Chandler native trains for grueling fundraiser The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler native trains for grueling fundraiser

Chandler native trains for grueling fundraiser
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ARIZONAN NEWS STAFF

 

Keith Eckert is hoping his old buddies from his high school days in Chandler and the people who know his family in the city will help him run 350 miles through freezing temperatures.

Actually, Eckert doesn’t need help running the grueling Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska, but rather financial support for the organization he and three active Navy SEALS are doing this for – the SEAL Future Foundation, which helps former SEALS transition to civilian life.

“Initially our focus was on scholarships, job searches, placement and mentoring,” co-founder Jonathan Wilson says on the group’s website. “We were the destination to ensure SEALs a successful personal and professional transition, but we also wanted to help them live a life of purpose and fulfillment within their communities.”

The group has since expanded its mission to provide wellness, mental health and family well-being services.

 Eckert grew up in Chandler and graduated in 2009 from Hamilton High, where he also was on the wrestling team.

He then went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he also wrestled and graduated.

Now 29, he entered the year-long SEAL selection process but fate prevented him from making it to the end,

“There are multiple physical tests throughout the year,” he said, adding he was injured in some training accidents and medically disqualified.

Eckert was in the Navy for three years and retired in 2017.

“My parents, siblings and nephews all live in Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert,” said Eckert, who now lives in California. “I still stay in close touch with all my friends, multiple teachers and coaches from Hamilton High School as well as Matt Orlando of the Chandler City Council.”

Eckert and his buddies, all three of whom have seen numerous overseas deployments as SEALS, have been training hard for the run.

“We hope to finish in five days,” he said, adding, “Our plan is to push 20 hours a day and rest four hours. We will be pulling all of our supplies in sleds attached to our weights.”

But Eckert is no stranger to long runs, having done two 200-mile races and one 243-mile race.

“I have completed four 100-mile races with my fastest 100-mile time being 23 hours and 40 minutes. All of the team members have participated in Navy SEAL Hell week. The three other team members have been to Winter Weather Warfare training in Alaska where they trained in extremely cold and miserable conditions.”

Eckert last summer completed his first “ultra-distance swim” – 16 miles took him nine hours – to raise money for another charity, SEALs for Sunshine. 

He said training for the Iditarod involves “a lot of leg- strengthening exercises and running a minimum of 60 miles a week.”

“The idea is to train only enough to where we do not injure ourselves before the race,” he added.

Eckert calls the SEAL Future Foundation “an outstanding organization that has personally helped a dear friend of mine and former Navy SEAL diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.”

“The right cause is one worth fighting and struggling for,” he added. “This race will no doubt test our physical and mental fortitude. That is why we are doing it. Who knows? Maybe we will inspire others to test their physical and mental limits.”

To sign up as a donor: sealff.org/iditarod-trail-invitational/.

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