For Frank McKinney, the Jack L. Saunders Bridge on East Linton Boulevard not only served as a training ground for an ultramarathon but it was a gateway to help raise money for struggling families in Haiti.
As part of his training, McKinney, a 49-year-old real estate developer, author and Delray Beach resident, on Saturday afternoon dragged a 25-pound tire for 24 hours nonstop in preparation for the Badwater Ultramarathon in July.
The two-day race challenges about 100 runners’ physical and mental endurance as they traverse through 135 miles of desert and mountains.
Runners start the race at more than 200 feet below sea level in Death Valley National Park and climb nearly 8,500 feet until they reach Mount Whitney, Calif.
The tire-bridge combination, McKinney said, was a way for him to simulate the mountainous conditions he will experience during the race.
“This is as close as I can get to a mountain in Florida,” he said.
McKinney said he started dragging the tire at about 5 a.m. and hoped to finish by 5 a.m. Sunday.
The nonstop walking, he said, would help him train while sleep-deprived, which is almost necessary in order to finish the race within the 48-hour time limit.
This isn’t the first time McKinney’s trained for what National Geographic called “the toughest footrace in the world.”
He’s finished the race six times since 2003. For this year’s race, he has trained five to six days a week since November.
“There’s a tremendous amount of sacrifice,” he said.
McKinney had a second tire on the bridge for passersby who wanted to participate with him throughout the day.
While motorists honked their horns in support as they drove by, McKinney hoped being out on bridge would help raise money for his charity, the Caring House Project Foundation.
The foundation, he said, helps build self-sufficient villages for homeless families in Haiti and around the world.
Joe Metcalfe recently traveled with McKinney to Haiti to see how his donations helped the needy.
“It was really a life-changing experience,” the 28-year-old Highland Beach resident said. “It’s incredible to see how these people live. It puts life in prospective.”
Metcalfe will join McKinney’s wife, Nilsa, and a few others in July as McKinney’s support crew during the ultramarathon.
Nilsa McKinney, 52, will act as her husband’s crew leader.
She said her husband’s 24-hour training session on the bridge is normal for him.
“He feels most alive when he’s pushing himself to the extreme,” she said.
McKinney said he plans to raise money for the foundation during the race, offering the chance for people to donate $1 or more for every mile he runs. Last year, he raised almost $50,000.
However, that number came with a cost. Despite finishing the race six times in the past, McKinney had to drop out of his seventh race after 27 miles because of kidney issues.
On Saturday, a tag with the number 48 was pinned to his shirt. It was the same number he was wearing when he dropped out.
Although the tag may be associated with a past failure, McKinney said it represented something more.
“I wear it as a reminder that I’m not pulling out again,” he said.
To donate to McKinney’s foundation, visit his website at http://www.frank-mckinney.com/donate.aspx