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Sunday’s Runners Marathon of Reston was full of ambitious men and women determined to push beyond physical limitations, their souls burning with a relentless drive bordering on masochism. If the prospect of running the mile in gym class is enough to fill a fourth grader’s heart with dread, imagine what the thought of running 26.2 miles can do to the psyche of your average adult.

Yet gliding alongside those throngs of resolute competitors were two men going much further than the 26.2 miles prescribed at the start of the race. For Jc Santa Teresa and David Wingard, the finish line at the track of South Lakes High School didn’t mark the end of a long run so much as the culmination of an epic journey that saw them complete nine marathons in nine days’ time.

Santa Teresa and Wingard were two of several runners on Sunday that formed part of the Marathon Maniacs, a worldwide club whose members strive to run endurance races all over the country. Many Marathon Maniacs aim for a handful of marathons in a one or two-month time span; few can match the recent accomplishment of Santa Teresa and Wingard, both of whom are being spurred on by something greater than themselves.

Santa Teresa, a 49-year-old Environmental Health and Safety worker from Nanuet, N.Y., is running to raise money for breast cancer research through Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest breast cancer organization in the country. He was inspired by his mother, Delta, who was diagnosed with the disease six years ago but managed to fight her way back into good health. Santa Teresa, a former kick boxer, began running occasional distance races in 2000. Now he’s trying to top the milestones he set last year, when he ran 32 marathons and four ultras (races longer than 26.2 miles), all with the intention of raising $5,000 to help combat breast cancer.

Wingard, a 62-year-old carpenter from Greenville, S.C., is running to raise money through Lazarex Cancer Foundation, a smaller organization based in Danville, Calif., that helps navigate end-stage cancer patients through clinical trial options. Wingard lost his wife to melanoma in February of 2009.

Now he’s enduring a different kind of physical pain so that others might avoid the pain of losing a loved one to disease. He hopes to eventually raise $30,000 for Team for Life, a fundraising program run by Lazarex that raises money through endurance events. Wingard has so far raised nearly $1,500, much of which came from the 31 marathons and four ultras he ran last year.

“It’s just a way for me to give back,” Wingard said. “I wanted to do something to help other people and to bring awareness to what we can do as individuals towards fighting this disease that has touched so many of us. We have loved ones or know someone that has loved ones that have been affected by cancer.”

Santa Teresa and Wingard met in 2010 at a dinner for the St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. A friendship was quickly forged and strengthened when they completed a pair of marathons in Mississippi and Alabama together. The two have since traveled all over the country together, running races and raising money for their causes along the way.

The two intrepid journeymen began their latest quest on March 16 in Washington D.C., where they completed the Rock ‘n Roll USA Marathon. They then flew across the country to compete in the Los Angeles Marathon, where they ran on three hours of sleep. They went back to the airport after the race and flew to Denver, where they hopped in a rental car en route to a marathon in Dalhart, Tex. The following four days featured marathons in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Sweaty but undeterred, they drove back to Denver and caught a flight to New Jersey that landed at 4:22 a.m., less than three hours before their next race.

“We got there an hour before the race,” Santa Teresa said. “We were wearing the same clothes for 48 hours.”

After slogging through that race in about nine hours, the pair flew down to D.C. and bunked in a Reston hotel before competing in Sunday’s race.

For those keeping score, that’s 6,731 miles traveled in nine days, which is roughly the equivalent distance between Reston and Afghanistan. That doesn’t include the 235.8 miles they ran on foot, about the same distance between Reston and Henderson, N.C.

Arlington residents Scot Barco and Sandy Hugill were on hand to cheer for the dynamic duo outside the ropes. Barco and Hugill expressed awe at the accomplishment of their two friends, who they had met through races with the Marathon Maniacs.

“They’re not just doing it for them; they’re doing it for cancer research and have been touched by that personally,” Barco said. “To take that pain and to stop crying and start running is truly amazing. You try to put some love out in the world, and even more love comes back at you.”

On his return leg from Atlanta to Greenville Sunday night, Wingard finally caught a little shuteye, falling asleep before the plane even left the tarmac.

“I woke up one time in the air and wasn’t sure whether we were still sitting on the ground or whether we were flying,” he said.

For information on donating to Santa Teresa’s cause, visit here: http://www.komennyc.org/site/#sthash.xyifIEkN.dpbs

For information on donating to Wingard’s cause, visit here: http://lazarex.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=465782&supId=346559518

neilerson@fairfaxtimes.com