NATASHA THOMPSON/THE HOYA James Allen (COL’ 16) has been involved with 185 for Heroes for three years.
NATASHA THOMPSON/THE HOYA
James Allen (COL’ 16) has been involved with 185 for Heroes for three years.

In the whirlwind of activity that reflects so many of our Georgetown experiences, it is sometimes hard to remember how many people exist outside our sphere. Luckily, there are a few of us who manage to exert ourselves beyond our immediate community and make a difference. James Allen (COL ’16), president of the Georgetown Running Club, employee of More Uncommon Grounds and marathon finisher, is one of these individuals. Allen has been involved with 185 for Heroes since his freshman year in the Georgetown Running Club and he’s been hooked ever since.

What is 185 for Heroes?

185 for Heroes is a nonprofit charity organization that raises money for wounded veterans through a week-long run that takes place every September. So how it works is usually two veterans from a military service start in Cumberland, Md., and run along the C&O Canal, 185 miles, to all the way here at Georgetown, and they do it over one week, so it’s about 25 to 26 miles a day. They finish here on the seventh day with a big finish line ceremony here that we put on. There are speakers and there are some performances and things.

So basically, they run a marathon every day for a week?

Yes, that’s it.

So the charity that 185 for Heroes is sponsoring is Operation Second Chance. Can you tell me a little bit more about what their goals are?

Operation Second Chance works with a hospital. I know they are spending a lot of money to help veterans pay for their recovery. A lot of the effort goes to helping them readjust to civilian life, to deal with PTSD, things like that.

What are you doing with this event?

I’m the only student on the board [of 185 and] my job is to secure the space for the event, get all the equipment for the Office of Campus Activities Facilities, promote the event on campus and get the Running Club involved — because that’s how it started with 185. They came to us, the Running Club, and we’ve always helped them out. It’s a nice service opportunity. It’s the connection between 185 people and Georgetown University.

So how did you become involved with the board of 185?

I came to the event my freshman year. They were looking for someone in the Running Club who was willing to take on the responsibility and I told them I would do it. … Mostly it was brought to me by my friend Dave Baran (SFS ’11). He was the president of the Running Club, he’s the one who really got involved with 185 to start with and he passed it on to me.

What are your goals for the event you’re hosting?

We want to get as many people out to the event as possible, that’s my biggest job, probably — publicizing the event and trying to get people to come. We would like to get some participation from some of the campus military groups. GUSVA (the Georgetown University Student Veteran Association) has always been helping us out. They come every year. We’d like to get the ROTC involved — it’s not that we want anything from them in terms of participation, but just to attend.

So you’re asking for participation and awareness, not money?

Yes. It’s someone else’s job to do the fundraising. I just want people to come out and understand what we’re doing. I think it’s pretty cool.

If people are not marathon runners, how can they get involved?

We have this system set up called “virtual teams.” We do this in running club, and also there are some other virtual teams out there. You put a team together of six to 10 people and between those people you can run the 185 miles over that week.

So it’s an expression of empathy?

Exactly. And the runners know about that, the people who run the real 185. I think that helps them. In the Running Club we use it for fundraising. It makes people more involved and committed and spreads empathy. I think that’s the best way to join a team and run as little as two to three miles a day, and for 10 people that adds up.

What would you want the Georgetown community to know about this event?

This is our fifth year, so this is nothing brand new. We’ve raised almost $60,000 in the last five years. We’re hoping to break $60,000 this year — it’s a set goal. We’re going to have a performance from a military performing team. They spin the guns and everything, I don’t know exactly how it works. You’re going to get to hear from the runners — most of them have been in battle or on tour in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Have you had any personal interactions that stick out?

Yeah, last year we had a speaker who was an amputee who served in Iraq. There was an attack on his base and he lost his leg. He spoke about what it was like to come back from that. It was really inspirational how groups like Operation Second Chance helped him out. We usually get a veteran speaker to come in, a wounded veteran. They’ll be at the Finishing Ceremony on Copley Lawn on Sept. 20.

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