This morning, Army Maj. Mike Erwin ran 25 miles in Chicago, and by Friday he’ll have added another 75 miles, three states and both coasts to his training log.
Erwin, founder of Team Red White & Blue, set out to run 100 miles in 100 hours to raise money and awareness for the veterans support organization. After Chicago, his itinerary includes 25-mile runs in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
“The reason for doing this — yeah, part of it is fundraising — but really it’s more than anything it’s to connect with our chapters out there,” Erwin said. “And to continue to really push our message about how much our organization values physical fitness and how important we think it is for active-duty service members as they are transitioning from the military, to get involved with the local Team Red White and Blue chapter.”
Erwin created Team Red White & Blue in 2010 while studying psychology and leadership at the University of Michigan.
“I realized there was not a veterans support nonprofit organization that was focused on fitness — running, triathlons, CrossFit, etc. — for the average veteran, or for veterans who might be struggling psychologically,” he said. “Lots of the organizations that existed out there were really primarily focused on supporting veterans who had physical limitations from combat.”
Erwin said his goal was to create an organization that gives veterans a community to belong to, where they can meet others who will help them reintegrate.
“We’re providing that network that helps veterans to combat the tendency to isolate themselves as they go through a difficult transition from soldier to civilian.”
The organization, now in its third year, has over 15,000 members and chapters in 55 cities.
Funds raised go toward the organization’s veteran ambassador program — which provides each member with a technical Team Red White & Blue shirt — fitness camps and assistance programs, such as helping defray the costs for race entries.
“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 fund-raise for that veteran ambassador program, to try to put shirts on at least 1,000 veterans this year.”
At the beginning of the challenge, he’d raised more than $16,000 of his $40,000 goal.
So how does he feel about running 100 miles in 100 hours?
“My biggest concern are the logistics of it,” he said.
After Erwin’s run in Chicago, he’ll catch a plane to Phoenix, a trip he hopes goes smoothly and delivers him to Arizona in time for his 0400 run start. From there he’ll drive to Los Angeles, then catch a plane to Washington, D.C., for the final leg of his run.
“I’ve put the training in over the past 6 weeks. I’ll be running alongside great Team Red White and Blue members all along the way,” he said. “There’s anywhere between 15 and 35 people who are going to come out and run various portions of it. That right there is going to be serious motivation.”