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Marine Runs 65 Consecutive Miles For Cystic Fibrosis Awareness
by USMC Cpl. Lucas Vega - October 15, 2011

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Maj. Jesse Sjoberg (left center), Marine Forces Central Command Forward, leads the way as Marines and sailors with Marine Forces Central Command Forward run alongside during a 65 mile run, Oct. 6-7, 2011 at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. Sjoberg’s wife suffers from a deadly lung disease called cystic fibrosis. He ran the event to raise awareness and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Photo by USMC Cpl. Lucas Vega
Maj. Jesse Sjoberg (left center), Marine Forces Central Command Forward, leads the way as Marines and sailors with Marine Forces Central Command Forward run alongside during a 65 mile run, Oct. 6-7, 2011 at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. Sjoberg's wife suffers from a deadly lung disease called cystic fibrosis. He ran the event to raise awareness and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Photo by USMC Cpl. Lucas Vega
 MANAMA, Bahrain (10/11/2011) -- Thirteen years ago, Maj. Jesse Sjoberg made a promise to spend the rest of his life with a woman named Jacquelyn “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” as the famous wedding vow reads.

In sickness and in health hits “too close to home” to the athlete who has participated in nearly 50 physically enduring events to include: marathons, ultra-marathons and triathlons. His wife he calls Jacqui is one of the one percent of people around the world who suffer from a life-threatening illness called cystic fibrosis – a condition that limits its victim's life expectancy to their mid-30s.

Sjoberg completed a 14-hour, 65-mile trot at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Oct. 6-7, to raise awareness and financial contributions for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“She's why I do this,” said Sjoberg, a Marine on temporary additional duty with Marine Forces Central Command Forward, who's parent command is Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3, 3rd Marine Aircraft
Wing. “I worry all the time about her, but she's tougher than any two Marines I know. By looking at her, you'll never be able to tell she has this condition.”

About one percent of the world's population inherits a defective gene and its protein product that causes the body to produce unusually thick mucus in the lungs and digestive system. This mucus obstructs the lungs and leads to life threatening lung infections. In the digestive system, it stops natural enzymes from breaking down and absorbing food, according to the official Cystic Fibrosis website.

“She only has about 50 percent of a normal person's lung capacity,” said Sjoberg.

Sjoberg's lungs were tested during his 65-miler.

“I... struggle to breathe for 12-13 hours in this endeavor (maybe 13-15 if it's really bad) Jacqui fights to breathe every day...even on the best of days. The comparison is hardly fair.”

He has participated in the Great Strides walk for the last 12 years. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation hosts this event every year to help raise money to research a cure and raise awareness about the rare disease that roughly 70,000 individuals have been diagnosed with across the globe.

“Usually the walk is about one to three miles so the people with CF can complete it,” said Sjoberg. “The number 65 is significant to the fight against Cystic Fibrosis as it can be difficult for the children affected by the disease to pronounce the name of their affliction. When asked what is wrong with them, their response often comes out sounding like "65 roses."

One to three miles did not suit the marathon-veteran with a passion for pushing his body beyond the limit.

“I thought 65 miles would be a good distance, I wanted to take it to another level,” he said jokingly.

He would have participated in the Great Strides walk in San Diego, but the Marine Corps needed Sjoberg somewhere else.

“This year, I could not participate in the local Great Strides walk due to my all-expenses paid trip to the Middle East (aka my current deployment),” he wrote on his personal, fundraising Great Stride's webpage. “Nevertheless, it is my goal to raise money for this very worthy cause even while deployed.”

This was the 13th time he has participated in a Great Strides event – one annual occasion for each year he has been married. Even though his run was not officially sponsored by the CFF, he managed a way to show his support from the opposite side of the world.

Preparation and Motivation

The Bellevue, Nebraska native spent most of his exercise time preparing for the event.

“I did Crossfit, running and biking,” said the athletes who dead lifts 300 plus pounds and has the ability to knockout 40 pull-ups in a single set. “Sometimes I would work out twice a day.”

His typical week leading up to the 65-miler consisted of two to three one hour runs, three times weekly and either a 60-70 mile bicycle ride, or a 20-25 mile run on the weekends.

Sjoberg has a passion for fitness, the Marine Corps, his wife and his family. He shared how he combined the four most important aspects of his life into one event.

“I was just born to do it,” Sjoberg said about his love for running. “She (Sjoberg's wife) is an absolute miracle to the CF community. Her parents were told she wouldn't make it to kindergarten. When she was growing up, they said she wouldn't make it to see middle school. She finished middle school and they told her she wouldn't make it to high school. She made it to college, she did get married and we have two beautiful boys together now; defying all odds. She's amazing.”

