University City

He'll run 444 miles just to help Wounded Warriors

Bob Weeks wants your attention. And he's willing to run across North Carolina to get it.

An accomplished endurance athlete, Weeks has completed more than 100 marathons - including one in every state and Washington, D.C.

He has done it in the past six years.

He sometimes runs two marathons in a weekend.

Weeks, who owns Russo Construction Inc. and Russo Dumpster Services on 23rd Street in Charlotte, said he almost wrecked his car when his friend John DiCristo called him and suggested he run across the United States.

"I just couldn't comprehend that at that moment," said Weeks, who lives in Fort Mill.

Another friend suggested he run across North Carolina.

"Yes, I can do that," Weeks told himself. "I felt good about that."

DiCristo is on the board of directors of Fix4TheDay, Weeks' nonprofit group that encourages people to live healthier lifestyles and do what they love.

DiCristo knew Weeks wanted to raise money and awareness for The Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans who were injured in combat.

Weeks has met wounded soldiers at CrossFit gyms, where he trains, across the United States.

A plan came together.

Weeks would run 444 miles from Asheville to Wilmington in May to raise money for WWP.

The run will take 20 days, including rest stops in Charlotte and Fayetteville. Weeks will leave Asheville on May 8 and arrive in Wilmington on Memorial Day.

"Bob is very enthusiastic and very driven, and a little bit crazy," said Lance Beerden, owner of Ultimate CrossFit in Charlotte, where Weeks often works out. "Being around him and having him around my gym and our people is just good for everybody. You can't help but just get a little bit more excited when he's around."

Weeks will join a select group of athletes who have run across the state.

Many, like Weeks, feel passionate enough about a cause to do something to bring attention to it.

In the summer of 2010, Matt Jenkins ran barefoot across North Carolina to raise awareness for the Western Youth Network and similar programs suffering from state budget cuts.

Jordan Stafford ran from Asheville to Pittsboro in 2011 to raise money for the Mariposa School for Children with Autism in Cary.

Weeks' wife Mary makes his travel arrangements for races and includes a visit to the local CrossFit when possible.

CrossFit, which recently opened in Weddington, is based on exercises used in military and police training.

Weeks loves to talk to people, often runs marathons with a camcorder to interview his fellow athletes along the way. He joined CrossFit around 2007 and began hearing stories of veterans suffering emotional and physical pain.

"Men and women are coming home hurting..., jobs are being lost, families are being affected and communities are suffering," Weeks said. "I think people believe the government has it handled but there is simply not enough funding or resources to take care of all the different levels of needs that our heroes require.

"Hopefully the run will bring awareness to the general public on how far reaching the matter is."

Some servicemen will run portions of the 444 miles with Weeks, and he will spend a day in Fort Bragg visiting soldiers.

Weeks, 44, has been preparing for the run for months.

He sticks to the Paleo diet and practices Thai yoga to improve his flexibility.

A team will travel with him, including a cyclist.

DiCristo will drive a van with supplies. Weeks' marathon friends from across the U.S. will join him for some legs of the run.

DiCristo and Weeks have mapped out a route through the back roads of North Carolina, avoiding major highways.

Weeks will run about a marathon a day at a slow pace.

Weeks is most excited about the people he will meet.

"They will have a part of this, and it means so much to me," Weeks said. "I don't know emotionally how I'm going to handle it."