By Danielle DeSimone

The average soldier or Marine carries approximately 60-100 pounds of gear every day. That’s why, on the day of the Columbus Marathon, so does Steve Calhoun.

For the past six years, Calhoun has strapped on a weighted rucksack, laced up his tennis shoes and picked up his American flag to run 26.2 miles in honor of those who have served. This year, he chose to run once again – and also fundraise for the USO.

Calhoun dedicates his annual run in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon in Columbus, Ohio, to active duty military and veterans’ organizations. Although he chooses a different organization to fundraise for each time, this year he chose to raise money for the USO through a Facebook Fundraiser.

“I have a few friends that are active duty and I asked them what they thought,” Calhoun said, explaining how he decided which organization to donate his fundraising efforts to. “And independently of each other, they both said ‘the USO.’”

Rucking for a Cause

Photo credit Steve Calhoun

To honor family and friends who have served, Steve Calhoun wears a weighted rucksack while running the 26.2 miles of the Columbus Marathon.

Calhoun was inspired to run with a weighted rucksack a few years ago after a friend introduced him to “rucking” with GoRuck, a military and civilian rucksack manufacturing company, which was founded by a Special Forces veteran. Calhoun loads his ruck with 45 pounds of bricks and then straps on a plated flak jacket, bringing his total carried weight up to 65 pounds. Then, he runs 26.2 miles.

He explains that wearing military gear and raising money for military support organizations are ways that he can say thank you to those who have served as well as honor his uncle, cousins and several friends who have served or are currently serving in our Armed Forces.

“When I wanted to serve, I was too old, and so I thought, ‘Well, maybe there’s something else I can do,’” Calhoun said. “So that’s kind of how [this] started. I saw it as something that I could do, using my skills and my abilities to raise awareness and money for really worthy causes such as the USO.”

Calhoun is no stranger to the USO. He is familiar with the organization’s long history of supporting service members and was also able to witness the USO’s impact firsthand while traveling with a friend in the military, who escorted him into a USO airport lounge. While there, Calhoun was struck by the level of care provided for traveling service members.

The Importance of Giving Back

Giving back to service members and his surrounding community – including the young patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, for whom the race is being run – is what drives Calhoun to train for months leading up to the race, all while wearing 65 pounds of weight.

“That’s why [fundraising for military organizations] means a lot to me,” he said. “Because I really regretted not having served in the military and I felt like I owed something to people who do serve.”

For the past six years, Steve Calhoun has raised money for military and veterans’ organizations for his run in the Columbus Marathon. This year, he chose to fundraise for the USO through a Facebook Fundraiser. | Photo credit Steve Calhoun

While those who wish to support active duty service members and their military families do not necessarily have to do so by running a full marathon with a weighted rucksack on their backs, Calhoun does encourage others to give back to the USO and other causes that are important to them.

“The easy part is giving money,” he said. “It’s another level of commitment to take on a fundraiser yourself, and anybody can do it. I’m no expert … but nowadays it’s so easy to set up a fundraising page. It’s so simple for people to donate and I would say that – it sounds corny but – there’s really no excuse for somebody not to have a fundraiser for something, because I think everybody has a cause that’s important to them.”

While Calhoun may not be an expert in fundraising, his dedication to raising “awareness of the USO and to remind myself of the sacrifice that our troops make every day” inspired his Facebook friends and community to rally around him, and he surpassed his Facebook Fundraiser goal – raising more than $1,000 for the organization.

Calhoun intends to be at the finish line for next year’s marathon as well and promises to continue running and fundraising for military support organizations like the USO.

“I’ll continue doing [this] for as long as I can, as long as I can physically do it,” he said. “And when I can’t physically do it, then I’ll figure something else out.”