Glen Cove woman runs 7 marathons in 7 days to bring attention to veterans

Glen Cove woman runs 7 marathons in 7 days to bring attention to veterans
Eva Casale (right) of Glen Cove is once again running seven marathons in seven days to bring awareness to veterans issues. Photo courtesy of Team E.V.A.

The legs get heavy. The knees start to ache. The brain fog sets in, because how could it not?

When you’re running hundreds of miles in a single week, towns blur and landmarks get foggy and the body screams out, ‘enough already!’

But Eva Casale keeps going. She keeps going because the thoughts of Gold Star families run through her head, and she thinks about them.

The sacrifices their family members have made, whether they fought in World War II, or Korea like her Dad, or in the Persian Gulf, or any of the conflicts America has been involved in over the years.

Those are the names, and faces Casale is thinking about as she pounds the pavement day after day, year after year.

“Every day I think about a different hero, because that’s why we do all this,” Casale said. “You meet their parents, or their siblings, and hear their stories, and it motivates you. I want to bring attention to all of them.”

Casale’s way of bringing attention is unique; since 2016, taking a year off in 2020 due to the pandemic, she and her team have run seven marathons in seven days.

Over the course of one week, Team E.V.A. (which stands for Every Veteran Appreciated) run for 184 miles, all across Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

They stop more than 300 times: at cemeteries, at roadside markers, anywhere there’s a plaque or sign commemorating a fallen hero.

Casale, who ran her first marathon at age 18, is running this year from April 14-20. She began on April 14 after an opening ceremony at Town Hall in Huntington, and then wended and wound her way through Commack, Northport, Farmingdale, East Meadow, and many other towns on Long Island. On Saturday, April 20, she plans to finish at the Downtown Café in Glen Cove, her adopted hometown.

To date, Casale and Team E.V.A. have raised more than $350,000 since 2016, with the money going to Long Island veterans’ services and support.

Nearly 200 miles later, the dedication and accomplishment leaves many in awe.

“Her dedication to supporting and honoring Long Island’s veterans is truly commendable,” said Glen Cove mayor Pamela D. Panzenbeck.

Casale’s dedication to the cause has inspired many who’ve joined her on this journey over the years; from the beginning, in 2016, she wanted to honor veterans who often get forgotten by history.

“God gave me the gift of being able to run long distances, and I wanted to use it to bring attention to them,” Casale said. “There are so many veterans on Long Island who deserve to be appreciated and remembered.”

Casale began running as a kid, tagging along with her Dad in Brookhaven when he wanted to lose weight. Eventually, Eva’s dad lost weight and stopped running, but Eva never did.

After running the New York City Marathon at 18, Casale kept going and eventually started doing ultra-marathons, including a jaunt from Montauk to Manhattan that took 45 hours.

After doing some local races on Long Island that involved veterans, she began to hear family stories and got the idea for seven marathons in seven days.

At the start, Casale said locating and finding memorials to veterans on Long Island was key; in the first year she and her runners stopped at nearly 100 markers. Now, that number has swelled to greater than 300.

Some of the runners do short distances with Casale, others do an entire day’s worth. But whether it’s Casale with just a few compatriots or a few dozen, the rituals are the same: Stop at a marker, say a few words, lay down flowers or a wreath, and then move on to the next.

Every fallen hero they visit gets treated with the same dignity and respect.

“The families will often meet us there, and they’re just so grateful we’re remembering their child or loved one,” she said. “There was one woman last year, her son was a Seargeant, and she waited for us for a long time and it was very emotional, speaking with her.”

Diana Bonacasa of Coram, whose son, staff sergeant Louis Boncasa of the New York National Air Guard, was killed in action in 2015, is one of the families Casale’s efforts has touched, and Bonacase was at the April 14 opening ceremony.

“Team E.V.A. is an exceptional group of people,” Bonacasa said. “When we have the appreciation in our hearts toward these courageous men and women, and complete a mission like the one that starts today, it shows the integrity of every member of the team.”

In addition to the mental challenge of running such a long distance, and the emotional toll as well, Casale’s body takes a pounding.

How does she handle the strain?

“Recovery Boots, I swear by them,” Casale said. “They re-circulate your blood, and I’ll put them on for a few hours each night and feel much better.

“Of course, I still am asleep by the time I get back to my driveway each night.”

Casale doesn’t know how much longer she’ll keep doing the 7 in 7 run; as long as her body holds up, she wants to keep on moving.

“It gets more difficult each year with the planning and everything, but I have a great team around me who help so much,” Casale said. “As long as I can keep running, I want to keep honoring these amazing men and women.”

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