Friendship drives fund-raising run for spinal cord research

2,000 miles in 2000!

That's the goal Michael Green of San Francisco has set for himself in trying to run to raise money for spinal cord injuries in honor of his friend, David Carmel.

Carmel, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury on April 17, 1999, diving into the ocean in Sayulita, Mexico, outside of Puerto Vallarta. The injury left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Running 2000 miles in a year may not be daunting for avid runners, but for Michael Green, a former college basketball player, it's a major challenge.

"I had an epiphany in the middle of the night as to how I could help David,'' Green said. "I wanted to do something very hard which would remind me of how hard it is every day for David. And I thought it's the year 2000; why not run 2,000 miles?"

Originally, Green set a goal of raising $20,000 for spinal cord injuries, but changed that to $100,000. He has received pledges of over $10,000 and is seeking more upon his successful completion of 2,000 miles.

Green also has changed his mind about where he'd like to target the money he's raised.

"A lot of money, time and effort go to spinal cord research, which is great," Green said. "But all the people today living with the injury may never have the benefit of that research. They need support, both emotionally and physically. Some people, like David, have access to resources that can provide more specialized physical therapy and the use of certain training equipment.

"But there are a lot of people of modest means who don't have that access," Green noted. "I'd like to see more money go to clinics and local communities (so) that they might be able to develop and provide better services and training for all people with spinal cord injuries."

As for the running, Green admitted he's "a little behind the eight ball."

"I didn't really get started until the middle of January. I ran 43.1 miles in January, which means I would have to average 5.8 miles per day without a break to reach 2,000 miles," Green said. "That comes out to about 169 miles a month. I did 170 miles in February with just three break days and have tried to keep up that pace."

Weather can be a big problem in the San Francisco area. However, when it's too cold and rainy outside, Green will go to a gym and run six miles on a treadmill.

. Green lives by the Presidio, a decommissioned Army base in San Francisco, which provides a number of ideal running areas. There is one stretch that Green measured off at 6.1 miles that he often runs twice a day.

"I plan to run a couple of marathons, including one with my sister, that will buy me some extra time or maybe a day or two off a month," Green said.

As for the recording of the miles, "basically, it's the honor system," said Green, who logs all of his miles onto a Microsoft Excel spread sheet. "There's no reason to make miles up because I'm not cheating anyone but myself and David. This goal is one that I set overly ambitiously. It's a hard goal to accomplish, and I know how difficult his daily life is, so I just felt like it had to be something ambitious."

In addition to his own charts, Green's miles are monitored on Carmel's Web site, davidcarmel.com.

The Web site was developed by Carmel's family and friends, orchestrated by Jed Weissberg, David's first cousin. As stated "the Web page is devoted to the energy, activity, and spirit of David Carmel."

Certainly Carmel's spirit is manifested in Michael Green's "2,000 in 2000" run.

"It's an unbelievable thing Michael is doing,'' Carmel said. "I was really overwhelmed and touched by somebody who's been so thoughtful to try to turn such a tragic thing into such a positive thing. And he's really done that. And his explanation of why he's doing it is the best explanation."

Carmel and Green are not lifelong friends. In fact, they met for the first time by happenstance in Australia in 1994 when both were on exchange programs studying at the University of New South Wales. Carmel was a junior at Harvard and Green a senior at Claremont McKenna College near Los Angeles.

Carmel, who wrestled in high school in upstate New York, rowed crew at Harvard, while Green was an outstanding basketball player for Claremont. Both got involved in all kinds of sports in Australia, including scuba diving, body surfing, kayaking, and golf.

The friendship that was born in Australia between Carmel and Green has grown. Carmel was a groomsman at Green's wedding three years ago. And next fall will take on a new dynamic when Carmel moves to the Bay area to attend Stanford Business School.

"That's where I was planning to go last year before the accident," Carmel said, "and I'm following through with those plans."

Carmel's accident is chronicled on his Web site with diagrams and descriptions by his father, Dr. Peter Carmel, who is a neurosurgeon. There also are detailed stories about the accident and the great courage shown by David following the accident.

Green has seen that courage close up.

"I spent two days with Dave in New York last month," Green said. "One of the mornings was spent in his physical therapy at Mt. Sinai Hospital. I watched spinal cord patients, including my good friend, as they worked tediously to improve skills in areas where their minds are still able to encourage their muscles to cooperate.

"While these men and women struggle to reconnect with their fallen frames, their spirits rise to such high levels that (eventually) they may endure and even rise above the consistent disappointments they face physically," Green added. "Life's prolific challenges, including my 2,000-mile goal, seem so modest in light of the seemingly limitless strength of the human spirit."

Those wishing to help Green in his "2,000 in 2000" challenge run to raise money for spinal cord injuries in Carmel's honor can e-mail him at davesfund@saber.net. And those wishing to send good wishes to Carmel can do so by e-mailing him at dac@davidcarmel.com.


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