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Running more than 1,000 miles is typical training for LI woman

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Beginning Saturday, Eva Casale of Glen Cove will take part in the "Every Veteran Appreciated" event, as she runs a 26.2-mile marathon each day, with plans to stop at pre-selected points of honor, such as churches and national cemeteries, to place flowers on the graves of fallen heroes. She spoke about the event on Thursday. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman; File Footage)

It’s 5:15 a.m. and still dark in Glen Cove, save for one bouncing fluorescent light bounding on Dosoris Lane.

It’s Eva Casale, wrapping up another morning run. After turning the corner and reaching her front steps, she switches off her headlamp, unzips her reflective Windbreaker and slips out of her red Mizuno running shoes.

“I’m starting to get really excited,” said Casale, 53, whose hair is slick from the morning drizzle.

She’s just finished a light 3-mile jog, one of her last before she started her annual challenge: running seven marathons in seven days to raise money for wounded veterans.

Saturday was the first marathon.

Since January, Casale has run more than 1,000 miles as part of a strict training regimen. Every Tuesday through Friday she wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and runs up to 7 miles before heading to work at Suffolk Federal Credit Union, where she’s the vice president of information technology.

Even when there’s snow, rain or subfreezing temperatures, Casale runs. Two long-sleeved shirts under a reflective jacket and two pairs of gloves are all she needs.

She makes the grueling feat look effortless, but behind her seemingly unending endurance is a level of preparation seen among elite athletes.

“I do get tired. I have aches and pains,” Casale said. “But I think about why I’m doing it and who I’m running for, and it really gets me along.”

On the weekends, she runs 20 miles a day at SUNY Old Westbury, always with a water bottle filled with nutrients strapped to her hand. She gets a later start, around 9 a.m.

When she’s not running, much of her focus is on taking care of her body.

She’s in bed by 10 p.m. every night and typically declines invitations to drinks from friends. During the day, Casale tries to eat lots of raw vegetables, but eats whatever she wants for dinner. Consuming enough calories can sometimes be a struggle, and over the past few months, she has shed about 10 pounds while training, she said.

In between workouts, Casale occasionally uses compression boots, which help reduce muscle soreness in her legs, she said.

In 2016, Casale decided to run seven marathons in seven days to raise money for a national nonprofit, Hope for the Warriors. She did it again the following year and will kick off her third attempt Saturday, beginning in Northport. She has raised $17,000 so far this year.

Each marathon will honor a service member linked to the community where the road race is taking place. On Saturday, she’ll run through Northport to honor Long Island’s Gold Star families and her final marathon in Medford will commemorate Lt. Michael Murphy, a fallen Navy SEAL from Patchogue.

“I thought I’d try and do something with this ability I have,” Casale said. “We have vets all across the Island. I felt it was important to recognize all of them.”

Casale picked up running as a sophomore at Longwood High School, when she began jogging in the evenings with her father, who wanted to lose some weight.

“He eventually lost the weight, and I just kept going,” she said. “Before I knew it, I was running over two hours a night.”

Casale ran her first marathon two years later and has run about 60 since. Racks of medals dangle in her home office.

She’s the rare athlete who has never been derailed by an injury, despite the enormous stress on her body. She has never experienced tendinitis or a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis or even shin splints — injuries that often plague runners logging as many miles as Casale does, according to Peter Sultan, an orthopedic surgeon at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Casale said. “There are times, of course, when I’ve been sore, but nothing that’s kept me from a race.”

Fred Freutel, 67, of Valley Stream, has run with Casale for the past four years, and marvels at her resilience.

“The sheer amount of miles would wear on a lot of other runners,” Freutel said. “It’s a unique ability, for her to remain healthy and still do long-distance races all the time.”

He guessed it might have something to do with how “light on her feet” Casale is.

The marathoner lands on the front of her foot when she runs, known as a “forefoot strike,” Sultan said. This allows her calf muscles to absorb most of the impact, unlike about 80 percent of runners, who land on their heels and send that stress up the leg to the knees and hips.

Casale says it’s likely the result of years of ballet lessons that she took as a child.

She is just grateful she can use her gift to help causes she believes in: “It’s just the perfect way for me to use my passion for running, so we always remember our veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made.”

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