Running is a relatively new hobby for Lee Thornquist. The 26-year-old ran his first half marathon in 2018, and now he’s about to run more than a marathon a day for 36 days straight.
“All in all it will average to be about 31 miles a day,” Thornquist said of his adventure, which he plans to start on March 14.
Leaving from Chicago, Thornquist is “Running Lake Michigan,” as his website says. He will run clockwise around the lake, crossing it at the Mackinac Bridge, and returning to Chicago, a journey of 1,100 miles, all the while running through unpredictable weather conditions.
“Living in Chicago and having to train during this winter has been good preparation for that,” he said.
Thornquist is running in honor of his grandmother, Harriet, who battled Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for 13 years.
“It’s a tough road and a slow burn, depending on the disease, so seeing her go through that and what it did to my family. Their positive attitudes with it was really inspiring,” Thornquist said.
When Thornquist lost his job in the travel industry during the pandemic in August and then Harriet lost her battle with Alzheimer’s in September, he pitched the idea of running around Lake Michigan to his parents.
“We were amazed, astounded, couldn't quite wrap our heads around it,” Sue Thornquist, Lee’s mom said.
Sue knows her mom, Harriet, would be thrilled.
“My mom would be just like so supportive and so proud of him for giving back and for doing something because my mom was like that. And for doing something athletic, because my mom was like that,” Sue Thornquist said.
Sponsors have helped support Lee as he plans his run, while the donations to the Alzheimer’s Association have been pouring in.
“Oh my gosh! That’s been one of the most surprising parts of this entire endeavor. I haven’t even started running yet and we’re already over $17,000,” Thornquist said.
His goal is to raise $25,000.
A rented RV is where Lee will eat, sleep and recover. Three rotating drivers will help him out, including Lee’s dad, Bruce, who will join him for the last leg of the journey.
“I'm expecting, you know, a lot of soreness and the mental side will become more and more difficult,” Bruce Thornquist said.
“I’m definitely a little bit nervous how my body will hold up, but I’ve really had some good training,” Lee said. “At this point, I’m 13 days away and I’ve been planning this for 5-6 months so I’m just excited to get started and get moving.”
Lee Thornquist will start his endeavor on March 14th at Theater on the Lake and return there mid-April. If you want to follow along on his journey, you can do so on his website.