Some people train their whole lives to run one marathon. Some people spend weeks recovering from that one journey on the road. And then there are some people that never recover from the pain, a different pain that has nothing to do with running at all.
Some aspects of life are deemed unfair. Whether it be those stricken with disease, tragedy, natural disaster or just heartache from those affected by a type of pain, everyone can relate to struggling through life. In his own way, Tommy ‘Danger’ Locklin wants to do something about it.
Locklin, who is from Syracuse but has spent a good portion of his recent years traveling the world looking for a new adventure, decided to help ease the direct pain of someone close to his heart, and hopefully lessen the burden of several others in the process.
Ethan Clem is the son of Sean and Laura Clem of New Paris. He is a really neat three-year-old that enjoys life like anyone else, except Ethan has Cystic Fibrosis. Instead of running around carefree like most others Ethan’s age, Ethan isn’t afforded that luxury.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease that builds a sticky mucus which attacks the lungs, pancreas and other organs. CF not only makes it hard to breathe when the mucus builds in airways in the lungs and pathways in the pancreas, but the mucus can force shutdowns in digestion.
Ethan takes three to five meds just to relieve his breathing, according to Laura, as well as 15 pills daily to help with his digestion.
“Ethan needs an hour of breathing treatment every day which has a machine that fills with air and pulsates, which brings up the mucus from his lungs,” Laura Clem said. “He takes all of his pills to help break up his food. It’s part of his daily routine.”
The Clems fully expect Ethan to play sports when he becomes old enough, but will have to monitor his health as conditions and circumstances warrant.
While advances have been made through research and progressions with medicine and treatment, CF still greatly reduces life expectancy and burdens the daily lifestyle of those afflicted and affected. What was once a terminal childhood disease is now something people can live with into their 30s or 40, some even longer.
Locklin, who is friends with the Clem family, decided the broken hearts of those who know Ethan need some sort of mending. In only a way fitting for Locklin, he decided to put his adventurous mindset into motion and created More Than Just Miles, a fundraising venture to help those suffering from CF. A fitting title, Locklin is stepping into a world most wouldn’t imagine.
“I’m not doing this because I enjoy putting myself through hell every day running, I’m doing this because Ethan’s life is one I’ll never have to experience,” Locklin said on the phone from Moab, Utah. “He will have to deal with his pain the rest of his life, I’m just dealing with small aches and pains from running.”
Locklin is currently embarking on a 3,200-mile cross country run. Yes, he is running across the United States of America. And he isn’t just running from city to city, getting into a car and riding to a further destination where and when its convenient to run again.
Locklin began his journey in Seattle on Sept. 22 and is averaging about 18 miles per day. Per day! The trip, which can be followed on morethanjustmiles.org, took Locklin through Idaho and down to Utah. From there, Locklin trucked through Moab, where he was earlier this week, and to Albuquerque, NM, then to Dallas. The back half of the trip will take Locklin through the deep south before heading through Florida to Dayton Beach for an estimated arrival on April 13. No days off, even with nearly two feet of snow expected in the mountains this week. Added Locklin on a text message about the impending snow, “It’s always safe to pass. The journey must continue.”
Is he nuts? Depends on whom you ask. Is he motivated? Absolutely. Is his heart in the right place? You bet.
“My friends all said I would injure myself keeping up this kind of pace,” Locklin said, who passed 1,000 road miles earlier this month. “It’s a mental game. I set up points, where at five miles I’ll get to drink some water or Gatorade. At the next point, I’ll dedicate my mind to some thinking. But it does take some adjusting, especially when the conditions change.”
While suffering through nothing like what little Ethan or anyone with CF goes through, Locklin has overcome personal struggle of his own. Having lost over 100 pounds since his high school days which also shed the playful nickname “Fat Tom”, his new nickname of “Danger” suits his lifestyle to a tee. Five years ago, Locklin decided biking across country needed to be scratched off the bucket list, and made a trek from Newport Beach, California, to Boston. Locklin has also scaled mountains, skydived from 13,000 feet and has traveled the world on missions trips to serve others.
But with the abnormally physical demands of running over a mini marathon per day, how is he doing it?
“Five years ago when I rode my bike across country, I said I needed something more challenging,” said Locklin without any pause. “Ethan is my motivation now. The government doesn’t support research for Cystic Fibrosis, so someone has to help raise awareness. If I can help Ethan and anyone else who has this disease, I will feel like I did what I needed to do.”
It would be easy for Locklin to quit. To say the blisters on his feet or the aches in his knees, or even having to run through a mountain range along a highway with 18-wheelers going 75-miles per hour just feet from his path would shut it down. But Locklin thinks about Ethan constantly, as well as the other children he meets along the way suffering from this sick disease. There is an element of danger. An element of pain. But for Locklin, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Tommy is crazy,” Clem said. “It’s just touching that we have friends who would help the fight to save my child’s life. They have all gone above and beyond. You can tell from watching the videos that Tommy looks like he is hurting. But I know he is making a difference not just for us, but with all the kids he is meeting along the way.”