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'Everyone called us crazy'

Lynbrook students run 48 miles in two days to aid wounded veterans

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Three boys, two days, 144 miles. From March 5 to 7, Lynbrook High School sophomores Max Cordes, Nathan Santoli and Jesse Jean completed the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge, an international event in which participants run four miles every four hours for two straight days to raise money for the charity of their choice.

The three 10th-graders decided to focus their fundraising efforts on the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that aids veterans with physical and mental injuries.

“We chose Wounded Warrior because we all care so much about our veterans, and we realize how much they sacrifice for us,” Santoli said. The boys noted that they have a personal connection to military service, because each of their grandfathers served in combat. By the end of the weekend-long run, they had been pledged more than $3,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The trio was inspired to join the challenge by Goggins, a former Navy Seal and now a motivational speaker. Goggins experienced poverty and abuse as a child, but after completing his military service with honor, he climbed the ranks to become one of the world’s best ultra-endurance athletes. His book, “Can’t Hurt Me,” motivates many, including Santoli, who shared it with his friends after reading it. “Goggins’s stories about how he runs to train his mind really stayed with me,” Santoli said. “I thought about it throughout the entire run, pushing through the pain, and remembering that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.”

Santoli said he got interested in motivational speakers and self-help books about three years ago, a passion that his lifelong friends Cordes and Jean now share. “We’re all very healthy mind-oriented,” Cordes said. “After hearing Goggins speak, we can all agree that the mind is way more powerful than most people know, and we’re able to apply this knowledge to everything: helping friends through difficult times, overcoming stress and, of course, completing this run.”

The students first heard of the challenge about two months ago via social media, and soon after, they decided they would take part. After attempting to recruit friends, family and classmates to join, they quickly realized they would be the only three in Lynbrook taking part. “Everyone called us crazy,” said Cordes. “I mean, it is crazy. If you had told me this last year, I never would’ve thought it was possible, but I couldn’t be happier that we did it.”

Even for Cordes, a cross-country runner, the challenge certainly seemed daunting. But, for Santoli and Jean, neither of whom had run track, the 48 miles were uncharted territory.

“We started out very energetic,” Jean said. “On our first run, we ran through streets screaming and laughing.”

Quickly, however, the fatigue caught up with them. “Waking up to run four miles at 3 a.m., especially after we’d already completed 24 miles, was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Cordes recalled. He explained that the three of them could not have gotten through the run without teamwork, pushing each other to keep going and never give up, even when all they wanted to do was sleep.

Between running intervals, the boys stretched, massaged their muscles and loaded up on water and carbohydrates. Then, they fell into a much-needed sleep. Two hours later, the alarm would sound once again to wake them for another run. Their biggest concern leading up to the event was the potential for physical injury, especially considering their lack of training. For one week before the challenge, they ran about four miles each day. But, for a run as encompassing as the one they were about to embark on, that level of preparation was the bare minimum to suffice.

The trio agreed that their collective mental strength was the greatest weapon in completing the 48 miles. “Even when we were hungry and exhausted, there was never a doubt in our minds that we would complete it,” Santoli said.

Cordes shared a smiliar sentiment. “As long as we stayed physically healthy, I knew we had the mental strength to push through.” he said. “It would’ve been so much easier to go back to sleep, to just lie and tell everyone we did the 48 miles ... but determination is what really kept us in line.”

The four-hour expeditions took place throughout the neighborhood, sometimes in the streets of Lynbrook, and other times around the school track; Jean said the change in scenery helped maintain their motivation. The miles were counted on a mobile app, which, simultaneously, tracked their time. According to Santoli, the final run was their fastest “by far,” spanning about 41 minutes. “On our last lap, we were going crazy the entire time,” Santoli recounted. “It was just the greatest high in the world. I would do anything to go back and do that last run again.”

As the boys rounded that final corner, their families cheered them on, amazed and astonished by their accomplishment. The money they raised and the lessons they learned, however, were the greatest gratification they could have received.

“Things I used to find difficult don’t seem too hard anymore,” Jean said.

“If you stay disciplined, gravitate toward positivity and remain hopeful, anything is possible,” Santoli added.