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Overcome and Persevere

“Running for a cause you believe in and something that is close to your heart makes those long runs a bit easier.”

For Martin Cooke and Melisa Johnson, the idea seemed so natural. Yet looking back on it, somewhat crazy. Ignited from a conversation at a conference room table in early September 2017, Cooke and Johnson set out to form a Charity Group to run the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon. Thus, 54 Strong was formed.

Within one week from that conversation, both were registered for the Miami Marathon, a team logo designed, the website, social media and fundraising pages were launched, and were ready to start recruiting runners. Both having history of living in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for many years, this location was dear to their hearts for many reasons. Cooke conceptualized creating a team of 54 runners – one representing each of the islands.

While this idea seemed so natural, the crazy part was that neither had run a marathon themselves. While Cooke completed the London Triathlon in 2015 and had his sights set on training for and completing the Miami Marathon, Johnson had a different circumstance to consider – overcoming the difficulty of running with two titanium joints in her toes and a screw in her ankle. She always wanted to run a marathon and now had the reason to do so.

Along the same thread of this resilience and perseverance Johnson exemplified, Cooke’s initial idea of 54 Strong came in part from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma that swept through the BVI and caused massive, widespread destruction. Cooke said the “Miami Marathon seemed like a perfect race from a timing perspective to try and get as many people together as possible to raise funds for relief efforts, doing something challenging and yet rewarding at the same time.”

While the relentless recovery efforts continue across the BVI, 54 Strong has been off and running (literally!) and focused on raising funds to aid in rebuilding the islands they love. With the help of corporate backers covering the cost of entry fees and sponsor-provided running essentials, the team members are able to focus on maximizing their fundraising efforts – all of which will be donated to Richard Branson’s Virgin Fund to be applied directly to recovery efforts.

For more information on 54 Strong and other charity teams joining us at the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon, visit our Charities page.

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