Heroes In Transition’s Veterans Coordinator John Alexander laughs, sharing how he first started to seriously get into running. “Nicole is my running coach. She is the one who talked me into running a half marathon,” he said, in reference to HIT Executive Director Nicole Spencer.
The duo have run each of the Ruck4HITs since it first started in 2016 – that version saw one team rucking from Ground Zero in New York City, over the Bourne Bridge, and ending in Falmouth – before it transitioned the next year to its current iteration, a 36-hour relay race with more than a dozen teams rucking on Cape Cod.
Starting tonight at 11 pm, the pair will embark on a run unlike any John has ever done before – running 4 miles every 4 hours over the course of 48 hours, all part of the Goggins Challenge. For Nicole, this is becoming routine; she did the challenge, created by Iraq War veteran and ultramarathon runner David Goggins last year, with a twist – she wore a rucksack while running through every town on Cape Cod.
While not required, the two will each don a rucksack during the 4x4x48 as a reminder that there are those who served and are serving our country who endure far worse.
“In comparison to what our men and women of the Armed Forces have to go through, I can’t even imagine,” Spencer said. “We’re just running. Our life isn’t on the line. Our service members, they don’t have the option to quit.”
And so, once again, Spencer will test herself physically and mentally because of the sacrifices that are being made by our military and that have been made by veterans like her brother Adam Babiarz. A Marine, he was deployed to Iraq in 2009, the same year Nicole started training for her first marathon. He was the first Cape Codder to receive a service dog from HIT.
Alexander, a sergeant with the Barnstable Police Department, understands these sacrifices, having served in the Army and Army National Guard which included a deployment to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Those experiences have inspired him to support other local service members and veterans through his work at Heroes. He organizes monthly outings that have built a community – or as he calls it “a tribe” – of people who can lean on one another when dealing with the difficulties of military service.
“It’s been great to see the guys and girls in the veterans group blossom and help each other out when needed,” Alexander said. “That part has been really special to me.”
Having witnessed the meaningful impact our programs have on those we serve is reason enough for Alexander to do something he never thought he would do – run 48 miles in 48 hours, from Friday night to Sunday evening.
“This is another opportunity to raise awareness for veterans’ issues and raise money for Heroes In Transition,” he said. “If we can raise money to fund these programs we offer, that is important to me.”
And while he will be running in Sandwich and Spencer will be running her legs in Mashpee and Rhode Island, the two are glad they will have each other to lean on over the course of this weekend. “I am so excited that John is doing this with me. …It reminded me of the years we used to run together. Even though we won’t be running together, we’ll still be together and I know we’ll be talking all weekend,” Spencer said.
As the clock inches closer to 11 pm, Spencer is eager to test herself for the second straight year. “For me, it’s the mental and physical challenge to know you can keep going once you commit to something,” she said. “You keep it in the back of your mind what our military has to do, whether it’s going overseas or going on deployments and realizing they don’t have the option to stop.”