Endurance athlete Corey Cappelloni says the longest, toughest, and most rewarding run of his life was the one that took him to see his beloved “Nana.” Cappelloni spent seven days covering on foot the distance from his home in Washington, D.C., to the Scranton, Pennsylvania, nursing home where 98-year-old Ruth Andres lives. Grandma Ruth, whom Corey affectionately calls “Nana,” was sick with COVID-19.
The ultra-marathoner arrived at Allied Services Skilled Nursing & Rehab Center on June 19. He was met with cheers, flags, and purple balloons—Nana’s favorite color. As he breathlessly crossed the finish line—a full 218 miles from his starting point—he pointed to his grandmother’s fourth-floor window. She was peering out, watching for him. A sign hung outside that read, “I Love You Corey.”
Unable to visit in person out of safety concerns, Corey spoke to Nana by cellphone. A nurse held the phone to Ms. Andres’ ear for her. “Nana, you’re a strong person,” Corey said. “You’re going on 99, and you still have many more miles.” He promised to give her a long-awaited hug soon.
Why did Cappelloni choose to run instead of drive or fly? He wanted to use his running gifts to cheer Nana and to help others. He started a “Run for Ruth” campaign to support residents and caregivers in such nursing facilities. Many have been hit hard by the virus.
The running event raised $24,000. Cappelloni says that money will buy smartphones and tablets to help isolated older adults communicate with their loved ones.
Cappelloni had been training for an ultramarathon in mid-March. But he pulled out of that due to the pandemic. He was still in good shape, having run a different ultra in Peru in December. Even though he’d previously finished races like the 150+-mile Marathon des Sables in Morocco, he wasn’t sure he could endure the equivalent of seven 31.2-mile ultramarathons in just seven days. But love for his grandmother spurred him on.
“She was no longer able to have family, visitors, friends visit her,” Corey said. “She became a little depressed, so I knew that I had to do something to try to uplift her spirits.”
On day six, Corey was the one who hit a wall. Exhausted and hurting, he slowed to a walk. But then came a text message that lifted him enough to pick up his pace again. It said that his Nana had made a full recovery.
(Corey Cappelloni talks to his grandmother Ruth Andres after running 218 miles to her nursing home, where she is shut in after recently recovering from the coronavirus. AP Photo/Hessie Wardarski)