Justin Stoeckel is a local 31-year-old who teaches second grade at East Millsboro Elementary School. When he’s not teaching, Stoeckel is an avid runner who has decided to run the length of Delaware – 137 miles – to raise money for research into and awareness for Crohn’s disease.
“It was an idea I had last summer, but it never panned out,” Stoeckel explained. “Then I figured this summer would be the summer that’d I’d do it. I was going to do it anyway, then I thought, ‘You know, it’s taken me a long way to get to this point,’ so I wanted to raise some money for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation along the way.”
According to the foundation’s Web site, Crohn’s disease is, “a chronic (ongoing) disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract.” Stoeckel himself suffers from Crohn’s disease, having been diagnosed 10 years ago while he was a student at the University of Delaware.
Stoeckel planned the “First State Run” to last about a week, expecting to run about 20 to 30 miles per day.
“I’ve done those distances before, not consecutively… this is all a new adventure,” Stoeckel explained. “I love distance running. I’ve run 30, 31 miles in a couple of marathons, a couple of them back-to-back. This just felt like the next step.”
The run began in Chadds Ford, Pa., and Stoeckel plans to finish south of Selbyville, at the Maryland state line.
Stoeckel said he has no goal for the amount of money he hopes to raise, but each donation is greatly appreciated.
“I don’t have a goal. Anything is helpful. A lot of people across the state have been reaching out.”
Wednesday, June 27, was Stoeckel’s third day on the road, and he said the journey was going “surprisingly” well.
“It’s going well. I think today, surprisingly, was the best day so far – the third day, which I thought was going to be the hardest day. Hopefully, that will continue,” he said.
Stoeckel is not making the journey alone. His brother Jason and friend Ed are along for the ride, as his “support crew.”
“I’ve had a lot of support along the way... They’re making sure I’m staying hydrated and fed and in a good mood,” he said. “Throughout each day’s course, we’ll set up checkpoints about every three or four miles, and they’ll wait for me there, just to refill my bottle, get a snack, see how I’m doing. They’ve even run a couple of legs with me, and they’ve also ridden along beside me on the bike or gone ahead of me and dropped some water for me on the hotter days.”
He added that there has been a great deal of community support behind his run.
“It’s been great. I’ve been getting the word out through Twitter. Some of my friends have been pushing it on Facebook, and it’s been on some local radio stations… word of mouth has been really great. Everybody thinks it’s crazy, so it kind of grabs their attention.”
Although the run is an apparent hit with all who’ve heard about it, Stoeckel said he has no plans to run the length of the First State again but will instead continue to be active in other fundraising activities though CCF.
“It’s going to be a one-shot deal,” he declared with a laugh. “That’ll be plenty. There’s a half-marathon they do each year that I like to do; 5-Ks are always a good way to raise money – I’ve done plenty of those and would be happy to do another one.”
Stoeckel said that, although the days can be long and tough, he keeps himself motivated to keep running for all those who suffer from Crohn’s and colitis who can’t run due to its debilitating effects.
“I’m staying motivated. There are a lot of people with Crohn’s and colitis who can’t do this, not even one mile. That keeps me focused when it gets tough later in the day, later in the run — it keeps me pushing.”
To donate and read about Stoeckel’s 137-mile run down the state, visit his blog, at www.blistertoe.com.