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5 questions with Army Maj. Mike Erwin, founder of Team Red, White & Blue

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Army Maj. Mike Erwin, center, runs in Washington, D.C., during the final leg of his 100 miles in 100 hours challenge for Team Red, White & Blue.

On July 30, Army Maj. Mike Erwin ran 25 miles in Chicago. By Aug. 2, he’d 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 included 25-mile runs in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Erwin created Team Red, White & Blue in 2010 while studying psychology and leadership at the University of Michigan. He 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,” Erwin said.

The organization, now in its fourth year, has more than 15,000 members and chapters in 55 cities.

Q. Why did you start Team Red, White & Blue?

A. 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. Lots of the organizations that existed out there were really primarily focused on supporting veterans who had physical limitations from combat.

Q. Where does the fundraising money go?

A. When people fundraise for the organization, it goes to one of three things. The first thing it goes to is our veteran ambassador program. I’m running specifically to fundraise for that program, to try to put shirts on at least 1,000 veterans this year. No. 2 is our [athlete] camps. … We fly veterans in from all around the country from various Team Red, White & Blue chapters to participate in those various events. The last one — and the most important expense — is our chapters. We raise money to essentially lower the barrier of entry for veterans to be active in their community.

Q. What was your goal with the 100-in-100 challenge?

A. The reason for doing this — yeah, part of it is fundraising — but really, it’s … to connect with our chapters out there. 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 & Blue chapter. We’re not just providing the inspiration and the team for them to work out with, we’re providing a social network that meets in the flesh … to get advice from, that will help veterans reintegrate.

Q. What sort of bumps did you encounter during the challenge?

[In Phoenix] the temperatures approached 100, but the sun was also out. I drank about 180 ounces throughout the run but could tell that I was severely dehydrated at the end. I forced some food down but felt terrible. We jumped in the car and drove six hours to Los Angeles. I drank another 70 ounces of water or Gatorade and felt terrible the whole way. Finally, my body pulled through, but I was definitely worried about the next 25 miles. It was 102 degrees when we left Phoenix; when I got out of the car at 6 p.m., it was … 40 degrees cooler!

Q. What’s next for Team Red, White & Blue?

A. This 100-mile challenge signals the start of a significant growth period. As 1.2 million service members transition to the civilian world in the next four years, tens of thousands of them will join Team RWB and turn to our chapters to stay physically and socially active. We are 16,000 strong but just a fraction of the size we will become. I am most proud that this 100-in-100 run captured the spirit and positive energy of Team RWB.

 

Erwin has raised more than $20,000 through his 100 in 100 challenge. For more information, see his fundraiser page at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/100miles100hours/5marathons5days.

To join Team Red, White & Blue visit www.TeamRWB.org/get-involved/join-the-team.

Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 31 ultramarathons. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .