A Long Run on the Towpath, A Really Long Run

Photo: submitted
Jeremy Rausa Photo: submitted

Throughout his 20 year career in the Army, Jeremy Rausa has learned how to deal with challenges. Multiple deployments – to Iraq, Korea, and Germany – meant he had to be away for long stretches from his daughter Adriana, now seven. A passion for running helped him stay fit, and he found it helped him integrate more easily into new communities as he transferred from place to place.

He has always felt a debt of gratitude for the Army and an obligation to give back to his fellow service members. He’s showing this gratitude in a big way in September when he sets out to run 185 miles in seven days (approximately 26 miles per day) along the C&O Canal Towpath to raise funds and awareness for wounded warriors, in a mission known as 185 for Heroes.

The organization has partnered since 2010 with the Georgetown University Running Club to host the event every September, and all donations go directly to Operation Second Chance, an organization dedicated to serving wounded, ill, and injured combat veterans.

Rausa now works as the vice presidential communications officer at the White House Communications Agency, is stationed at Bolling Air Force Base and lives in Arlington. A after 25 years of running, he has recently focused on marathons and ultramarathons. He is now training for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon and JFK 50 Miler.

He’s a member of several running groups, including Hardcore Oats and I Run, You Run. “I came to D.C. as a runner, because that’s what we do in the Army,” he said, but only recently began focusing on training seriously for long races, and the groups have helped him stay motivated.

Rausa learned about 185 for Heroes through several coworkers, David Brown and Michael Rychlick, who participated last year, and was motivated to sign up to support the cause of wounded warriors. “Anything that benefits the Army, I’m all for,” he said.

Rausa won’t be alone in his quest. He’ll run side by side each day with fellow “Team 185” member Paul Kozcera.

After enlisting in the Air Force in 2008 (leaving with an honorable discharge due to a health condition), Kozcera now works at Natural Running Center in Shepherdstown W.Va., and often travels to compete in running events.

The race starts Sept. 14 in Cumberland, Md. and finishes on Sept. 20 in Georgetown. The two men have a support team in place, including two cyclists and a support vehicle.

The plan is to run about half the daily distance in the morning, break for lunch, then run the remainder of the miles for the day. They’ll stay in hotels, for which Rausa is grateful. “I’ve done the camping thing, and it will be nice to have a good bed to sleep in after running 33 miles,” he said.

Rausa has been training steadily all summer, primarily for his fall marathon and ultramarathon. He does a lot of trail running, swimming, and biking, and also competes in triathlons. Speed isn’t his main focus when he races (his goal for Marine Corps is a sub 3:30), but his daughter Adriana is pushing him. “She tries to teach me how to run fast, because she sees me jogging slowly a lot,” he said. Adriana completed her first race, the Fort Belvoir Turkey Trot, at age four.

Rausa is not concerned about finishing 185, since he plans to run at an easy pace and not push too hard. He expects his biggest challenge, after dealing with tired legs, is boredom. “But there’s ways to deal with that,” he said, “I learned at JFK 50 how to focus my mind on things, and the C&O Canal is pretty scenic so that will help.”

He has a good nutrition regimen in place – breakfast being his most important meal. Eggs, Greek yogurt, coffee, fruit, and flaxseed waffles with peanut butter and honey are some of his standbys. During a run, “I haven’t come across a food on a 50 miler that has upset my stomach,” he said. He plans to take a lot of Gus, Clif Blocks, and electrolyte tablets along the way.

When asked what the first thing he plans to do when he finishes the run, Rausa paused. “Well, I’ll be in Georgetown, so I guess I’ll ask someone to get me a cupcake [from Georgetown Cupcake],” he said. He’d like a chocolate peanut butter.

He’ll then take a few days off, and start back up again training for his fall races.

“I know I’m prepared mentally,” he said. “Physically, I’m as good as it’s gonna get. It’s a good challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”

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