In November 2015, Aaron Burros was on the verge of turning professional in trail running when he was shot several times trying to save the lives of his coworkers in Houston, Texas. As they fled the gunman, he managed to get to safety without being fatally shot. Six years later Burros is still suffering with terrifying memories of that day along with PTSD. A bullet fragment left in his right glute is a physical reminder of pain in his leg with each step.
Despite the pain, he continues to run with a purpose. Burros has challenged himself to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks in celebration of his 50th birthday. “I was turning 50 and I wanted to do something meaningful, to have some hope,” he said. “I know what running means to me, so I chose to do something with my running.” After researching many causes, Burros decided to fundraise for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee with the hope of raising $50,000.
While the pandemic has interrupted his challenge, Burros is back on track and will be running the Mad Marathon September 12. The driving force of his quest comes from two children, Aiden and Gabby. Aiden is a boy that Burros met in 2019 at the Chicago Marathon. Aiden suffers from multiple illnesses and his grand niece, Gabby, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Gabby’s kidney was removed successfully, but tumors were later found in her skull. She is now cancer free but continues to receive treatment for her tumors.
“I know medical costs can break a family so I wanted to do something to help,” he said. Burros began his challenge as 50 marathons but he has mixed in a few 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and even some ultras.
“It’s been challenging, frustrating and overwhelming at times,” he noted.
Although Burros has had a tough time with his running challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, he uses Aiden and Gabby as inspiration to keep him going. He suspects that he will continue to miss some races along the way because of the pandemic, but the number of races isn’t his priority now.
Instead, Burros’ main goal is to help as many children in similar positions to Aiden and Gabby as possible.
“What I thought was just a personal challenge has become a community quest. I thought I’d get better by helping others. I’ve come to realize that I’ve gotten better because others are willing to help me. I often use the hash tag #RUNandSERVE to communicate my passion. However, I’ve come to be #SERVEDtoRUN by our vast community of runners and walkers alike. I wish I could live to go from race to race,” he explained.
When asked why he chose to run the Mad Marathon in Vermont, Burros answered, “I chose the Mad Marathon when I heard the song on a video on Facebook”. That song is titled “Dori’s Mountain” and was written by frequent Mad Runner, Bill McCarthy of Newbury Port, MA, and includes a slide show of photos of the 2019 event.