CLEVELAND - A local woman is spending the next four days running across Ohio to raise money and awareness for combat-wounded veterans.
Medina resident Connie Gardner will run from Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland to Bengals Stadium in Cincinnati. She departed Browns Stadium shortly after 5:00 a.m. Thursday. She anticipates it will take her four days, running a little more than 60 miles a day, to reach Cincinnati. The run is 242 miles.
After running the first 30 miles, Gardner stopped in her hometown of Medina and downplayed the challenge, which seems staggering to most.
"It shouldn't be bad. I don't look at it as running 240 miles. I look at it as, I ran 30 miles this morning. I'm going to run 30 miles right now," Gardner said.
Gardner is part of Patriot Runners, a group aimed to help combat-wounded veterans return to recreational sports to help them cope with post traumatic stress disorders and brain injuries. The money raised from the run will go to veterans' physical therapy costs, prosthesis training and overall awareness.
Army Corporal Josh Sommers, 25, of Ashland, was partially paralyzed in June of 2010 after he was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan.
He is now blind and partially paralyzed on his left side. However, Sommers has made tremendous progress. Last year, he could barely walk. He is now walking for 25 minutes on a treadmill. His goal is to run a marathon one day.
"Why not? Go big or go home," Sommers said.
Sommers is the the kind of hero that The Patriot Runners hope to assist through fundraising.
The grass roots effort was created by another local endurance athlete, Charles Elkins.
"I'm really driven by it because I've run the Bataan Death March Marathon in White Sands, New Mexico and I got to run alongside veterans that lost limbs," Elkins said.
Sommers said he was very impressed by Gardner's athletic commitment and her desire to help injured veterans.
"I can't even express in words what she's doing, how awesome I think it is," Sommers said.
Gardner's run across Ohio will also serve as training for her run across America, which is scheduled to take place next June.
She will run from San Francisco to New York and anticipates it will take 45 days to complete.
In September, Gardner set an American women's record after running 149 miles in 24 hours in Poland.