South Kingstown's Rogers runs marathon for others

South Kingstown's Mike Rogers running on a snowy trail earlier this year.
South Kingstown's Mike Rogers running on a snowy trail earlier this year.

Mike Rogers is running the Boston Marathon this month to support the nonprofit programs at Ironstone Farm. Make an online pledge to help by visiting http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/michael-rogers-5/ChallengeUnlimited.

Mike Rogers ran the 2011 Boston Marathon with his wife Maureen, just three days after Maureen’s mom died. On her death bed, Maureen’s mom had given her a bracelet and told her she had to finish the marathon.

Mike and Maureen did finish the race, an emotional and difficult journey.

“I was almost the last guy to finish. I remember going off the course once at Newton Hills, and people were saying, ‘No, no, you’re not done.’ At the end, there was hardly any water left on the course. They shut down the course at 6 hours. It was almost 6 hours,” he says. “I had invested so much energy in supporting my wife and seeing she got to the start in Hopkington, I completely neglected my own plans [to eat and drink properly].”

This year, Mike and Maureen Rogers, of South Kingstown, R.I., will again take on Boston, this time for Ironstone Farm and its nonprofit organization Challenge Unlimited. Ironstone Farm’s programs use the dynamic power of horses and a farm environment to provide therapy helping children and adults with a wide range of disabilities. Additional therapeutic programs improve the lives of others, including combat veterans returning with post-traumatic stress, survivors of cancer, teens at risk and elders with memory issues.

“In 2011, those last 10 miles were the longest 10 miles I have ever gone. Maureen was waiting for me with a finisher’s medal in her hand; she had asked the race officials for one, in case I was still on the course after the official closing time,” says Mike.

“My wife and I said, ‘We’ve got to go and do the marathon again sometime.’ We wanted to go back and do it again and have some fun and complete it,” says Mike. “Doing it for Ironstone makes it more meaningful. It’s on my mind all the time. Rather than just signing up and running and it’s all about you, it turns it inside out. It’s about other people.”

But 2014 has proven to be a challenging year to train, with the piles of snow and ice making most streets unsafe.

To get ready, Mike runs miles through the woods on snowy bike paths, his feet pounding the tracks created by cross-country skiers. Wearing orange to avoid the hunters and special rubberized cleats to keep from falling, some days he’ll run for hours and not see anyone else.

He is careful to watch the weather and find three- or four-hour windows where he can get in long training runs without freezing rain or snow. But he’s still dealing with New England weather, as he was reminded one recent Saturday.

“This whole system moved in on me quick. It just started coming down, coming down. When you are going 16 miles and you are at the pinnacle – you have 8 miles to go back – you know you are really in for an outing,” he says.

When the side roads are clear enough, Mike and Maureen often train together, with one riding a bike and the other running or, in Maureen’s case, racewalking. Maureen will represent the New England Walkers in the Boston Marathon.

“Most of the road racing we do today is for a charity. But you just come in and pay and that’s your donation. This is really different,” says Mike. “When I’m out there training I say, ‘I don’t want to let these people down. I’m excited about raising money for Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm. It’s an opportunity.”

Mike says he also feels a connection to the Ironstone Farm staff, because Maureen is a physical therapist.

“I know how much these people care, so that was part of it as well. I was able to get a better understanding through my wife. It’s a labor of love,” says Mike.

“Running for Ironstone has really got my adrenaline going. It’s really added to the training to know that I’ll be helping these children, these veterans and others who go there. When you think about Boston Strong, these are the people who live Boston Strong every day.  As endurance athletes, this is an opportunity for us to give back,” he says.

“My message to anyone is to set small goals, believe, never give up hope. Endurance running is a struggle in itself, the farther you go, the more you struggle to go on. It’s just the runner, walker, wheelchair-pusher against the road. What gets you to the finish is the belief in your goals, having the will to endure a challenge you set out to accomplish,” he says. “Ironstone’s message is about hope, Challenge Unlimited is about hope. Ironstone is a place like no other, on a mission to help people no matter how hard things get.”

That’s why, if he gets stuck 8 miles out during a storm, you’ll find Mike running back through the snow thinking about those, he says “who really are Boston Strong.”

Mike Rogers has pledged that he will raise $5,000 for Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm. You can help! Make an online pledge by visiting http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/michael-rogers-5/ChallengeUnlimited.


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