NORWALK — At 4 a.m. Saturday, with temperatures hovering in the mid-20s, Jeff Queiroga laced up his sneakers and headed back onto the track surrounding Jack Casagrande Field at McMahon for the fourth leg of the most grueling weekend of his life.
Queiroga, the McMahon football coach, is helping raise money for the senior class at McMahon so deeply impacted by COVID-19.
He did so by taking on the challenge of running 48 miles in 48 hours at the clip of four miles every four hours with breaks, and maybe a little sleep, in between.
“I had been thinking about the next thing to do after Meals for McMahon. I knew I wanted to try and raise money for the senior class that lost so much this past year,” Queiroga said. “The senior class was hurting for money. The seniors didn’t have bake sales or car washes and fundraisers this year like they normally do. I wanted to help them get some kind of post graduate party if they can’t have prom. This community was hard hit by COVID and these kids have been through a lot.”
Started last spring by Queiroga and McMahon teacher Nick Banas, Meals for McMahon raised more than $25,000 through donations to send dinners to students and their families who were financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Queiroga’s run is tied into Miles for McMahon, the virtual 5K being organized by McMahon parents to raise money for the senior class.
Miles for McMahon allows participants to run or walk a 5K anywhere they want, including a treadmill, through March 14.
Runners can sign for Miles for McMahon on their website.
Money raised by Miles for McMahon and Queiroga’s run will be used toward senior scholarships and a post-graduation party, while also donating 10% of the proceeds to the Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital.
“Our seniors have had a tough run. I don’t think I need to explain how their lives came to a halt last year as juniors,” McMahon athletic director John Cross said in an email. “A few weeks ago the Parents Club approached me about raising money for the senior class by putting on a virtual 5K. This was their only hope to generate revenue because many of their fundraising opportunities have been canceled or shut down.
“A few days earlier, Coach Queiroga approached me about raising money for the seniors as well as the Whittingham Cancer Center at the Norwalk Hospital. He is pretty good at this type of thing, as you know. After talking to both Coach Q and the Parents Club they merged their efforts and are now working together.”
Inspired by former Navy Seal and ultra-marathoner David Goggins, who created the challenge, Queiroga decided he could raise money for the students through donations if he took on the grueling run.
The 48-mile challenge is a national event with participants all over the country taking it on this weekend.
Queiroga began his run at 4 p.m. Friday and continued through the weekend.
Along the way, he was joined in different legs by teachers, athletes, friends and parents of students.
“I got an email from a parent of an athlete I don’t know who said he wanted to join me for the run at midnight. I haven’t gotten anyone to volunteer to join me at 4,” Queiroga said. “I got the cross country team coming at 8 a.m. I am saving the football team for the last leg. I want them there with me for that.”
He planned to try to sleep on a futon in his office from midnight-to-4 a.m. but was not sure how much sleep he will actually get with his adrenaline pumping.
Queiroga has been training himself to run a lot on little sleep for the last four weeks and has experience running, having participated in marathons and as a member of a 200-mile relay team.
“This is a different animal. I think the mental part will be tougher than the physical part but I feel like I’m ready for the challenge,” Queiroga said. “This is for all the seniors.”