Peak performance: St. Jude marathoner scales California mountain for 30 consecutive days to aid local food bank

A soccer coach in Northern California took running to a whole new level — scaling a mountain summit every day in April — to raise money for a local food bank combating hunger in his community.

A soccer coach in Northern California took running to a whole new level — scaling a mountain summit every day in April — to raise money for a local food bank combating hunger in his community.

Joe Owen

For 30 consecutive days, Joe Owen, 48, scaled Mount Diablo, running more than 13 miles each day up the 3,849-foot peak near the San Francisco Bay Area.  

The feat inspired others to donate to the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano counties at the foot of the mountain through a GoFundMe page, raising more than $4,300 (and counting) in a community where one in eight people rely on the food bank for emergency and supplemental food.

“It’s a humbling experience, and the biggest thing that I’m taking away is when you put your mind to something — an effort greater than you — it is just such a great reward back,” Owen said.   

When Joe found out the soccer club where he coaches in Danville, California, had to suspend all training for the month of April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to do some training of his own.

Joe Owen

Reading the autobiography of ultramarathoner and retired Navy SEAL David Goggins motivated Owen to find a fitness goal that would challenge him physically and mentally.

Owen had been looking for a way to give his running more meaning. Last November, he ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon to raise money for patient families at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“I had this amazing sense of emotion,” Owen said. “You find inspiration when you know you’re helping others.”

It was the generosity and selflessness of others that got Owen through those 30 days of running a total of about 410 miles and nearly 115,500 feet of gained elevation.

On his last day of the challenge, he ran 30 miles over a double summit of 8,000 feet.

Although he rarely does, Owen decided to bring his phone for safety since it was such a long run.

It continually pinged with messages from his wife Kathy and his friend Alex Lobban, who helped him set up the GoFundMe page and share it on social media.

The donations were pouring in.

Joe Owen

“Although it was a long run, it never felt that hard because I was so driven by this,” Owen said. “It was like fuel and I kept going.”

In just 12 hours, Owen met his goal of raising $1,000 for the food bank, where every dollar raised creates two meals.

“I get up in the morning and check it and see people continuing to give donations, and it’s amazing.”

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