Sjoberg had once heard that only 100 people around the world who suffer from CF have given successful birth.

Jacqui has now done it twice.

“To know every day that you don't know how it's going to turn out is a challenge in itself,” said Sjoberg. “She represents hope. She has come this far in life and has never complained.”

Do you want to check out hot chicks?

Sjoberg's brother Eric had been in a Reserve Officer Training Corps program while he was preparing for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. Sjoberg met with his brother for a physical training session at Iowa State University. Prior to the exercise session, Sjoberg's younger brother asked Jesse if he wanted to “check out hot chicks.”

The elder Sjoberg did not decline his younger brother's offer.

At a distance as they were gazing upon the attractive ladies on campus. Eric pointed out one in particular.

“She's the hottest chick on campus,” said Eric Sjoberg, who is also a Marine major, about what Jesse did not know at the time would be his future wife. “But she'll probably die by the time she's 25.”

Later that day, the Sjoberg brothers went into the dorms. While walking in the hallway, Jesse heard a female's voice shout “Sjoberg.”

“I thought someone was hollering for me,” said Jesse. “I forgot for a second that my brother was in ROTC here and they called each other by their last names.”

The young Jacquelyn approached them and identified herself as the voice calling from a far. She embraced Eric, then turned to Jesse and said you must be a Sjoberg too.

This occasion being the first time Jesse and Jacqui met, she hugged him as well.

“I instantly knew she was the one,” he said with a smile. “I just knew right then and there.”

30 days had elapsed since Jesse's first encounter with the young Jacqui. During this time Jesse had gone on a few dates with her. He had shared with her that he was leaving for Marine Corps OCS, and that she was “the one.”

“She flew into Omaha a few days before I left,” said Sjoberg. “I picked her up in a limo that took us to one of the nicest restaurants in the city. I had a violinist play while we were eating dinner.”

Shortly before the dinner was over, Sjoberg proposed to Jacquelyn.

“She said yes,” said Sjoberg.

Support from the command

“He originally only told a few of us that he was running 65 miles on Oct. 6,” said Lt.Col. Albert K. Kim, a Marine on the staff of Marcent (Fwd). “He's a really humble guy; the fact that he is so humble made me want to help him even more.”

An e-mail was sent to the command by Kim, a friend of Sjoberg. Attached to the e-mail was a hyperlink, that sent users to Sjoberg's fundraising page revealing to readers the situation behind his 65-mile run. The page also provided a link for contributors to donate money to the cause.

“Any type of long distance run requires a support team,” said Lt. Col. Jason C. Perdew, a fellow marathoner who exchanges running tips with Sjoberg on a regular basis. “It's very difficult to do by yourself; you're pushing your body to the limit. “

Before the e-mail was branched out to the command, Sjoberg had raised around five thousand dollars in monetary contributions.

A few days after the entire command was aware of Sjoberg's 65 mile run, his collection total had doubled to more than ten grand.

“That's what Marines do,” said Kim. “We look out for each other and help each other.”

Not expecting a lot of support, Sjoberg was amazed when large numbers of Marines within the command volunteered to their time to man the aid station, as well as run alongside him during the event.

“I love Marines, I love the Marine Corps and I love how Marines treat my family and me,” said Sjoberg.

The finish line

He usually participates in the endurance events to test himself in challenges most would see as “unattainable.”

“People can do more than they think,” said Sjoberg. “I love endurance events and testing myself.

“When the sun rose that morning, it started to get pretty rough,” shared Sjoberg, explaining his fatigue as the finish line grew closer. “Each step was a challenge. My feet and legs were done; every muscle was just done.”

On the final lap there was not a single person at the finish line -all his supporters were running with him, ensuring he finished.

“It was motivating,” he said regarding his support on his final lap.

After running for 14 hours and five minutes, he finally crossed the finish line.

“The first thing I did was call my wife and kids to tell them I had finished,” said Sjoberg. “My wife told me she was proud and to get some rest.”

“Actually the first thing I did was sit down,” he said with a chuckle.

Following a round of congratulations and applause from the Marines and sailors within the command, Sjoberg stumbled to Burger King to enjoy a well-deserved, post run meal: A whopper and milkshake.

“After a big event like this one is when I'll eat something like that,” said Sjoberg.

The first night Sjoberg only slept a few hours. The next night however, he slept for 10, allowing his body to regenerate from the 65-mile punishment.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation holds an annual Great Strides walk to help raise money to help find a cure for the disease.

While there are a variety of treatments and medications to combat this disease, there is no cure.

More associated images in frame below

By USMC Cpl. Lucas Vega
Marine Forces Central Command - Forward
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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