As she crossed the finish line in Medford on Friday evening, the last steps in nearly 200 miles of running, Eva Casale was greeted with applause, cheers and red, white and blue balloons.
She just completed her seventh marathon in as many days — a grueling physical challenge aimed at raising awareness and money for Suffolk County veterans.
Casale, 50, of Glen Cove is an experienced long-distance runner with 57 full marathons and 34 ultramarathons since 2006 on her resume. Her seven-marathon blitz on Long Island benefited Hope For The Warriors, a national nonprofit, and honored the 24 Suffolk service members killed in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Casale said. “Our journey was to honor all of our fallen heroes, and I feel we’re making a lot of progress with that mission.”
Each marathon took place in a different community affected by one or more veterans’ deaths, and Casale ran extra miles to stop at gravesites and other landmarks.
“Every day was very emotional, but we knew this was our mission,” she said.
Her own name served as an acronym for her goal: Every Veteran Appreciated. It kept her motivated as she ran through the rain and cold, and, on Friday, stiff winds.
Casale’s final run wound through Medford and Patchogue, starting and finishing at Medford’s branch of a major event sponsor, Suffolk Federal Credit Union, where she is vice president of information technology.
Her final day focused on Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient from Patchogue who died in 2005 when the Taliban attacked his unit in Afghanistan.
She ran by the veteran’s house and, joined by his father, Dan Murphy, laid a wreath in his honor at Patchogue-Medford High School. For the last seven miles, she ran with about two dozen supporters, including a group of SEALs, County Executive Steve Bellone and the Patchogue-Medford High track and field team.
Afterward, Casale announced that the marathon of marathons had raised about $40,000 in donations.
“Too many of our returning veterans are finding it difficult to transition to civilians lives,” she told about 50 supporters. “Every penny we raised goes to that purpose.”