~The Advocate Asks~
Editor’s Note: For this week’s interview, we sat down with Brandon Montella, a U.S. Marine veteran who set out yesterday afternoon (Thursday, Nov. 10) on a mission to complete a 100-mile run sometime tonight to honor American veterans on Veterans Day. He’s also been training since the spring on a fundraiser for “Mission Ready.” It’s a non-profit organization he created with a goal to provide military veterans and at-risk students who lack financial resources an opportunity to gain strength and a purpose in life through fitness training at his Woburn gym, “The Way LLC.” Montella, 42, has been training since the spring for what he regards as the biggest physical challenge of his life – a 100-mile run on the Northern Strand Community Trail on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) to raise money for his non-profit cause. Montella was born in New Bedford and grew up in Central Maine as one of five children. He describes himself as an “at-risk kid” who found himself mired in poverty in a world plagued by drug abuse – he says his father was a drug addict. He is a 1998 graduate of Carrabec High School in North Anson, Maine. He said he joined the U.S. Marines soon after graduation to escape the abuse, alcoholism and drug use that surrounded him. In the Marines, he said he found strength and purpose in life while discovering a deep passion for physical fitness and helping others. After four years in the Marines (1999-2003), he was honorably discharged as an E-5 sergeant. He was a machinist and was stationed at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va. In his further quest for strength and purpose in life, Montella got involved in the sport of boxing at the age of 31. He excelled as an amateur boxer, winning the New England Golden Gloves Championship in 2012 while fighting in the heavyweight division just nine months after his initial training. He fought 21 fights as an amateur, winning 14 of his bouts. Three of his seven losses were to the best amateur fighter in the country. He went 9-0 as a professional boxer in the light heavyweight division, with eight knockouts. He was ranked 23rd in the country at the time of his retirement from boxing in 2017. Meanwhile, Montella has earned his living as a personal trainer since establishing his fitness and boxing gym in Woburn in 2010. He and his wife Tonya, who is originally from Virginia, have been together for 16 years. They got married on May 23, 2010 – a date that is tattooed on his left wrist. The couple bought a home on Walnut Street in Saugus several months after their marriage. They have a 5-year-old son, Isaiah. Montella’s Mission Ready was the recipient of a Cummings Foundation $100,000 grant last year after its second year as a non-profit organization. His goal is to acquire land where he can conduct more outdoor programs and become involved with the youth that are currently incarcerated in detention centers. For more information about Mission Ready and Montella’s 100-mile run, go to https://www.missionready100k.org/,
Some highlights of this week’s interview follow
Q: What time do you expect to finish your race on Friday (today, Nov. 11)?
A: I have no idea exactly what time we’ll be completing this run. But our goal is to finish by 9 p.m. We’re going to set off at 3 p.m. Thursday – the Marine Corps birthday – and hopefully finish on Veterans Day. We’re going to be doing all of our running on The Northern Strand Trail – on the 3-mile segment that runs from Central Street in Saugus to Boston Street in the City of Lynn. It’s going to take us 17 to 18 times up and down the rail trail to get our 100 miles.
We did 50 miles in 12 hours and 52 minutes during our training runs. So, 30 hours or less is the goal. So, if we even meet that, we’ve got 17 hours to do the other 50 miles.
Q: What’s the plan?
A: There are about 10 to 15 people – including one lady – who are going to run different parts of the race with me. But my buddy, NIck Santullo, is the only one who will join me for the full 100 miles. Shaunuk Shah is my buddy flying in from Canada to run his first 50k with us along our 100 mile journey. Leny Thomas from Lynn wants to do from a 50k (about 31 miles) up to 50 miles. Nick Santullo is the only one beside me for the full 100 miles.He’s been training with me all along.
Q: How many miles have you run training for this 100-miler? We’ve done a 50-mile run earlier in the year and we’ve done two 100-mile weeks
A: I’ve run well over 1,000 miles over the past year. So, I’m ready for this.
Q: Sounds like a pretty heavy duty run. How many Marines do you know who would run a hundred miles on Veterans Day?
A: I know one other guy who’s going to do that. – Sean Clinton Cooper. He was supposed to run with us before he got transferred. He’s down in Quantico, Va. now. He plans to run it down there.
Q: Please put this race into context
A: I’m 42-years-old and this is the most mentally and physically challenging thing that I’ve done at this point and time in my life. I can say that confidently because I’ve gone through some ups and downs with this. It literally stands for everything I value in life. For me, it always comes back to the basics. The Vicissitudes of life – the ups and downs. The ebbs and flows, which generally come back to purpose. I understand that where I’m at today is because of people who came before me. I’m talking about all of the veterans. I think about them
Q: How much sleep do you get?
A: I probably average about five hours of sleep a night. I still have to run the gym. I gotta be a father and gotta be a husband too.
Q: What kind of food will you be consuming?
A: We’re going to have meals made, everything from peanut butter sandwiches to bananas and fruit. We’ll have a lot of sweet potatoes. We’ll be consuming sodium tablets and a lot of caffeine.
Q: Once you have begun your run, how are you going to keep in touch with your followers?
A: I’m going to be updating people through social media. And people can call me if they want – 617-997-365. I don’t care if people want to call me. They are welcome. It’s my race and I can do as I want. I’ll be taking screen shots as I go along, updating people on the progress of the race. People can follow us on Mission Ready on Facebook.
Q: Could this race become an annual thing?
A: Right now, I’m doing this for a cause on Veterans Day for veterans. Maybe I could organize a marathon which could become a yearly thing. Sounds like the future of a yearly tradition unfolding right before our own eyes!
Q: So, when you get to the end of the run on Friday night, is there going to be a welcoming committee waiting for you?
A: For me, it’s just going to be the satisfaction of completing one big challenge – the reward of knowing that I did 100 miles on my feet. It will be about finding out whether Brandon Montella was up for the challenge. If I don’t make the 100 miles, I’ll feel like I let people down. And if I don’t make it, I will look at it as “I ain’t done yet: to be continued.” I’ve done the training, but anything can happen. If people want to hang out and join me along the Northern Strand. They’ll see us coming up and down the trail, and they can join in if they like.
Q: Would you consider doing another 100-mile run?
A: It’s a bucket list thing. I don’t want to be an ultra runner. I’ll still run stuff, but not marathons.
Q: Anything else that you would like to share?
A: I really believe that movement is medicine. We’re talking about mental health these days, a lot, even if it’s just pushups and situps. Get out there and give yourself the medicine of movement. Nothing better than being outside and taking in that fresh air. It’s about staying loose and staying busy.