Man's feat of human endurance: 131 marathons in 131 days

By Carrie Weil

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- The number of war casualties often grabs the headlines, but for every soldier or marine killed, 15 more return home wounded WAVE 3's Carrie Weil has the story of perseverance of body and spirit of both a wounded warrior and a regular man going to incredible lengths to make a difference.

There's a constant battle on the airwaves about what's happening on the front lines, but for 131 days, while others talked about the war, Louisville native Brad Alsop fought his own battle every day.

Brad decided to run a marathon a day for 131 days to raise money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

His friends and fans followed his progress, but admitted at times it looked like it would be impossible for Brad to reach his goal.

"We was coming up the hill there," said Brad's friend, Bill Boettger. "And he was in so much pain, he finally come to a stop, and I thought he was going to vomit, that's how much pain he was in. And I said, 'man, let me call an ambulance.'"

"It hurt me to see him in that kind of pain, it really did. I didn't want to watch it, but he just kept going."

The 131 days is the time span between Independence Day to Veterans Day -- 131 days, 131 marathons.

Brad says "it's not about competition or setting records. It is about extreme effort in a lot of different ways to raise money for the people who are doing extreme efforts for us to keep us safe back here at home."

Sean Cassedy, a local marine, knows the battle. In 2003, when Brad was just 21, it was his unit's mission to press towards Baghdad and set up supply points.

"Everything seems very surreal," Sean recalled. "It's very loud. There's a lot of noises going on -- a lot of confusion, a lot of chaos."

At one point, Sean says "we had come under fire and we had moved into a tactical formation."

In the heat of battle, Sean was hit, first by a bullet, then a U.S. truck that ran over his legs.

"I had spider fractures through both my legs," Sean said. "I had a fractured pelvis, I had a fractured hip and gunshot wound to the right inner thigh."

After months of rehab, Sean returned to Iraq for two more tours, then left the Marines, but the memories of war lingered.

"I was just trying to work myself until I was exhausted and I couldn't think, and then I'd go to sleep and I'd wake up, repeat the cycle," Cassedy said.

Earlier this year, money from the Semper Fi Fund helped pay for counseling and for Sean to go to college.

Sean's now back on track, and that's the very reason Brad refused to stop his trek.

Along the way, he's garnered plenty of attention -- a UofL sports psychology class even made him a case study. When one student asked Brad if there were times he just didn't feel like doing it, Brad replied: "absolutely."

So for 131 days, Brad waged his inner battle, fighting against himself and the elements, alone with his thoughts as he completed marathon after marathon.

Brand ran 55 marathons when temperatures were above 91 degrees; the mercury soared to 99 during 13 of his runs.

Then came the rain. Lots of rain, but Brad took the weather in stride. "One of those all-day rains I am probably most likely to run into a few foot problems, but for the most part, I'll take the change gladly."

Some of Brad's fitter friends also made the journey along with him, squashing any doubts that Brad may have been fudging on the miles.

"I've known Brad for quite a few years," said Bob Poston, "and I know he's an honest person and at least today I have the technology to prove 26.2 miles is what we ran."

In fact, Poston's watch, which is calibrated to his step, proved Brad's been a little too honest. "I'm guessing he's been running a little over 27 and a quarter mile the whole time," Poston said.

And while Brad rarely complains, he couldn't deny the pain was creeping in. "I kind of feel like I'm holding my breath and praying: let it happen, let it happen," Brad said at one point during his journey.

At run 100, with over 2,600 miles behind him, some support came from from the sidelines, but there 812 miles remained to be run.

So Brad kept going because he believes in the cause, and because he's not the kind of person to quit a task before it's finished. "You can't give up the fight until you get all the way to the end. You put your guard down, and that's not smart. It's definitely not something our Marines are going to do either."

A shin splint in his right leg had Brad worrying "it could turn into a nightmare."

Finally, after four months and two seasons, Brian was poised to run his final marathon on Veterans Day. "Well, here we are. It's day 131, and I remember at one time this was just an idea. Then it became a dream. Then it became a dream with a plan."

But even on this day, it was not all down hill, with Brad toting an American flag to remind others why he put himself through such an incredible feat of human endurance.

The last 26 miles were by no means easy, so Brad relied on higher power to carry him through. "I just thank the good lord for keeping me company for this 131 days."

And as the end neared, others, like Maj. Mark Hall with the U.S. Marines, were just as thankful as Brad.

"Once a Marine always a Marine," Hall said. "And we're trying to bring it to life, and Brad's assisting us in that effort. And we truly appreciate it."

Finally, on Veterans Day 2007, as a small but dedicated crowd looked on, Brad's journey came to an end.

It was a moment of glory 131 days in the making

"I appreciate everyone coming out," Brad said.

The sweat has dried, and the pain will ease, but Brand will keep a treasured memento: the flag he carried as he ran his last marathon, a constant reminder of Run 131 and the price being paid on the war front.

Brad raised over $18,000 for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, and now that all the marathons are complete, he hopes people will continue to donate.