What Is Operation Jack?

This might sound odd, but on Tuesday morning, I finally figured out what Operation Jack is. Some of you might think I’m crazy for saying that, because I successfully completed my mission of running 61 full marathons in 2010 to raise money and awareness for Train 4 Autism. But it’s true — until Tuesday morning, I didn’t know what Operation Jack is.

I thought Operation Jack was a year-long endeavor to raise money and awareness for Train 4 Autism. For those of you who don’t know, I ran 61 full marathons and a couple of timed ultramarathons in 2010 as a stunt to generate attention for my cause. I came up with the name Operation Jack as a tribute to my middle child, 7-year-old Jack. He’s severely autistic and there’s a good chance he’ll always struggle to be productive.

My Jack.

I’m a marathon runner and I wanted to use my gift of quick recovery to accomplish some good. So, I came up with Operation Jack to help him have an impact on the world. I figured that if my efforts in 2010 helped Train 4 Autism grow considerably long-term, he’d be making an impact on the world. And really, what parent doesn’t want their child to make a difference? I might have to help him, but that’s what a father does.

When I was in the final half-mile of that 61st marathon last December 26, one of my best friends, Ben Delaney, was running alongside me. I told him I couldn’t believe Operation Jack was finally finished. He immediately told me it was only the first chapter. I thought that was cliché, but he was right. I’ve taken a little time to get everything back in order. Last year killed any kind of normalcy I ever had. I spent the first 3 1/2 months of this year laying low, spending time with my family and training for a race for myself.

I felt a little selfish training for a “me” race, but I needed a break. I kept a fairly low profile because I wanted to get my groove back. Monday’s Boston Marathon was my “me’ race. I circled April 18 on my calendar last September. But during the past month or so, I took a lot of the “me” out of it.

I added the San Francisco Marathon to the schedule to raise money for the Be Aware Foundation and the American Institute for Cancer Research. I’m running that race as a charity chaser and I’m looking forward to the challenge. But due to the nature of that setup, that race instantly became my focus and Boston became a baseline measurement. There is the potential to save lives by running faster in San Francisco, so that’s a huge motivator.

Also, on Saturday night, a friend of mine named Ally Phillips gave me a bib she wore in the Marine Corps Marathon and that really got me to realize that just because I finished those 61 marathons doesn’t mean I can’t keep fighting to help Jack leave a big footprint on this world. I can keep working to help Train 4 Autism and a number of other charities.

I’ve realized over the past year that I really, really enjoy being a charity runner. I used to not like charity runners because I thought they got in the way. But now, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I feel like I was led down a path to try to make a difference and that’s the path I’m going to stay on. At this point, it’s who I am and I’m proud of that.

Ben, thank you for planting the seed on December 26. Ally, thank you for watering the seed on Saturday. On Tuesday, as I went for a recovery run in the rain through the streets of Boston, it finally hit me.

Operation Jack is my never-ending quest to help causes in need, one charitable act at a time. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. But I have faith I’ll get it done. That’s what Operation Jack is.

I’ll have calls to action. If or when you want to participate, I want you with me. If you just want to observe, I’m glad to have you along for the ride. If you ever want to spread the word and get people on the bandwagon, just use the share links at the top of any page on this site. And don’t be shy!

I’m never going to quit. I wouldn’t have done any of this if not for Jack. And I will continue to push myself, because I know that gets all of you to respond. I know you all got pretty excited with my run on Monday in the Boston Marathon. I suspected that would be the case and that really drove me. I wanted to revive the movement I’ve tried to start in honor of Jack. I hope I’ve done that at least somewhat. Like that bib Ally gave me said, I’m going the distance for Jack.

It all hit me Tuesday morning. Finally I know what Operation Jack is. And I like it. What do you think?


  1. says

    I love it. I was with some of your fans on Monday, along Boylston, and it was great to see you run by.
    Your realization above nearly brought me to tears. I am very happy that you have found the desire and ‘need’ to nurture your dream and cultivate it. It often isn’t the BAM! moments that change us, but the little ones that add up to something monumental.
    Kudos to you for what you have done and will continue to do.
    Rock on!

  2. says

    You’re the man Sam. You’re one guy I don’t have any problem supporting for the long haul. Unless you become a Yankees fan or something 😉

    Thanks for the inspiration buddy!

  3. says

    Great post, Sam. You have many gifts to give: your love for family and friends, your amazing endurance and recovery, and now you’ve discovered your gift of ongoing altruism. When people ask me why I keep running as charity runner, the question strikes me as odd. I mean, why *not*? I tell them, “I’m out there anyway, I may as well make the time and effort worthwhile.” I saw a line one time that I borrowed and revised a bit before making it a line in my blog profile. It applies to you as much as me: Don’t just run; run to make a difference.

    Thanks for all you do to help make the world a better place.

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