Randy Angel

Patrick Sweeney runs to fight childhood obesity

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Patrick Sweeney on mile 60 of the 2013 Leadville 100 Mile Endurance run in Colorado. Photo by Scott Laudick

Patrick Sweeney on mile 60 of the 2013 Leadville 100 Mile Endurance run in Colorado. Photo by Scott Laudick

When Patrick Sweeney celebrates his 36th birthday on January 16, the day will not only mark a milestone in his life but the beginning of a 4-1/2 month journey that that he hopes will change the lives of hundreds of kids throughout the nation.

The accomplished marathon runner from Manhattan Beach is one of 12 members of the Core Team that will be running an equivalent of 117 back-to-back marathons as part of “Race Across USA.”

Manhattan Beach distance runner Patrick Sweeney and 11 fellow marathoners will compete in “Race Across USA” beginning in Huntington Beach and finishing at the White House. Photo by Ray Vidal

Manhattan Beach distance runner Patrick Sweeney and 11 fellow marathoners will compete in “Race Across USA” beginning in Huntington Beach and finishing at the White House. Photo by Ray Vidal

The 140-day, 3,080-mile “Race Across USA” will raise money for “The 100 Mile Club,” a nonprofit organization that encourages kids to be active and to run 100 miles during the school year. It will begin in  Huntington Beach and end in Washington D.C., where the runners will meet Michelle Obama.

“Race Across USA” will also include state runners who will run across their respective states

“My nephews are in the 100 Mile Club and watching them become excited about running is a thrill for me. The 100 Mile Club is now in over 1,000 schools across the nation including Beryl Heights in Redondo Beach,” Sweeney said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. At the present time, 12.5 million children, ages 6-19 in the United States are obese. Many more are overweight.

Although he liked sports as a kid, Sweeney didn’t like running and knows firsthand what it’s like to be an obese child. Although he ran a few marathons in college, it wasn’t until his late 20s that Sweeney’s passion for running developed.

While considering himself a free spirit who lives life day-by-day, Sweeney is also competitive. His goal to win a race is only surpassed by his desire to inspire children and adults to be healthy.

Sweeny is known for running barefoot or in Luna sandals. He has run more than 20 marathons and 50 ultra marathons. He had hoped to run solo across the country in 2013 but an injury derailed his goal.

While competing in a 72-hour ultra marathon in Colorado last year, a friend suggested he run the “Race Across USA.” Sweeney applied and was put on a waiting list. In September, he was chosen for the Core Team.

Much like his footwear, Sweeney’s training method is unconventional.

“I’ve actually cut back on running,” Sweeney said. “This event is very important to me and I don’t want to risk an injury going into it. Besides, I’ll have a few extra calories to burn.”

Sweeney did, however, take third place at the Operation Jack half marathon on Dec. 26 and spent New Years running in the “Across the Years” 72-hour race in Glendale, Arizona.

Sweeney said he looks forward to meeting and speaking with children during “Race Across USA” after his daily runs are complete.

Patrick Sweeney graces the January 2015 cover of Trail Runner

Patrick Sweeney graces the January 2015 cover of Trail Runner

While Sweeney’s entry fee covers transportation of his equipment such as clothing, tent, cooking gear, accommodations are not. He said he plans to sleep in a tent a third of the time, a hotel once a week and the remainder at schools/gyms, where there is no cost.

“My biggest concern is running in Arizona,” Sweeney said. “We will be running on the Colorado Plateau at elevations between 7,000 to 7,500 feet in mid-February. It’s the coldest time of year there and we could be dealing with ice roads and blizzards.”

Sweeney will be participating in a medical research project during the run. Two days prior to the start, he will have an MIR at UCLA Medical Center and be injected with some chemicals that will help in the research process.

“I’m on a vegan diet, so I’m excited to show what’s possible.” Sweeney said.

Sweeney is known for enjoying adult beverages (his website is bourbonfeet.com), but said he will limit himself to a few Stone ales.

“This race is for the kids, so I’ll be on good behavior,” Sweeney quipped.

Trail Racing Over Texas is one of Sweeney’s major sponsors and is deeply involved in the prevention of childhood obesity.

Sweeney also receives an ambassador for Bearded Brothers, a company that makes organic energy bars, including vegan bars.

“I will begin the race clean shaven but will grow my beard throughout the event,” Sweeney said. “After 140 days, I should have a pretty good beard.”

“Race Across USA” is a timed race. Results will be published each day at raceacrossusa.org. Runners are expected to finish within 6-1/2 hours with a cutoff of eight hours each day.

Rest days occur between each state and will be used to make up time if bad weather forces the cancellation of a day’s run. Other rest days will be used to visit schools along the route.

“Patrick is nothing short of an angel for our organization,” said Kara Lubin, Founder and Chairman of 100 Mile Club. “His love and dedication for promoting running is invaluable. The Race Across USA is an incredible undertaking and I’m very humbled that Run – Walk Events is organizing the event. I have immense respect and gratitude for all the Core and State runners.”

Lubin started the 100 Mile Club when she was a Special Education Specialist for the Corona-Norco Unified School District. Having a classroom full of students who couldn’t sit still, she asked her kids to run every morning for 10 minutes. She noticed a difference in their behavior within a week. Her students became more engaged and focused. Now, 20 years later, the club will reach over 1,000 schools and 100,000 students nationwide. It is in nearly every U.S. State as well as in three other Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

“The 100 Mile Club quintupled last year, thanks to a partnership with the Active School Acceleration program,” Lubin said.

Lubin will be driving across Mississippi or Arkansas, an area where childhood obesity is among the highest per capita.

“I’ve never been to the South and am looking forward to speaking at schools and meeting people who can help fight childhood obesity through our program.”

For more information, log on to 100mileclub.com.

To follow Sweeney’s journey, visit his blog at seatoseawithpatricksweeney.blogspot.com. To help support him, visit imathlete.com/donate/patricksweeney.

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