Breaking News Bar
updated: 12/3/2012 3:31 PM

West Chicago runner goes the distance for PADS

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Mike DeMeritt of West Chicago, is a runner who competes each year in a 100-mile race in Wisconsin to raise money for DuPage PADS. DeMeritt sometimes trains at the Lincoln Marsh in Wheaton.

       Mike DeMeritt of West Chicago, is a runner who competes each year in a 100-mile race in Wisconsin to raise money for DuPage PADS. DeMeritt sometimes trains at the Lincoln Marsh in Wheaton.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Mike DeMeritt of West Chicago has raised more than $30,000 by running to help homeless people get back on their feet through DuPage PADS.

       Mike DeMeritt of West Chicago has raised more than $30,000 by running to help homeless people get back on their feet through DuPage PADS.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Family, friends and supporters pledge money for each mile Mike DeMeritt of West Chicago runs in a 100-mile race in Wisconsin. The donations fund programs and shelters to help homeless people and families through DuPage PADS.

       Family, friends and supporters pledge money for each mile Mike DeMeritt of West Chicago runs in a 100-mile race in Wisconsin. The donations fund programs and shelters to help homeless people and families through DuPage PADS.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

Each June for the past three years, West Chicago's Mike DeMeritt has run in a 100-mile race in southern Wisconsin.

He navigates rocky terrain, hills, rolling meadows and other obstacles in a 'round-the-clock, ultra race.

At aid stations set up along the grueling route, he might grab pieces of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, boiled potatoes, bananas -- "whatever your stomach feels like it can accept," says the 51-year-old DeMeritt.

Yet the Kettle Moraine 100, DeMeritt says, inflicts just as much mental punishment.

"You have to battle negative thoughts," he said. "And when it's just about you, it kind of gets overwhelming."

He shakes off the self-doubts by remembering he's running for something bigger than himself. He has a simple formula: For every mile he runs, he collects $1 from donors for DuPage PADS, or Public Action to Deliver Shelter.

"To me, it's normal to run a 100-mile race," said DeMeritt, who ran track at Glenbard West and Glenbard North high schools. "To most people, it seems incredible, and so I kind of harnessed that to achieve the purpose."

He's raised more than $30,000 for PADS over the past three years at a time when the Wheaton-based nonprofit organization is seeing a rise in the number of homeless families and children served. Just last year, PADS served 170 children. As part of its services, PADS operates three shelters each night from October to April in DuPage County.

"It is one of the most generous gifts an individual has given us," said Janelle Barcelona, PADS director of development. "Mike has great energy and a great attitude and really inspires us to all work to a greater potential."

In June, he conquered the route in a little more than 27 hours, about five hours more than his personal best. DeMeritt didn't push his limits. He wanted to complete the race and fulfill his promise to his donors, a goal he set after having to walk away at the 51-mile mark last year.

"Crossing the finish line for PADS and making good on my end of the bargain was all that mattered," DeMeritt wrote in a race report on his website. "This would require putting my competitive nature on the shelf and adopting a much more humble attitude."

What had defeated him in June 2011 was a mix of high humidity and challenging terrain in the Scuppernong River basin.

"It's like a furnace going through there," he said.

DeMeritt began to notice pains near his kidneys around the race's halfway point.

"By the time I got out of there, I was actually chilled and shivering," he said, noting the telltale signs of dehydration.

He couldn't keep down any food -- not even a salt tablet. He tried walking for five miles before finally letting go.

"It didn't get any better, and I got dizzy and was just getting weaker and I was concerned that I would be causing permanent kidney damage, which I was warned about from a doctor who I spoke to when I initially stopped," DeMeritt remembered.

Still, the avid runner insists it's not all torture.

"I would say that an equal part of the time you're also experiencing highs," DeMeritt said. "You're really enjoying it and you're helping other people and you're appreciating the natural beauty that you're running in."

DeMeritt, who also helps organize PADS' annual 10K and 5K run in September, prepares through a training regimen that favors weights and full-body exercises over running miles.

"The idea is functional fitness, so it makes me more durable," he said.

One of his inspirations for launching his fundraising campaign came from volunteering a handful of times at a PADS site in a Wheaton church and meeting a significant number of PADS clients from a "similar demographic."

"They're just like my brother or my father or my neighbor," DeMeritt said. "They're just average folks who need to get back into the mainstream."

He vows to continue fundraising through the 100-mile race as long as he can. Beginning in the spring, he plans to start collecting pledges from sponsors.

"Everyone," he says, "can do something to make a difference."

Share

Interested in reusing this article?

Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.

The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.

Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Name * Company Telephone * E-mail *

Message (optional)

Success - Reprint request sent Click to close
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here