My Chicago Athlete: Brett Foley and David Chrisinger

By David Chrisinger
23 Oct 13

Brett Foley’s and David Chrisinger’s lives took them in opposite directions after high school graduation. While Chrisinger went off to college to play football, Foley headed to boot camp to begin five years of service in the Marine Corps. The two were best friends in high school, but distance made it difficult for them to keep in touch.

“He was deployed all over the world,” Chrisinger says. “He went to Spain and Cuba and Iraq in 2007, Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. He was all over the place and it was hard to keep in touch. The only time we really got together was at his wedding night before he was deployed to Afghanistan.”

Though their lives took them in different directions, Foley and Chrisinger connected again through Facebook after Foley returned to the United States.

“I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time and late one night, we were chatting online and Brett opened up to me that he was having a really hard time transitioning back to civilian life so we started talking,” Chrisinger says. “We talked the next night, the night after that. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed to help him get the feelings out.”

From there, Chrisinger suggested Foley write about his experiences, which resulted in a collection of essays. In addition to using writing to process his feelings related to being at war and returning to civilian life, Foley had also begun to use running as a way to help both his moral and physical health. The two knew they wanted to raise funds for a nonprofit organization called The Mission Continues, which connects veterans with community service fellowships to give them the opportunity to continue public service while working to achieve a post-fellowship goal of full-time employment or higher education, and decided to use running as a means to raise funds for the organization.

“Brett said, ‘What about a marathon?’ and I said, ‘What about a 50-mile ultramarathon?’” Chrisinger says. “I thought that’d be the end of the discussion but without even hesitating he was like, ‘Absolutely. Let’s do it.’”

Arms Up

Brett Foley and David Chrisinger ran the Door County Fall 50

On Oct. 26, Chrisinger and Foley took on The Fall 50, which travels from the tip of Door County, Wis. to Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Though Chrisinger was familiar with long-distance running, having participated in multiple marathons prior to The Fall 50, this sort of running was entirely new territory to Foley.

“[I ran] no more than five or six miles [prior to training], to be honest,” Foley says. “I’ve been trying to run consistently for three or four hours at a time now. I’m just trying to get through that mark.”

Consistency and learning to run on tired legs were key to training for Chrisinger and Foley. Both participated in various races throughout their training, including a Tough Mudder on Sept. 7 for Foley and the North Face Endurance Challenge on Sept. 14 followed by a half marathon the next day for Chrisinger.

“It’s rough when you do a 30-mile run and you stop and think you have to do 20 more than what you just did,” Chrisinger says. “That’s a little nerve-wracking, but we’ll have the family support there, there will be the adrenaline of the competition in the race and all that and I think because we’re running for people who are struggling with the same things Brett struggled with it puts it in perspective.”

Ultimately, keeping other veterans in mind is what’s most important to both Foley and Chrisinger.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of getting our story out there,” Foley says. “I’ve had a couple friends tell me, ‘Yeah, this is what I was going through. I experienced a lot of the things that you were talking about,’ and that’s what it’s all about: knowing that we helped a couple of people and can hopefully raise some money and help them out as much as we can. That’s the goal of this whole thing: that something good is coming out of it.”

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