Couple launches challenge to benefit a cure
A friendly bunch walked from Goleta, along the shoreline of Santa Barbara and back Sunday totaling 26.2 miles — a marathon.
Instead of sporting running bibs with numbers, they wore t-shirts that say 24 Hour Marathon Challenge.
They don’t trek the coast for a medal or finishing time. They’re raising awareness for muscular dystrophy.
Leon Lewandowski created the challenge in 2019. He was inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral a few years earlier, and he wanted to benefit a disease close to his heart.
His mother learned she has muscular dystrophy 25 years ago. Her muscles are deteriorating slowly, and Mr. Lewandowski wishes for a cure.
He actually raised money for the disease in his childhood. Inspired by a telethon, he knocked on his neighbors’ doors to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
In sixth grade, he participated in his first walkathon for the organization.
In November of 2019, he asked his wife, Mary, if she’d join him.
It didn’t sound like the most thrilling way for the couple, both teachers, to spend their Thanksgiving break. But she obliged — if she could pick the route.
They tested their idea, walking 26.2 miles and stopping at favorite eateries. At the end of the marathon, they donated $26.20 to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
As they completed their challenge, they were alerted to a wildfire, the Cave Fire. The following year, they faced a pandemic.
They planned a group walk for late March 2021, which they canceled. But they set out independently.
Their goal is to encourage more participants nationwide, and they’ve reached about 100 people across the United States in a Facebook group.
The Lewandowski’s contacted YouTubers and other social media influencers in 2020 about spreading the challenge and were gaining momentum before having to change plans.
“What I’m hoping is that people will look at this on this side of the pandemic, where a lot of us have been cooped up and not moving. This might be an opportunity to get going,” Mr. Lewandowski told the News-Press. “I’m gonna go ahead and challenge myself physically and in the meantime, also help MDA and then challenge my friends and family to do the same thing.”
They hope their idea picks up again, and they were pleased to gather a group of friends and coworkers this year.
“You get to spend the whole day with them and chat, and we see things that you don’t see. We’ve lived here since 1987, and we’ve seen things on the walk that we never see driving by or even biking,” Mrs. Lewandowski said.
She insists on stopping at Shoreline Cafe for breakfast, a favorite place to grab a bite.
The group pauses their mileage trackers and enjoys a cup of coffee or even a mimosa to relax between miles.
In 2020, they stopped while the cafe offered food to-go.
At the time, the owner handed out a roll of toilet paper (because of the national shortage) to each customer spending at least $10. Mr. Lewandowski thought the promotion was so clever he asked for the owner’s signature and a picture with the toilet paper.
The route encompasses scenic spots like Mission Santa Barbara and the zoo.
Mr. Lewandowski describes the end of the marathon as strenuous. His legs feel like inflated balloons, a sensation he didn’t expect.
They plan the challenge for a time school is on break so they can relax the next day.
“You like this great sense of achievement, and then you feel good because you’re doing something for yourself,” Mrs. Lewandowski said. “But then you feel good that you’re also making a little bit of a difference in somebody else’s life.”
Mr. Lewandowski’s mom is very proud of her son and his idea. She recently tackled a 5K and loved the feeling of finishing the race.
The 24 Hour Marathon Challenge may not have the competition of a race, but the Lewandowski’s have found motivation to keep walking.