Levi Rizk Runs 40 Miles a Day: He Wants You to Know Why
“The first 26 miles are easy. It’s that last quarter mile that will kill you.” It’s a statement most marathon runners empathize with. Dr. Levi Rizk isn’t one of them. That’s because when that last quarter mile in a 26.2 mile run comes, he’s still a long way from the finish.
He doesn’t run marathons. He runs what are known as ultramarathons–tests of human will so grueling that only a few runners internationally have the grit to participate. Rizk ran his first PT281+ in August, 2015, covering more than 175 miles in under 66 hours. But at this very moment, Levi Rizk is involved in another ultramarathon, and this time, the stakes are higher. His plan is to cover 3,000 miles in 100 days. It’s day 86, and at this writing, he’s covered over 2,700 miles, all in an attempt to raise awareness for a social problem he says it’s time to eliminate–lack of healthcare for low-income children.
I’m Running Toward Something
He set off from the Santa Monica pier on September 11, 2016, and with only a few exceptions (one of them being the day he took off to attend the birth of his second daughter, Lavi), he’s run an average of 40 miles per day every day since. Typically, he runs from before dawn almost until the sun sets. All. Day. Long. His goal is to reach Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Then, with help from generous donors who are each sponsoring a few miles of his run, his plan is to retrofit a donated RV as a mobile health clinic to serve children in the D.C. area who don’t have access to healthcare.
Why is this generous young doctor pushing his body to such limits? He feels God has called him to do it.
“I feel that I’m running towards something, but I’m also running away from something. I want to change something, and I’m hoping that that something is behind me, and I’m running towards something that would be different. …I realize, seeing it in my own kid, that to change a society or a culture, you start really early. And I’m hoping that by promoting healthcare for kids, I’m hoping that we would move toward the society that cares about children in a way that can change our society,” said Dr. Rizk in a video interview filmed with the setting sun serving as a backdrop as he ran eastward toward his goal.
The Need for Mobile Health Care
According to Dr. Rizk, about 7.7 million children in the U.S. lack access to needed healthcare services. There are a number of reasons, including lack of health insurance, and gaps in insurance coverage, but another significant barrier is simply access. If you don’t have transportation to take you to the doctor, you just don’t go–and often, the result is that the problem becomes more acute, and even life-threatening. 9 out of 10 children who visit the emergency room to be treated for acute conditions could have been treated in a primary care setting long before the illness became life-threatening, and in a setting where the costs are significantly less prohibitive.
Dr. Rizk’s idea is that he can make it easier for these families to access healthcare by making it mobile, and by making it free. It’s an audacious goal, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll succeed. The only thing more risky than trying to run a free medical clinic on wheels is, well, possibly running 40 miles a day every day for three solid months.
His vision is a little uncertain–but then, there are people who were sure he wouldn’t succeed in running 3,000 miles either, and if he can just keep it up for the next few days, he’ll prove that group wrong.
“[God] has the ability to do anything in us when we are willing”
In order to understand the drive that pushes him, it’s also critical to understand that Dr. Rizk credits God with giving him the ability to perform under such extreme conditions. Initially hesitant that the personal publicity generated by this effort would be inappropriate, Dr. Rizk credits his wife, Mandy with helping him understand why his gift is important. She reminded him that “hiding what God has done or is doing, it is the same as bragging about it.”
If you’ve ever run a 5K, a half-marathon, or a marathon, you can begin to comprehend what Levi Rizk is asking from his body. Take your 5k and run it again three more times the same day. That’s about what a half-marathon feels like. Now take your half marathon and run it twice the same day. That’s a full marathon. Now take the full marathon–26.2 miles, and as soon as you finish it, start again and run it once more. That’s closer to what Levi Rizk is asking God to help him accomplish each day.
Impossible? Nope. Dr. Rizk ran 50.6 miles on day 68.
All I’ve got to do is lift my foot up…
Writing in 2012 about another ultramarathon experience, Rizk said, “It’s in the suffering that we grow in our character. We get to experience Christ working in us, transforming our character, enabling us and sustaining us in every way possible. Ahhh… to let go, completely, and let him be the driver… I got the easy job here, all I got to do is lift my foot up, and He’ll move it forward.”
And whether or not you agree with the concept that God has something to do with it, it’s hard to argue with the concept that somehow our country has to do a better job of providing appropriate healthcare to children who, for whatever reason, don’t currently have access to it.
Patti McCord, who has chronicled the story of this amazing feat on the runforhope.us blog put it this way:
“Levi knows full well that a prayer for growth is also a prayer for difficulty for one does not come without the other. These days of running do not get any easier in fact, they become tougher. Levi longs for the assurance that his pursuit will mean something and that when he finishes, he will be forever changed . . . .
And if Patti is right, and more of us would step in and contribute our faith, our prayers, and our dollars to help sustain his effort, it just might be that a few of the rest of us could be forever changed as well. With time, Dr. Rizk’s vision for the entire nation could even become reality. It would take an ultramarathon effort to make it happen.
How You can Help Levi Rizk Succeed:
1. Visit http://runforhope.us/ to get more information or to make a donation.
2. Download the periscope app and join in to cheer Dr. Rizk on during his last few days. Let’s not have him running that last quarter mile alone!