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Falls Church’s Jerome Tennille Runs for Survivors of Tragedy

Jerome Tennille trains for his 12-hour Adventure Trail Run to raise funds for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. He said that only a quarter of his training for the run is spent actually running. (Photo: News-Press)
Jerome Tennille trains for his 12-hour Adventure Trail Run to raise funds for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. He said that only a quarter of his training for the run is spent actually running. (Photo: News-Press)

by Karim Doumar

Jerome Tennille of Falls Church will run the ninth annual 12-hour Adventure Trail Run on September 19 to raise funds to benefit the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

According to its website, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors provides help, hope and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s Armed Forces. “It’s regardless of the circumstances at death and it’s regardless of the relationship that loved one may have had with the deceased and that’s one thing that’s very unique about our organization,” Tennille said.

Tennille joined the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors in 2012. He served for eight years in the military before joining the organization. Additionally, Tennille’s brother still actively serves in the military, as do many of his friends. He has been incredibly fortunate in that he has not lost a family member or close friend in the military.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I lost any of them but I’ve been fortunate to not have to go through any of that,” he said. Tennille currently serves as the national coordinator of volunteer services for the organization.

This will be Tennille’s second time running for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Last year he ran the North Face Endurance Challenge in Great Falls, a 50k race. Tennille ran that race in memory of Navy Commander Robert Goodwin who died in a car accident in June 2010.

“I didn’t want him to be forgotten because he served our nation just like [other soldiers] and his death shouldn’t be taken any more lightly than somebody who is killed overseas,” Tennille said of his decision to run for Goodwin.

Tennille fits well at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors because he understands the importance of giving help and support to those who lose service members in non-newsworthy ways.

“There are so many people out there who die by suicide, training accidents, car accidents, risk taking behavior and you see these things far too often and they are dwarfed by other deaths that get national attention,” he said. Tennille considers the fact that these deceased get less recognition to be disappointing.

Consequently, this year, rather than run in honor of one soldier, Tennille will be running the 12-hour Adventure Trail Run “in memory of all those who lost a loved one that served in the military,” he said.

Tennille’s goal is to run 50 miles over the course of 12 hours. That’s roughly 4.2 miles per hour nonstop for 12 hours.

“The way I would train for this is different because instead of having a distance goal for training runs, my goal for my training runs is time on my feet, so this Saturday, I ran for about six hours,” Tennille explained of his preparation. However, a race like this is far more complex than simply building running endurance. Tennille must also change his diet and eating habits.

“Over a 12-hour period, I’m going to burn about 7,000 calories,” he said. Yet over the same period, his body can only digest roughly 2,000 calories.

“I’m already looking at a 5,000 calorie deficit for my run so I have to change my diet to make my body more efficient at burning my own body fat,” Tennille said.

Prince William Forest Park, in Triangle, VA has a 10k figure-eight track on which the 12-hour Adventure Trail Run will take place. This means that, should Tennille reach his goal of 50 miles, he will traverse the entire track more than eight times. But he doesn’t expect to get bored.

“You’re running at such a pace anyways that you can maintain a good conversation with people and not get winded so that’s what I do. I socialize with people,” he said. Last year, he took that opportunity to talk to other runners about Goodwin.

“When you talk about death and grief it’s never a light conversation,” Tennille said. “Very often, you sort of have to wait for somebody else to broach that conversation with you. This 12-hour Adventure is a perfect opportunity to do that.

“There’s a certain social aspect to these ultras that you don’t get when you’re running other distances.”