Talking to Mike McCormick, you get the impression he’s more surprised than anyone, that a half marathon is in his near future. The Culver City Fire Department’s retired Assistant Fire Marshal has run a couple of half marathons in the past, but the Charity Challenge, sort of came out of the blue, or more accurately, came out of tragedy.
In a very short period of time, The Culver City Fire Department, a relatively small department, suffered a double loss, with the deaths of two firefighters. In September of 2018, Fire Marshal Michael “Mike” Nagy passed away, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Then, just 8 months later, Fire Prevention Specialist Jesse Luna unexpectedly passed away, in May of 2019.
“There’s No Better Charity Out There”
After those devastating losses, Mike McCormick decided he was going to do something to make sure his friends aren’t forgotten. That’s where the Charity Challenge comes in, and specifically, the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund, an organization that helps LAFD firefighters and their families, in crisis, especially after an injury or death in the line of duty. In Mike’s opinion, “There’s no better charity out there!”
The Charity Challenge, a half marathon, is folded into the world-class Los Angeles Marathon, presented by Asics, on Sunday, March 8th, 2020. Charity runners, like Mike, who participate to increase awareness and raise funds for their causes, will merge into the marathon course at mile 13, and then continue, along with the pack, to the finish line in Santa Monica. After completing the race, Charity Challenge runners will have logged 13.1 miles. All the money Mike raises is headed straight to the firefighter’s fund.
Preparing for Race Day
So now the real work begins. There are a couple of practice runs scheduled before the big day, as well as talking to seasoned runners who offer sage advice, like, “You hydrate days before the race, not just the night before.” Good to know, even though Mike openly admits, he’s not trying to set, break or even approach any records. “It’s my first time doing it [the Charity Challenge] and I plan to run and walk all the way to Santa Monica. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to finish, but I know I’ll beat the street cleaners!”
McCormick will be accompanied by his 26-year-old son Matthew, who is a Community Services Officer with the Culver City Fire Department. Five other members of the department also are running that day, taking part in the full Los Angeles Marathon. They’ll all reunite about half way through, when the Charity Challenge runners join the race. Everyone running, is doing so in memory of their fallen firefighter friends. It’s a group effort that spans LAFD and the CCFD, because as Mike puts it, “We’re all one big family.” In a beautiful show of unity, all will be sporting custom bibs, created for them to wear during the race. The bibs include photos of Jesse Luna and Mike Nagy, along with their names, ranks and fire department.
And a family that runs together has fun together, at least that’s what Mike is hoping. He’s looking forward to an injury and drama free race. But this 61-year old, retired Firefighter is well prepared. Mikes says his race-day survival kit includes, “A CPR mask, my insurance card and my phone!” That’s right, after more than three decades on a job, where the main objective is to keep people safe, you learn some things.
Honoring Fallen Firefighters
And Mike knows for sure, the men he’s running to honor, would get a kick out of his effort. He says Mike Nagy would be impressed with the whole idea and Jesse Luna, who was a two-time LA marathon runner himself, “He’d be laughing his butt off!”
To support Mike McCormick, run on over to his fundraising page and give to a hero who is helping other heroes and helping to preserve the precious memories of his friends.
By Patrick Stinson