Ocean City man going the distance for kids with cancer

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 Once unhealthy, he now plans to run 100 miles on May 3  photo courtesy Richard McCleary / Richard McCleary has taken up long distance running for his health. Next week, he plans to run 100 miles for the health of children facing cancer. photo courtesy Richard McCleary / Richard McCleary has taken up long distance running for his health. Next week, he plans to run 100 miles for the health of children facing cancer.

OCEAN CITY — Six years ago, Rich McCleary was 135 pounds overweight and completely out of shape when he collapsed at work.

He barely survived; the health scare forced him to trade in his sedentary lifestyle and start running for his life.

On Saturday, May 3, the 43 year-old distance runner will attempt a 100 mile run to raise money for Oceans of Love, a charity that helps children with cancer in Ocean County.

McCleary, who lives in Ocean City and manages the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar in Manahawkin, will begin his run at an Applebee’s in Clifton and finish at the Applebee’s in Manahawkin. He will make stops along the way at the Middletown, Ocean, Howell and Lacey Applebee’s locations.

McCleary said he is excited by the challenge.

“Running saved my life,” said McCleary. “I was afraid; I knew if I didn’t do something I wouldn’t be around much longer. So I started to lose weight; and after I lost 90 pounds I started walking and then running. I ran my way to health.”
His passion for running began with a fundraiser. His brother-in-law, A.J. Johnson, a New Jersey State Trooper who lives in Ocean View, encouraged him to enter a 5K race to benefit a nephew’s soccer team. At the time, it was a daunting task, but he rose to the challenge. Before he crossed the starting line, he was hooked on distance running.

“I started training on the boardwalk,” he said. Before long he was increasing the distance. Now he leaves his home near 10th Street and Bay Avenue and running over the Longport Bridge, into Somers Point and back home across the Route 52 Causeway and across the Ninth Street Bridge.

“It’s a 10 mile loop,” he said. It’s also known as a short day; many of McCleary’s training runs are much longer. 

“I enjoy pushing myself, to see how far I can go, and how much I can take,” said McCleary, who has run a half-dozen 50K races and four 50-mile races.

“Obviously you have to be in good physical condition,” he said. You have to learn to push through pain and fatigue, he said.

Distance running, he said, is as much mental as it is physical.

“In an ultra-marathon situation you have to dig deep to get over the humps. Your mind tells you that you want to quit, you have to push yourself through it, not give into it,” he said.

For McCleary, there is little pain. Running is must-do, feel-good event. He doesn’t dread training, he thrives on it, he said. During a race, he focuses on the goal.

“It’s a great feeling when you cross the finish line,” he said.

Johnson may join his brother-in-law for at least part of the upcoming 100 mile run.

“I will have a crew nearby, to carry water and nourishment for me,” said McCleary.

McCleary and his team members at Applebee’s have been raising money for Oceans of Love for eight years.

“It’s a charity that is near and dear to our hearts,” he said.

When he’s not working or running, McCleary said he enjoys spending time with his two boys, Evan, 13 and Aidan, 9

To support the effort, see www.active.com/donate/100oceanofloverun 


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