising efforts.
We drove partway to Memphis and spent the next day touring Memphis. We had a 6 a.m. flight the next morning and it turned into the trip from hell. Our flight left late so we missed our connection in D.C. Our standby flight was overbooked. We finally got on a plane only to wait almost two hours on the ground because our flight plan somehow got lost. Going up and down stairs to shuttle buses with my luggage did in my knee. I am just glad it happened after the races.
I also just found out I am going to have open heart surgery in July and hope to have my knee replaced in January. I was told over two years ago not to run because of my heart, so I am looking forward to getting this valve and knee replaced. Hopefully I will come out better. Lucky me that everything held together during the races.
The Camp Sunshine fundraiser is a big success. So far we have raised $17,700, which is enough to send seven families to Camp Sunshine. I like all the 7's—7 marathons in 7 states in 7 days at 70 and 7 families going to Camp Sunshine.
Thanks, Walter for all the driving and keeping the beer cold. Thanks, Mike Smith for all your help with the fundraiser. I would not have raised half as much without your help.
A special thanks to everyone who donated. Thanks to your donations seven families will be spending a week at Camp Sunshine where they can relax, meet other families with the same problems, get counseling, and just enjoy a week in Maine.
Camp Sunshine fundraiser donations can still be made at crowdrise.com.
Enter "Mike Brooks" to find the fundraiser.
Or, you can mail checks to:
35 Acadia Road
Casco, ME, 04015
Congratulations, Mike! Your fundraising and running efforts and generosity are inspiring! We wish you all the best with your upcoming heart surgery and knee replacement.
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