Mac Chambers is a natural for an eight-day, 205-mile run through the desert.
The 39-year-old California Department of Corrections officer and committed distance runner not only enjoys the sport and the challenge, he is motivated by an opportunity to run for a good cause.
Chambers is part of a team that will participate in the 3,000-mile MS Run the US, a benefit to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He takes on the second leg of a 16-segment cross-country relay, which will take him through the Mojave Desert on the way from Barstow to Las Vegas from April 18 to 25.
In all, the MS Run the US event will take four months, starting April 13 in Los Angeles and ending Aug. 17 in New York.
Athleticism has always been part of Chambers’ lifestyle, ever since he became a wrestler in the fifth grade. He went on to wrestle at Tracy High. In between his freshman and sophomore years, he attended a wrestling camp in San Diego where endurance runs were part of the conditioning routine.
“When I came back for my sophomore year at Tracy High, I joined the cross-country team,” he said. Like wrestling, it’s a sport that allows him to decide how hard he is going to work out.
After high school, Chambers continued to run three or four times a week just to stay in shape. Then, about three years ago, he took a look back at the goals he set for himself in high school.
“During one of those wrestling camps, I made a list of goals I wanted to accomplish, and one of those was to run a marathon, so I did that back in 2011,” he said.
He got right into it — no 5K or 10K warm-up races — and started his competitive running career with the San Francisco Marathon.
“I signed up right after the 2011 marathon to run the 2012 marathon, and a couple months after that, I saw that they added an ‘ultra’ option,” he said, adding that he saw it as his chance to meet runners for whom one 26-mile run at a time is not nearly enough challenge.
He was among about 50 runners who ran the course twice. The event was named “Worth the Hurt,” and athletes all picked charities that they would support through their runs.
Chambers learned about MS Run the US and chose it as a way to support his uncle, Nick Torbick, a former collegiate wrestler who inspired Chambers to take up wrestling. Torbick was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 15 years ago.
“It was one of those charities that I could personally get behind,” Chambers said.
The 2012 marathon was where he met Ashley Kumlien of Brookfield, Wis., who founded MS Run the US in 2009 in support of her mother, Jill Kumlien, who has had multiple sclerosis since 1980. Ashley Kumlien ran the first MS Run the US by herself during six months in 2010.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there is no known cure for the disease, which attacks the central nervous system and can cause a range of conditions from general fatigue to blindness and paralysis. However, there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease, and the MS Society researches ways to help people live with the disease as it also seeks a cure and more effective treatments.
Now that Chambers is committed to run what adds up to about a marathon a day for eight days straight, he has the cause to keep him motivated.
He said motivation and dedication are requirements for a distance runner’s success.
“I like the aspect of the long-distance endurance runs,” he said. “It not only shows you how physical you are but how mentally strong you are. Especially when I finished the first ultra in San Francisco … I was not only doing it for myself. I was doing it for others.”
Once he’s on the road, people can track his run through his Facebook page or even join him for part of his segment, as long as they can keep up.
Chambers’ other challenge is to raise $10,000, and he’s about halfway there with support from co-workers at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton. Benefit events with Texas Roadhouse, which sells pre-ordered meals for the cause, and Massage Envy, which is raffling off five one-hour sessions in an April 11 drawing, also are contributing.
Every bit of support motivates Chambers even more.
“I’m pretty stoked, especially being chosen from this area for something on a national scale.”
MS Run the US 2014
When: April 18 to 25
Where: Barstow to Las Vegas, 205 miles
Info: www.msruntheus.com/the-2014-relay-team, or www.facebook.com/mac.chambers.7
Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.