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Cavanaugh ready to run for vets again

Woodbury native Matt Cavanaugh (second from right) received the award at U.S. Army Athlete of the Year in a ceremony last month. Cavanaugh is kicking off his second season of running races around the world to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project. Submitted Photo.

More than a year after beginning his months-long quest to run 250 miles to raise money for severely-injured veterans, Woodbury native Matt Cavanaugh is back with an even more ambitious goal -- running another 300 miles.

"It's going to be quite a challenge," he said.

Cavanaugh, a U.S. Army Captain, with the help of his fundraising partner, Woodbury resident Tom Cocchiarella, raised over $41,000 by the end of his 250 accumulated miles in races that varied in distance from five to 50 miles for the Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit organization to assist the needs of soldiers wounded in combat.

"It's been important to me to not only raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, but to also raise awareness by shedding a light on the organization," Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh, stationed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., has been in training during the "off" months since fulfilling his previous pledge by completing the Twin Cities 10-Mile last October.

Hampering the training was the unusually high amount of snow that blanketed the nation's capitol and much of the eastern seaboard this winter.

"It put a kink into the preparation, that's for sure," Cavanaugh said. "But, the show must go on."

The Woodbury High School graduate is coming home this weekend to kick off the 2010 Team Wounded Warrior Campaign with race No. 1 -- the "Irish For A Day" five-kilometer run around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis -- and the project Gala and Fundraiser at VFW Post 295 in South St. Paul on Saturday, March 13.

The new fundraising goal is $75,000 -- a far cry from the original $25,000 benchmark Cavanaugh and Cocchiarella set up when originally conceptualizing the idea.

However, Cavanaugh believes that even the $75,000 line could be crossed quickly, leading to even higher goals to achieve.

"Today, we stand at just under $47,000," he said. "With a little luck, we could hit $75,000 this weekend."

It's been quite an undertaking and its been one that hasn't gone unnoticed as Cavanaugh was named "U.S. Army Athlete of the Year" last month in a ceremony that coincided with his first race of his latest effort.

"It's an amazing honor considering the sheer size of the Army and the number of athletes in it," he said. "I found out about it as I was driving to Myrtle Beach, Fla. for the first race of the year (a half-marathon)."

On the way to the beach, Cavanaugh stopped in Fort Lauderdale for the honor and then finished the 13.1-mile run in the same trip.

"It was pretty special," he said.

The "Irish for a Day" run -- just 3.1 miles in length -- by far is the shortest race Cavanaugh competes in during his 300-mile stretch.

"I don't really like the short races," he admits. "But, I was at 297 miles all together and needed three more miles, so the 'Irish for a Day' race fit well."

Next up for Cavanaugh upon his return home is a run in the National Marathon on March 20, with a turn in the Charlottesville (Va.) on April 17.

"It's a much more condensed schedule this year with tougher events," he said. "I didn't want to do something easy -- I wanted to be able to feel some solidarity with those facing physical difficulties."

The most exotic -- and difficult -- stop on Cavanaugh's eight-race itinerary looks to be the Comrades Marathon, which is actually a 56-mile jaunt in and around Durban, South Africa on May 30.

"I'll be there with 22,000 other runners," he said. "While it will technically be winter there, it'll still be hot and I'll be dealing with jet lag as well as the climate difference."

Also on the still-evolving schedule are an assortment 50-kilometer runs -- including the Afton 50K on July 3 -- and a five-day, 114-mile journey through the Colorado Rockies in the TransRockies Run in late August.

"I'm cautiously optimistic about this year," Cavanaugh said, "but thankful that my fiancée, Rachel, has a degree in massage therapy,"

To read more on Cavanaugh's quest or to view an invite to the March 13 fundraiser, log on to his blog at