Area gyms will tackle marathon on rower machine to raise awareness for veteran suicide

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METUCHEN – Area gyms will come together to tackle 26.2 miles – 42,195 meters – on a rower machine to stand united in the war against veteran suicide.

With a successful event last year, CrossFit Finest will serve as the host to the marathon row for a second time on Dec. 7. This year, other gyms – Iron CrossFit North Brunswick, Mission Fitness in Livingston, Tribute Strength – CrossFit West Livingston, Sport Specific Power in Edison – will join the “shared passion for fitness, patriotism and charitable work” with marathon rows at the individual gyms.

The event will raise awareness and donations for Mission 22, a non-profit organization based in Oregon, which helps combat the ever-rising veteran suicide rate. Every day, more than 20 veterans are lost to suicide.

Mission 22 wants to bring that number to zero offering treatment programs for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse and any other issues veterans might be facing, according to its website.

Brian Sadej, a coach at CrossFit Finest in Metuchen, brought the idea of the marathon row to his gym after attending the CrossFit Games, an athletic competition, in Madison, Wisconsin in 2018. One of the events was a marathon row.

“Fancying myself a decent rower, I was curious as to how I would do in the event,” he said. “The idea spawned into a desire to help others. I know most people would not want to attempt 26.2 miles on the rower by themselves, but I figured by embracing the community aspect of CrossFit people would be more likely to tackle a massive challenge.”

With support from Jenn DiMarino, owner of CrossFit Finest, a massive challenge combined with a fundraising effort was born.

“I did some research and was staggered by the rates at which suicide plagues though that have served,” Sadej said adding he has always had tremendous respect for the brave men and women who have served their country. “Through some more research, I found Mission 22 and really believed in what they were trying to accomplish.”

Sadej said “awareness is key to solving any problem” and “the struggle in the battle for positive mental health is not something overcome in a day.”

“There is a tragic stigma in our society for those that receive therapy or treatment,” he said. “Normalizing it helps people realize that it is OK to talk to someone and to get help. As someone who sees a therapist, I can tell you this stuff works and can save lives. I think it is my mission right now help spread that message and help whoever I can. I have been lucky to find many other like minded people who are helping me to achieve that goal.”

Often times, mental health consequences aren’t seen as regular as a physical injury, Sadej said.

“If someone breaks an arm or twists an ankle, it is easy to see them in a cast or see how it affects their ability to walk or go about their day to day lives,” he said. “With mental health it’s different. Often times people do not see panic attacks that happen at 2 a.m. or someone breaking down in their car cause they just need a minute to be emotional. The marathon in itself is very similar. It is not a goal that is accomplished by someone in a week or a month. It takes months and sometimes years of dedication and development to achieve.”

Sadej said a video will be shown at all locations with a message from a 10-year veteran with extensive experience with the armed forces and has firsthand knowledge of the problems of veteran suicide.

CrossFit Finest is a Mission 22 partner gym where veterans can apply to Mission 22 for gym sponsorship. For more information visit Mission22.com.

To donate – 100% of the proceeds go to the charity – visit https://mission22.networkforgood.com/projects/82284-2019-team-marathon-row?fbclid=lwAR3ykEWcZVAPLuYGIG8-K2i4ncVMThbMhEYnd-jqGlwJRsTPD9fKoU9swv8.