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200-mile man, for a cause

To benefit a hospital, the runner, 18, plans to clock his O.C. course in less than two days.

January 12, 2007|Yvonne Villarreal | Times Staff Writer

Next week, Jesse Zweig hopes to run the equivalent of about 7 1/2 marathons in a row. In less than two days.

Zweig, 18, will begin a 200-mile run around Orange County -- nonstop, with any luck -- on Thursday afternoon to raise money for Children's Hospital of Orange County. His goal is to collect $20,000 in pledges before the run and finish the course -- roughly the distance between Long Beach and San Diego ... and back -- in less than 48 hours.

"I always had good health," Zweig said as he fidgeted with the seams of his running shorts before a training run this week. "I like the idea of helping kids who don't have good health. I'm doing this for them."

The long run around Orange County won't be the first for the former cross country and track athlete from El Toro High School. In May, he ran 100 miles in a day and raised more than $6,000 for CHOC.

The century run left Zweig sprawled on his family's couch with ice packs on his chest and legs. Just days later, Zweig was up and running again.

"I was standing at the finish line last May, and I was amazed," said Vicki Koda, a CHOC spokeswoman. "I can barely go up and down a flight of stairs, and here he is running around Orange County."

But 200 miles in two days?

"If anyone can do it, Jesse can," Koda said.

His inspiration for running vast distances to raise money for worthy causes came after reading "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner," by Dean Karnazes, an endurance runner who's covered 300 miles without stopping.

"I read it nonstop my junior year," Zweig said. "The fact that he ran these great distances just appealed to me."

Zweig said he pondered a second run to raise money for CHOC after completing the first, but he didn't alert friends and family until September.

"I knew they'd think I was crazy," said Zweig, a Mormon who awaits his two-year-mission assignment from the church and plans college after that. "They did when I told them about my 100-mile run."

In preparation for the big day, the teen, 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, has been running six days a week and is on a diet of chicken, fruits and vegetables.

Come Thursday, Zweig will be surrounded by his two crews. The first, consisting of his parents, will be with him during the first half of the run, offering support as well as peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, trail mix, water, Pedialyte and the occasional candy.

The second crew, made up of four friends, will remain with Zweig the last 100 miles of the run, which culminates at his Lake Forest home.

"We're totally confident he can do it," said Nate Mousiz, on the second crew, who also ran track at El Toro High. "We'll be there with him. I'll probably run the last 20 miles with him."

Zweig said his IPod would also help him during the midpoint of the run, giving him a steady diet of punk bands such as Pennywise, Avenged Sevenfold and Rise Against.

"The beats in punk rock music pump me up," Zweig said. "If the battery runs out, I'll either grab someone else's, or I'll talk to my crew."

Despite the 200 miles in front of him, including the "crazy" hill on Antonio Parkway in Mission Viejo, Zweig seems fearless.

"I just need to stay focused," Zweig said. "I can't predict whether I'll finish in time, but I know I am going to try my hardest. I'm too stubborn to give up without a fight."

No matter what the outcome, Zweig said, he plans to live by the words of Karnazes: "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."

For more information on how to sponsor Jesse Zweig on his 200-mile run for CHOC: (714) 532-8690; www.choc.org; 200miles@cox.net

yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

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