Everyone has special talents that can be used to help someone else. For marine veteran and ultramarathon runner, Chris Cantrell, 47, those talents include mental discipline and the ability to run long distances — abilities that he used last week to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
For 48-hours last week — noon Wednesday to noon Friday — Cantrell ran on a treadmill at We Run LLC, on Dodge Road NE, Cedar Rapids, to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.
This is the second year Cantrell has participated in the challenge.
Last year, backed by his running buddies from Team Red, White and Blue, a veterans’ outreach organization, Cantrell said he ran 118 miles and raised more than $4,000.
This year, Cantrell squashed the previous record, running more than 150 miles. The amount Cantrell raised wasn’t readily available by press time.
Cantrell said he first heard about the Dreadmill Challenge last year, when a woman in Virginia put together an event where people could sign up to run 100 miles on a treadmill to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.
But Cantrell said he wanted to take it a step further.
“I just thought if I’m going to do this — if I’m going to do 48 hours on a treadmill and do all the associated training for that, let’s go big and raise some money,” he said. “Let’s see if I can’t get some people on board.”
With his mind made up, Cantrell said he talked to some of his local running buddies, told them his plan and asked them to him pull off his idea.
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We Run LLC agreed to host the event in their Cedar Rapids store and Northtown Cycling and Fitness agreed to donate a second treadmill, so Cantrell had a backup machine if the first one broke down. Additionally, the second treadmill would allow people to stop in and walk or run with Cantrell. Other local businesses donated items for raffle and door prizes.
“So basically … we just planned a big two-day party,” he said. “You know, we wanted people to come in a have a good time and tell good jokes, bad jokes, hang out, heckle me, stop by and encourage me. Anything we could do to create a fun environment and draw people in, and hopefully while they’re there they’ll make a donation.”
For most, the idea of running 20 miles, let alone 150 might seem impossible, but for Cantrell running has been a constant in his life.
“I’ve run off and on since I was a kid,” he said. “I did track and cross-country in school, and when I was in high school, if I couldn’t sleep, I’d get up and go out for a long run. I’ve run a few half-marathons, two full marathons and several ultramarathons, anywhere from 50 kilometers to 100 miles. And, when I was in the marine corps, running is just a part of life.”
His military experience, running marathons and ultramarathons and training to run long distances he said prepared him to meet this challenge.
“One of the things that the Marine Corps did a good job of is teaching me to deal with the monotonous,” he said. “And I think some of the things that I learned from last year’s challenge that were important this year, is I learned some different techniques to care for my feet that helped me keep my feet in better shape during the challenge. The other thing is I think had a better grasp of the discomfort that I was facing and was better mentally prepared to live in that, to use a term ultramarathoners use, ‘pain cave.’”
Ultimately, Cantrell said the goal is to raise money for Alzheimer’s research, which is a cause that is close to his heart.
“My father-in-law has dementia and my wife and I are his primary caretakers,” he said. “So for me, this is personal. For me it’s like I’m raising money for him.”
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