Adam Casey

Like most people who have a sports/military background, running was always a form of punishment and something I saw as a means-to-an-end and less as a personal identifier. Having set this outlandish goal to run 5 marathons in 5 weeks when I didn’t make it through BUD/S and was in a deeply depressed state of mind, I came across ultra-marathons when I met a cliché running-purist as part of the San Diego Track Club. He encouraged me to give the longer distances a try saying, “every step past 26.2 is like a spiritual epiphany” and so I signed up for my first ultra, Running With The Devil, just outside of the Las Vegas desert. After my experience with cancer and everything involved with such a horrendous diagnosis, running was what helped me reclaim my mental health. Now that it has become absolutely ingrained into who I consider myself to be, running is how I process all the stress of daily life and something I genuinely get excited about. After I graduate this December, I’m (hopefully) embarking on my own self-supported stage-“race” down in the Peruvian Andes for the months of January and February.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, I was quite the unextraordinary kid in both school and athletics. When I decided to go to Mizzou for college, I became overwhelmed with a conviction to make the football team as a walk-on and miraculously managed to end up playing 5 seasons for the Tigers. During my third season though, I met someone who irrevocably changed my life for the better and because of her, I started a 501(c)-3 non-profit, I Do It For Her, to help low-income youth in the St. Louis area receive a quality college education through partial scholarships. Not the typical “relationship” most people often think of when I start to tell this story, she was the basis for my 2016 TEDx talk “Why You Should Fall Recklessly In Love” and I still reflect on that period of my life as a way to constantly challenge myself to go beyond my comfort zones.

This is going to probably sting but I originally entered the military though the Navy as an Officer trying to make it through BUD/S and become a Navy SEAL… Clearly, that did not happen when I was unable to continue training during the infamous evolution known as “Hell Week”. Thankfully, and I sincerely mean that, I was able to transfer into the Marines and subsequently become a Marine Infantry Officer. After getting orders for 2/6 at Camp Lejeunne, dreams of serving in a combat role became derailed again when I was diagnosed with an advanced Stage-IV cancer that required 6-months of torturous chemotherapy. Because of that disease, and a previously undisclosed diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis, I was medically retired in 2016. Even though my service was 180 degrees opposite than what I had set out to achieve all those years ago, I am still damn proud to call myself a Marine and to have put part of that community.

Like most people who have a sports/military background, running was always a form of punishment and something I saw as a means-to-an-end and less as a personal identifier. Having set this outlandish goal to run 5 marathons in 5 weeks when I didn’t make it through BUD/S and was in a deeply depressed state of mind, I came across ultra-marathons when I met a cliche running-purist as part of the San Diego Track Club. He encouraged me to give the longer distances a try saying, “every step past 26.2 is like a spiritual epiphany” and so I signed up for my first ultra, Running With The Devil, just outside of the Las Vegas desert. After my experience with cancer and everything involved with such a horrendous diagnosis, running was what helped me reclaim my mental health. Now that it has become absolutely ingrained into who I consider myself to be, running is how I process all the stress of daily life and something I genuinely get excited about. After I graduate this December, I’m (hopefully) embarking on my own self-supported stage-“race” down in the Peruvian Andes for the months of January and February.

The first piece of wisdom I think I’m qualified to pass on would be to come up with some sort of personal mantra that you can focus on when you run. One of mine is “This just is and this too shall pass”. Hardly on the same level as a Jack London quote but being able to focus on those words when I’ve hit a mental/physical low point during a race reminds me that emotions are fleeting and are pretty much the only thing in this world you have absolute control over. Next, make a checklist. On my wall is a laminated checklist that I use before I go out on any of my long weekend runs as well as a pre-race checklist. There’s a reason why pilots and surgeons use these simple but effective organizational tools and that’s because they work and not being able to find your mid-race pick-me-up snack at an aid station is something easily avoidable. Last, run happy and with gratitude. When the suck starts to set in on a run or in a race, be thankful that you have the ability to feel that hurt. Remind yourself that there are people around the world that are deprived of running by things so much more serious than we tend to recognize (e.g. famine, confined to wheelchairs, poverty, etc.)

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