By MONICA OROSZ
Charleston Daily Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — To hear Jamie Summerlin call himself a “baby” at running is honestly hilarious.
What he lacks in years of running service he surely made up for with a little project he undertook for 100 days this spring into summer.
The retired Marine from Monongalia County decided to run across the country in support of the Wounded Warrior Project and other veteran support efforts.
You don’t have to do the math. Here’s how it shook out: Summerlin averaged 34 miles a day. When he began March 26 in Washington State, it was cold and even snowy in some places. By the time he finished last month by dipping his feet in the Atlantic Ocean, it was pretty darn hot.
He ran in the rain. He ran in the dark. Shin pain after Day 5 meant walking the next four days. And covering 34-35 miles took 12 hours on those days.
But here’s the thing about this married, 39-year-old father of two: “The fact is I’m stubborn. I refuse to quit.”
That’s a great message Summerlin can share with runners signed up for the 40th Charleston Distance Run. He’s the featured speaker at the pasta dinner hosted for runners on Aug. 31, the night before the race.
It would be hard to whine about 15 miles after hearing about Summerlin’s trip.
First was the preparation, which involved lots of daily running. Summerlin often rose at 3:30 a.m. to run, followed by more running after work.
For three months last fall, he would rise early, run 16 miles, have breakfast, run seven miles to work, work all day and then run the seven miles home.
“That trained me mentally to deal with everything. At that point all I did was eat, sleep and run,” he said.
He also entered some long races with distances of 50 kilometers to 100 miles.
Still, almost nothing could prepare him for the reality of covering more than 30 miles a day for 100 days. He says he carried on every day because he had the support of his wife, RV driver and personal photographer, Tiffany, and of their two children, Shayna, 10, and Nicholas, 12. Tiffany also is a retired Marine.
And he carried on knowing there are many veterans who cannot run and who are struggling to cope after life in the service.
“When I decided to do this, it was a no-brainer to do it in support of our men and women who are serving,” Summerlin said. “There was no greater motivation than to give back to them. They’re the heroes.”
Summerlin visited a veteran’s hospital in Oregon on Day 3 of his run. He talked to veterans and told them his effort was about them. “One guy afterward told me it was the first time he’d ever felt like someone outside those walls cared about him.
“That was all I needed to get through the mountains and the heat and the snow.”
More visits at more hospitals would follow along the way. At each one, Summerlin thanked his fellow veterans.
“More tears were shed in those visits than I could ever count,” he said.
“I kept telling myself it was 100 days of temporary pain for me. Many of these men and women would be suffering from their terrible injuries the rest of their lives.”
Summerlin credits many with supporting his efforts, from his Morgantown employers who let him have time off from his information technology job to Two Rivers Treads, the running store that donated 10 pairs of shoes. Donors throughout the country helped Summerlin raise $50,000 for veterans’ causes.
That’s just the beginning, he said.
No, he’s not planning another cross-country run any time soon — actually never, he says.
“I’ve got nothing more to prove, really,” he said.
But he hopes to continue to find ways to raise money for veterans, including establishing races across the country.
Summerlin is still running, but he’s taking it easy for a while.
“It will take six months for my body to recover, if I take it easy. It’s not a normal thing, what I did,” he said. “I’m not getting up and running 20 miles. But I’ve been running four miles or so.”
He promises he will lope along the 15-mile course of the Distance Run, and he certainly has earned that right. He still loves running.
“If I could get paid to run every day, I would.”