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Long Island man finishes walk from Times Square to Montauk

Michael Ehrlich, seen here with his daughter Rachael,

Michael Ehrlich, seen here with his daughter Rachael, 13, on Oct. 14, 2017, finished a walk from Manhattan to Montauk on Thursday to raise money for diabetes research. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A South Setauket father is recovering after completing a 125-mile walk for diabetes research, a feat that raised more than $25,000 in his daughter’s honor.

Michael Ehrlich, 46, a senior mortgage specialist at Thomson Reuters, set out Monday from Times Square. He arrived in Montauk on Thursday with swollen ankles at about 6 a.m. — slightly off schedule, but victorious, he said.

“I had some doubts, but the power of the mind is a powerful thing, and there were a lot of encouraging phone calls from people,” he said Friday from his home.

Using his Facebook page, Manhattan2Montauk, Ehrlich livestreamed his location for the community of supporters he has built over the last two months. Ehrlich’s fundraiser currently stands at more than $26,000, but he said more donations continue to come in for JDRF, a leading funder of research for Type I diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes.

Ehrlich was inspired to do the fundraiser walk after his daughter Rachael, 13, was diagnosed with diabetes last year.

“At first I was, like, really? I didn’t know if he was serious,” Rachael said.

To prepare, Michael walked more than 40 miles a week in the weeks leading up to the event. He was pleasantly surprised to find most of the walk went smoothly, he said, and strangers who had heard about the project slowed down as they drove past and wished him well.

He set out with a backpack full of water, snacks and $50 in “refueling” money, with plans to have friends and supporters join him for some legs of the route. Aside from a few brief pit stops, he walked nonstop to the East End with no problems.

The only snag came Wednesday, when he realized his ankles were swelling about 25 miles from Montauk. The injury ultimately put him nearly 12 hours off schedule and forced him to take several longer breaks, including a brief nap by the side of the road and a stop at pizza shop to rest his feet.

Still, he said it was important to push through as his daughter and supporters followed along.

“My wife pulled up about a half-mile from Montauk and asked if I wanted a ride, but I said I’m almost there; I want to finish it,” he said.

After getting home, he slept for more than 24 hours. A friend brought over a spare pair of crutches until he could get to the doctor, he said.

Ehrlich hopes to be able to return to work in the next couple days, he said.

And he’s not ruling out another walk. A Massachusetts man who walked 100 miles for JDRF reached out to Ehrlich about setting up an annual fundraiser.

“I can’t think about walking 100 miles right now, but once I’m back on my feet, absolutely,” he said.

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