Antarctic run, Part 2: USMC vet motivates through philanthropy

William Connor, USMC

In my last blog, I introduced you to a truly remarkable global adventurer, Hein Wagner. Despite his blindness, Hein shows the world there is virtually no obstacle too large to overcome if we have the will to succeed. We met at the Antarctica Marathon in March. Hein was the first blind runner ever to participate in the event. 

Now, let me introduce Lieutenant Colonel William Conner, U.S. Marine Corp, a true hero in every sense of the term. 

My wife, Laura, and I met Bill our very first day in Buenos Aires, on our way to Antarctica. We didn’t know what he did for a living, but we knew fairly soon that there was something very special about him.

Bill, has been deployed to Iraq five times and Afghanistan once. In all of those deployments, he has never lost a man under his capable charge. It is apparent upon meeting Bill that there is something special about his demeanor and presence. As we got to know a bit more about his story, we began to understand just what accounted for that extra-special quality.

Bill ran the Antarctic Marathon in the very combat boots he wore in Iraq and Afghanistan! (If you remember, this was the toughest race I have ever completed  – and I am not a novice runner.) These boots now adorn my office, in a place of honor, to remind me what true heroes do and what giving back, or paying it forward, can do for the individual. 

Bill participates in many races and events throughout the year, and he frequently runs for the Semper Fi Fund, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support for injured and critically ill members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Services. The Fund raised $14.6 million in 2013, and more than 94 percent of the funds went directly to wounded service men and women. (Overhead for this organization is less than six percent!)

Bill has personally raised more than $120,000 for the Semper Fi Fund throughout the last several years, and he personally covered the entire cost of his Antarctic expedition. Bill has also raised more than $46,000 toward a goal of $53,000 for the Antarctic Marathon. 

The more we became acquainted with Bill, our appreciation grew for what a truly special person he is. We came to know what a true hero looks and acts like. Bill has never focused on any particular event or race, personal best time or personal accolades. His motivation has always focused on how he can give back to those less fortunate.


Become a philanthropic fitness hero

Many times throughout our training or exercise effort, we find our motivation waning and begin to feel sorry for ourselves, bemoaning each ache and pain. One way to combat these “self-centered” musings is to commit ourselves to helping others through our exercise – killing two birds with one stone. By doing so, we get healthy and are able to help others at the same time! What could be better? 

Fortunately, one does not have to go all the way to Antarctica to accomplish some pretty heroic acts of kindness – they can be done right here at home. Sign up for an event to raise money for any cause to which you feel a strong attachment. There are numerous events of all stripes and colors from which to choose.

One wonderful opportunity is to commit to one of the Fort4Fitness 2914 Charity Partners. Sign up to participate in one of the many spring or fall events, then contribute to a Charity Partner near and dear to your heart. 

So, there you are. Selfless acts of kindness and heroism can be one of the best ways to combat the exercise blues and get you back on track to a healthier you. Become a hero right here and now! 


Icons of heroism

The last day of our journey across the treacherous Drake Passage en route home from our fabulous adventure, Bill decided to auction his boots  and give the money to the Semper Fi Fund. As you might expect, I was planning to have these boots adorn my office and was prepared to pay whatever necessary to have these icons of heroism prominently displayed. 


Thank you, Bill and all of our service men and women, for everything you do to ensure our freedom and most importantly, for showing me what true heroism is!


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