Running for Wounded Warrior


Max Cordes

Jesse Jean, Max Cordes, and Nathan Santoli complete the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge.

Three boys, two days, 144 miles. From Mar. 5 to Mar. 7, sophomores Max Cordes, Nathan Santoli, and Jesse Jean completed the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge, an international event in which participants run four miles, every four hours, for two consecutive days, to raise money for the charity of their choice. 

The three sophomores decided to focus their fundraising efforts on the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that aids veterans with physical and mental injuries. “We chose Wounded Warrior because we all care so much about our veterans, and we realize how much they sacrifice for us,” said Santoli. The boys hold a personal connection to military service, as each of their grandfathers served in combat. By the end of the weekend-long run, they were able to donate over $3,000 to Wounded Warrior. 

The trio was inspired to join this challenge by Goggins, a former Navy Seal and current motivational speaker. Goggins experienced poverty and abuse as a child, but after completing his military service with flying colors, he climbed the ranks to become one of the world’s best ultra-endurance athletes. His book, Can’t Hurt Me, motivates many, including Santoli, who shared it with his friends after reading. “Goggins’ stories about how he runs to train his mind really stayed with me,” Santoli said. “I thought about it throughout the entire run, pushing through the pain, and remembering that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.”

The boys ran 48 miles each over the span of 48 hours, running 4 miles every 4 hours. (Max Cordes)

Santoli said he became interested in motivational speakers and self-help books about three years ago, a passion that his life-long friends, Cordes and Jean, now share. “We are all very healthy-mind oriented,” shared Cordes. “After hearing Goggins speak, we can all agree that the mind is way more powerful than most people know, and we’re able to apply this knowledge to everything: helping friends through difficult times, overcoming stress, and, of course, completing this run.”

They first heard of the challenge about two months ago via social media, when they soon decided they were going to participate. After attempting to recruit friends, family, and classmates to join, they quickly realized they would be the only three in Lynbrook taking part: “Everyone called us crazy,” said Cordes. “I mean, it is crazy! If you had told me this last year, I never would’ve thought it was possible, but I couldn’t be happier that we did it,” added Cordes.

Even for Cordes, a cross-country runner, the challenge certainly seemed daunting. But, for Santoli and Jean, neither of whom ran track, the 48 miles were utterly uncharted territory. “We started out very energetic,” said Jean. “On our first run, we ran through streets screaming and laughing.” Quickly, however, the fatigue caught up with them. “Waking up to run four miles at 3 a.m., especially after we’d already completed 24 miles, was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Cordes. He explained that the three of them could not have gotten through the run without teamwork, pushing each other to keep going and never give up, even when all they wanted to do was sleep.

Between running intervals, the boys would stretch, massage their muscles, and load up on water and carbohydrates. Then, they would fall into a much-needed sleep, until just two hours later, the alarm would sound once again to wake them for another run. Their biggest concern leading up to the event was the potential for physical injury, especially considering their lack of training. For one week before the challenge, they ran about four miles each day. But, for a run as impressive as the one they were about to embark on, that level of preparation was the bare minimum to suffice. 

The boys agreed that their collective mental strength was the greatest weapon in completing the 48 miles. “Even when we were hungry and exhausted,” said Santoli, “there was never a doubt in our minds that we would complete it. As long as we stayed physically healthy, I knew we had the mental strength to push through.” Cordes added, “It would’ve been so much easier to go back to sleep, to just lie and tell everyone we did the 48 miles…but determination is what really kept us in line.” 

The four-hour expeditions took place throughout the neighborhood, sometimes in the streets of Lynbrook, and other times around the school track; Jean said the change in scenery helped maintain their motivation. The miles were counted on a mobile app, which, simultaneously, tracked their time. According to Santoli, the final run was their fastest “by far,” spanning about 41 minutes. “On our last lap, we were going crazy the entire time,” Santoli said. “It was just the greatest high in the world. I would do anything to go back and do that last run again,” he added.

As the boys rounded their final corner, their families cheered them on, amazed and astonished by their accomplishment. The money they raised and the lessons they learned, however, were the greatest gratification they could have received. “Things I used to find difficult don’t seem too hard anymore,” Jean said. “If you stay disciplined, gravitate towards positivity, and remain hopeful, anything is possible,” said Santoli.