Sunday, May 28th, 2017

State Representatives Prepare For Marathon-Long March

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BEVERLY/March 31, 2017 — As a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, Jerry Parisella has been through the rigors of basic training and done tours in Bosnia and Iraq.

He’s not entirely unprepared for a marathon-long march in uniform and boots while carrying a 35-pound backpack. Or at least he hopes so.

“I know it’s going to be painful,” he said. “I can definitely tell it’s going to be a challenge.” 

Parisella, Beverly’s state representative, is scheduled to take part in the Tough Ruck, a 26.2-mile walk, run and march on April 15 to raise money for military families who are facing hardship or have lost loved ones.

The Tough Ruck began in 2013 as part of the Boston Marathon. Military members, first-responders and civilians completed the marathon course carrying military-style rucksacks to raise money for the Military Friends Foundation.

That year, of course, was the year of the marathon bombings, and many ruckers rushed to help people who were injured near the finish line. The next year, due to concerns over security, the Tough Ruck was moved to the Saturday before the marathon and staged as its own event.

It is now held in Concord and Lexington, with participants making their way along the historic Battle Road Trail and through Minute Man National Historical Park. Finishers receive the first of the official Boston Marathon medals and are recognized by the Boston Athletic Association.

Parisella said he decided to take part in the Tough Ruck after talking with its director, Sarah Sweeney, during a Fallen Heroes event at the Statehouse for families of deceased military members. Sweeney knew that Parisella is not only an Army Reservist but also chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs and a longtime supporter of veterans’ causes.

“She said maybe you could come by and cheer on some of the people,” Parisella said. “It went from cheering on to actually participating. I just felt it would be a good opportunity. It’s for a good cause.”

Sweeney said Parisella has been a voice for veterans in the Legislature, so it’s no surprise he is willing to put on a 35-pound rucksack and walk 26.2 miles.

“It’s a true testament that he really walks the walk,” Sweeney said. “He’ll just be doing that a lot longer.”

State legislators James Kelcourse of Newburyport and John Velis of Westfield are also scheduled to participate.

Parisella, who is 53, regularly runs three or four times a week and participates in local road races. To gear up for this particularly grueling event, he’s been walking up to seven miles with his 35-pound backpack, from his home in North Beverly and into Wenham. When he gets back home, he’ll take his dog, Lola, for a walk in the woods.

“This will definitely be new heights for me,” he said of the marathon distance.

Participants can run or walk the Tough Ruck. Parisella said he will do a “brisk walk,” similar to marching. Ruckers have nine hours to finish; Parisella said he’s hoping for seven hours.

“A finish for me is a win no matter how long it takes,” he said.

Parisella has been in the Army Reserve for 23 years and serves as a lawyer for a unit based in Brockton. His rank is major, although he was recently promoted to lieutenant colonel and is awaiting the official ceremony.

As tough as the Tough Ruck will be, Parisella said it’s a small sacrifice to make in support of military families. He will be running in honor of Stephen Fortunato, a Bevelry soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2008.

“At the Statehouse we see people who have lost someone in the service,” he said. “I just feel it’s important that we do all we can to make sure they’re taken care of. This is one small way to do that.”

Donations to the Tough Ruck in support of Parisella can be made at https://www.classy.org/fundraise?fcid=889919.

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