Army vet runs 4,425 miles to honor fallen troops
An Army veteran who pounded the pavement from coast
to coast to honor the nation's fallen troops finished
his grueling journey in rain and high winds on Friday in
Mike Ehredt of Hope, Idaho, placed a flag in the
ground every mile along the way to honor military
personnel killed in Iraq and on Friday the final flag
honored Marine Maj. Jay Aubin, a pilot from Waterville
who died when his CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter went down
near the Iraq border.
The 49-year-old extreme runner kicked off his journey
on May 1 in Astoria, Ore., averaged about 29 miles a day
and took only four days off. All told, he ran 4,425
Howling winds and sheets of rain accompanied his
finish on the Rockland waterfront, where supporters
gathered wearing bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with
"Who needs blue skies and sun when it can be like
this in Maine?" he joked as he was surrounded by
supporters, including some high school runners who
Friday's weather aside, the operation ran with
military precision. Ehredt kept to his schedule and
stayed with a different family every night. He suffered
no knee or hip problems, which often plague distance
runners. He didn't even lose any weight. Each morning,
he popped a couple of painkillers, and hit the road.
"I never opened the door of doubt. You'd never get it
shut again. So every day it was like, 'Let's get up and
go," Ehredt said before heading into the rain for the
final six miles.
Ehredt hatched the idea for the coast-to-coast run
three years ago. And it took three years of planning to
pull it off. It took 4,424 small flags and 1,000 feet of
yellow ribbon to create the tributes, each bearing the
name of a service member, that he placed on the ground
at 1-mile intervals.
Along the way, Ehredt went through 19 pairs of
trail-running shoes, drank 40 gallons of chocolate milk
(one quart a day) and consumed 668 Aleve (two each
morning and night).
Though he didn't personally know any military
personnel killed in Iraq, Ehredt said he felt a kinship
that all former service members feel and wanted to honor
the fallen. And many were moved by his gesture. A mother
from Alabama drove 28 hours to Colorado to be there when
he placed a flag honoring her son, he said.
"For whatever reason I can't explain, I just felt a
connection to those young people and people my age from
Iraq. And I just wanted to do a personal tribute," he
Maj. Gen. John Libby, adjutant general of the Maine
National Guard, said soldiers, Marines, sailors and
airmen and women all appreciate Ehredt's efforts.
"What a remarkable feat. All us are just looking for
some validation that people appreciate what we've done.
But this validation is on the extreme edge," he said. Ehredt is no stranger to pushing his body to its
limits. He got the running bug at a young age and as a
soldier in Germany he won the Army Cross Country
Later, he took up trail running in Colorado and
Idaho, and continued to push toward more difficult runs
like the 250-mile Trans-Himalayan run in Nepal, the
six-day Marathon des Sables race across the Saraha, and
the Rocky Mountain Slam which consists of Bighorn,
Hardrock, Wasatch and the Bear 100-mile races.
Ehredt said he didn't mind the stinging, wind-driven
rain and thunderclaps on the final day of his run. He noted that it was a raw day on which he began in
"After that first mile, and the first flag was
planted, I turned around and there was a rainbow. It was
an omen," he said.
Mike Ehredt celebrates the completion of his 4,425-mile coast-to-coast run Friday, in Rockland, Maine.
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