ARLINGTON, Va. --
A team of six runners, including a triple amputee, are setting out across the United States to accomplish a monumental task known as the Gumpathon. To complete their ambitious journey, the team must travel 3,530 miles through three deserts, four time zones, 10 mountain ranges and 16 states
By completing the Gumpathon, service members hope to raise $1 million for three separate charities, all benefiting wounded warriors from the U.S. and U.K.
“I got the idea for the Gumpathon from having watched the film Forrest Gump about 14-years ago,” said Royal Marine Colour Sgt. Damian Todd. “I thought of what an amazing experience it would be to run across the states, and while I did it raise money for charity. At the time I hadn’t had anything particularly in mind that was motivating enough and had touched me to do that and I kind of shelved the idea.”
Although some ideas don’t fade with time. Around two years ago, Todd brought his initiative to life after visiting with his friend Mark Ormrod, who lost three limbs in Afghanistan due to a landmine. It was then he saw firsthand how the most basic of tasks can be taken for granted, and was touched seeing Ormrod persevering in the face of adversity.
“I felt it was the right time to get the idea off the shelf and do something for wounded soldiers,” Todd said.
Charities benefiting from the Gumpathon include the American Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and the British the Royal Marine Charitable Trust Fund and Help for Heroes. Throughout the voyage, the team plans to collect donations in person and on their website, www.gumpathon.com.
The epic journey began Sept. 10, 2010, starting from the USS Intrepid. The team continued to the nation’s capital where they made an appearance at the British Embassy and Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. Each person will run at least 20 miles every day relay style and finish at the Santa Monica Pier in California, where Todd plans to dive into the ocean for a victory swim. Their arrival date is currently slated for Nov. 11.
As long and arduous as the trek may be, motivation is high among the team. Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles “Chunks” Padilla, the only U.S. Marine on the team, is eager to support the wounded warriors.
“Knowing that there’s Marines downrange giving their all; this is just my way of helping the individuals and Marines that are getting injured,” Padilla said.
Though Todd wanted a U.S. Marine on the team, Padilla’s presence is rather special, considering he worked with Royal Marines for three years, teaching their mountain leader course.
“They’re a lot like us, they’re animals, they’re warriors and they got the can-do attitude,” he said.
As mind-boggling as the crossing may seem, the men as well as the support staff are motivated and committed to working as a cohesive team to accomplish this worthy goal. Even Ormrod, a triple amputee, will run at least one mile a day utilizing a prosthesis designed specifically for the journey.
With their “can-do” attitudes, the team carries an indomitable spirit.
“The mindset is there, so everything else will follow,” Padilla said.
However, difficulties are not limited to keeping everyone happy; the physical implications of running more than 3,500 miles can also be extremely taxing. Fortunately, the team has acquired some help in the form of Jules Payne, mother of a Royal Marine, and a physical therapist that specializes in preventative and post injury care. The responsibility of keeping the runners fit to run falls on her capable hands. She’s also pulling double-duty as the RV driver for the first few hundred miles of the trip.
“At one point we were lost trying to find a campsite, and a lady went out of her way 20-odd miles to get us there,” Payne said. “She just said ‘follow me.’”
With motivation high and a capable team behind the effort, the Gumpathon team is bound for California. During a speech at the British Embassy in Washington, Todd said completing the voyage will be a colossal achievement, but what truly matters is the fundraising efforts to support our wounded warriors.
To donate, text “GUMP” to 50555 or visit www.gumpathon.com. Running enthusiasts can also go out and show support by tracking their progress via the Gumpathon website.
“Our pain will help reduce that of others,” Todd said. “We will be in pain for two-and-a-bit months, but guys like Mark will be in pain for the rest of their lives. So that’s the sacrifice we make, and the sacrifice we want people to make is that $10 here, $10 there.”