BY JOAN ELOVITZ KAZAN | PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI
I’m not a runner,” Mitch Moser claims, despite the fact that this local attorney recently completed a grueling series of marathons. As a member of Team Hold the Plane, Moser joined 15 runners for the World Marathon Challenge: seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is a challenge for anyone, but especially Moser, a suburban dad whose typical activity involves three days a week on an elliptical at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and an occasional run around Bayside with his dog, Diamond.
So why the 777 Marathon? Peer pressure. Moser’s lifelong friend, former Florida Marlins owner and Milwaukee native David Samson, knew exactly which buttons to push in 2016. “We went to the Cubs/Marlins series and David and his friends asked me to join them to train for the Dopey (Challenge). When they said day one was a rest day, I said, ‘I’m in,’” Moser jokes. “The next day was a three-mile run along Lake Michigan. I did that and thought, ‘I can do this.’” But then a four-mile run? Moser said, “I’m out. I can’t run four miles and I can’t run on back-to-back days.” Famous last words. “Very begrudgingly, I went,” he adds. “It was tough and difficult, but I made it.”
Moser continued training for the Dopey, a four-day series consisting of a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon through Disney World. “I figured I’d run until I injured something,” Moser explains. “I kept running four to five days a week and never got hurt.”
Three days after completing the Dopey, Moser sustained an injury back home. “I volunteer at a legal clinic and on my way in, I fell on the ice and cracked three ribs. I was out of commission for three months,” he adds. During his recovery, Samson asked Moser to join his 777 team. “That’s way out of my league; you guys are crazy. Plus, I haven’t run in two months,” Moser responded. But Samson’s persuasiveness prevailed yet again.
Samson grew up in New York and he and Moser developed a close relationship every summer at Camp Interlaken, the JCC’s overnight camp in Eagle River. “David told me if I could do the Dopey, I could do the 777 and that the group would be raising money for 11 charities, including Camp Interlaken. I was thrilled, but the 777 was still not something I wanted to do,” Moser recalls. “I told them I’d be happy to donate, though.”
Moser currently chairs the camp’s advisory committee. “Much of my volunteer life is spent raising money for Interlaken, so I was incredibly honored it was on the list, but the 777 was not for me,” Moser explained. But Samson had already signed his friend up. “David Samson wore me down (and) I agreed to give it a shot.”
Two marathons in October boosted Moser’s confidence. “I knew I could run a marathon, just not very fast,” Moser says. His wife, Cheryl, and sons, Sam, Jeremy and Daniel, were very supportive. Sam even joined his dad for the Chicago Marathon, but Cheryl admits to some doubts. “The challenge seemed impossible for the most in-shape people and although Mitch works out, he had never done anything close to what this would require,” she says. Moser wasn’t surprised his best race was Antarctica. “I was in my natural element. I had trained in the winter in Wisconsin. I ran Antarctica in 6:45, thinking ‘I can do this’ but I never ran that fast again,” he admits.
Moser did complete each of the seven marathons in the eight-hour time limit. Cheryl and Sam were waiting at the Miami finish line. “Crossing the finish line with everyone cheering was a fantastic feeling and a huge relief,” Moser recalls. “But I still don’t consider myself a runner.” Moser tracks his runs on the slowest setting of his app, a 12-minute mile, which is faster than Moser runs. “Even MyFitnessPal thinks I’m not a runner,” he says.
Team Hold the Plane raised over half of its $2 million goal. To donate to the charities, including the ALS Association, Stand Up to Cancer, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Camp Interlaken JCC and more, visit 777marathon.com.