Running For Their Lives: Luigi Delgado's Story

Luigi Delgado is an ultramarathoner who battles mental and physical fatigue to log 100 mile runs — all while fundraising to support homeless veteran programs at United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Having been inspired by one of his high school teachers who was a former Marine, Luigi finds inspiration in the stories of our country’s veterans — their sacrifice, determination, courage, and grit. We asked Luigi to tell his story.

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I'm somewhat surprised myself that I didn't feel too beat up after my run.

It's one of those things that surprises me about the human body. The body slowly adapts to its environment and the conditions it has faced.

Between February and my last race, I've totaled just over 600 miles of running. It may be that the body slowly adapted to the long hours on my feet. I still felt a lot of soreness, and my feet hurt, but I learned the difference between normal pain, and bad/injury-type pain. The pain I felt was normal pain after this event. 

I had met this guy during the run who did a half-marathon the next day after running 100 miles in this race. Another guy I met ran a marathon this past Sunday after running 107 miles in 24 hours in my event as well. 

I still have a lot of improvement to make!

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It's kind of difficult to explain why I chose to fundraise in this manner. It starts with inner and personal struggles that I've dealt with throughout my life — and looking for an outlet. When I decided to give triathlons a try, I did lots of cycling and began running on the San Gabriel River trail where many homeless encampments are located. Spending hours on this trail, I started thinking about what my life would be like living there, under an overpass, in a tent, in the heat, in the cold, in complete discomfort every single day. And aside from the physical discomfort are the mental struggles that I am sure they constantly face.  

It was December 2015 when I was listening to KPCC/NPR, and they had a segment on the homeless veteran population. It talked about United Way’s program called Home For Good with its goal of getting rid of veteran homelessness in Los Angeles.

At the end of that segment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and called the office at United Way where I got in touch with a Senior Major Gifts Officer named Johannes.

I told him about a race in Riverside where athletes run for 24 hours and try to crank out as many miles as possible. I told him I wanted to make it a goal to run 100 miles and raise $1,000.

The first year I attempted this, I didn't make it. I was in a lot of pain after mile 40. I made it to 80 miles and raised $835. This year's run was very exciting for me because I was able to accomplish something that I had failed on the previous year and that I never imagined I could ever do.

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Mentally during the run, when the pain, soreness, and frustration was settling in, the run turned into a constant mental battle.

One of the thoughts that got me back on my feet to push another mile was that even though it's hurting now, many of those soldiers are hurting every single day on the streets.

When this thought popped in my head, I told myself to suck it up and keep pushing. My girlfriend was also very supportive and gave me the mental push I needed. The combination kept me going.

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Many of the stories I hear from veterans, and having friends that have and are currently serving in the military right now, gave me inspiration to be disciplined in my goals and to push past discomfort and pain. This is why I got attached to wanting to contribute to the services that United Way provides for our veterans. They are an inspiration for me.

One bit of military inspiration, that comes from our Navy Seals, that I repeated to myself during the run is, "Moderation is for cowards. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing."