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RUNNING BUDDIES Donald Wells and Joseph Lopez have successfully completed a marathon to raise funds and awareness for a special military charity, The Navy Special Operations Foundation.
The dynamic American duo travelled back stateside to compete in the Potomac River Run Marathon & Half Marathon, staged alongside the 184-mile-long Chesapeake and Ohio canals that stretch all the way from the tidal basin in Washington, DC to the mountains of western Maryland.
Donald, 48, a Washington native who works in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department at the Naval Support Activity (NSA) base in Bahrain, teamed up with Joseph, who is originally from Tampa, Florida.
Donald, who lives in Juffair, said: “The trail was dirt and rock, so it was puddles and mud which was not ideal for our first marathon. But knowing that all the work we have done was going to help so many extraordinary people in their time of need, helped to push me to go further!”
He’s been pals with Joseph, 22, a diver who used to be based in Bahrain but is currently stationed in Japan, for around three years. “I’m ecstatic to have completed the marathon and be able to work closely with the Navy Special Operations Foundation as they are a remarkable foundation providing assistance for remarkable men and women.”
This marathon (42.195km or 26.219 miles) is only open to a total of 350 entrants and both men completed the challenge in respectable times and managed to raise around BD3,384 ($9,000) for their cause whilst running in 19 degrees in pounding rain over most of the course. Donald finished in 6:30 in 168th place and Joseph achieved an impressive time of 4:30 and finished 86th.
The Navy Special Operations Foundation ensures that those working in the field and their families are provided with all the tools necessary to overcome any challenges they may face and let them know that they are ‘never alone’.
It was founded in memory of senior chief explosive ordnance disposal technician (EOD) Scott Dayton and all his brothers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their nation. It was formed by active or former members and their spouses that understand, through experience, what the families and operators need and how to persevere through the most difficult circumstances.
Donald, a former director of the NFL Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, who has been living in Bahrain for the past five years, added: “This charity helps NAVY EOD and divers in many areas. It ensures that those who have selflessly served within the Navy Special Operations community are connected for life, and that they are never neglected or forgotten.
“This was our first full marathon. I did run a half marathon in January with the Bahrain Road Runners as preparation and it was a great experience, while Joseph also finished a half marathon in Japan.
“We also wanted to further push ourselves. This marathon showed us, that at any age, if you are training consistently, then you can achieve anything you put your mind to do. It’s also helped build our bond as friends to stick to a running programme even though we are now far apart in two different countries.”
Joseph, who enjoyed a two-year spell in Bahrain, has always enjoyed swimming and running. Donald, however, has never really run before. He only started training and jogging around 1.5km last August and soon become a well-known figure running around Juffair and as the months went on his distances increased.
Their long-distance schedule included at least three runs a week, one over a 20-mile (32km) distance plus two shorter runs over 45 and 90 minutes.
“The running has been great with so many paths to find around Juffair and I’m thankful for those places,” Donald said. “I always hated running but learned to do it. So anyone who says they can’t do it, I’m proof that you can!”
Joseph’s mother, Rennis, said: “He’s always been a good runner so that’s no surprise to me, but seeing him work so hard to help others was a great thing.”
Donald’s mother Mary was stunned at how hard he worked to achieve his goal. “He has worked so hard to run a marathon for the first time and at 48,” said Mary. “I was worried but am so proud of his dedication.”
The determined duo also staged fundraising events for the good cause including a Joseph & Donald Run A Marathon Party at Big Texas Barbeque & Waffle House at the Best Western Plus-The Olive Hotel in Juffair which featured a silent auction, karaoke, food and beverages and other activities.
“We have managed to raise thousands of dollars for the foundation in the last week of events and from online donations,” said Donald.
Those interested in supporting them further can visit @joseph.donaldrunamarathon on Instagram.