Going the Extra Mile: Marathon Man Dan McCann Reaching New Heights in Giving Back
By John Tracy Jr.
Dan McCann on a past adventure: running at the Great Wall of China.
When he was just 10, Dan McCann went with his mother on a mission trip to an orphanage in Guatemala. His experiences there opened his eyes to a much less privileged world than exists in the United States, and it was then that he discovered his gift for giving back to those in need. Since then, McCann has embarked on a series of altruistic adventures all over the world. His most recent project: to run a marathon in Tanzania and hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a good cause.
McCann was born and raised in Sea Isle City. His family name has been locally prominent for generations, with successful real estate and construction businesses. McCann has carried on the legacy, earning a law degree from Western Michigan University and starting his own real estate law firm and also signing on as vice president of business development at Boardwalk Settlement Services, a title company in Sea Isle.
Though real estate might be in his blood, it is a drive to help others that really motivates McCann. By combining his love of travel and physical fitness, he has continued to achieve his master plan: to exercise, see the world, help people, and motivate others.
This set of goals developed shortly after he graduated from St. Joseph’s University and was trying to figure out his future. The winters around here are long, and running, rowing and exercising have always been a way for him to gain focus and mental clarity. McCann had been a rower in high school and college, and a member of the SIC Beach Patrol for 10 years. In the summer of 2009, he was part of the five-man crew, Rock the Boat for Autism, that rowed 1,500 miles from Boca Raton, Fla., to Sea Isle City, raising tens of thousands of dollars for autism-related charities.
From that point on, McCann became focused on training and is now working at joining the Seven Continents Club, a group of people who have completed marathons on all seven continents.
His first marathon was the Ocean Drive Marathon in 2015. “The positive vibes and support the runners had for each other in the runner tent after the race was just unbelievable, it inspired me to keep going,” McCann says.
Dan McCann and Kate MacCready pose at Uhuru Peak with logo of their fundraising beneficiary. Dan and Kate after finishing marathon in Tanzania. Dan with guides Frank and Emmanuel, holding a certificate for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The next year he traveled to the Great Wall of China. “Running on the Great Wall was surreal. It just goes on forever,” he notes. “And the trail was really uneven and difficult.”
During the next year, McCann finally had some company on his journey. He began dating Kate MacCready (of Minersville, Pa.), and she jumped right on board with his plan. Together, they both completed a marathon in Ireland the next year.
Their next destination was Tanzania, just weeks ago. This time, not only did they run a marathon, but the next day they began an ascent of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, with its high volcanic peak that can stay snowcapped throughout the year. Though it is only about a 3½-mile trek to the summit, the extreme altitude of the hike poses the biggest challenge, as many people who attempt to climb Kilimanjaro try to go too quickly and fall ill with altitude sickness and must turn back.
“Yeah,” McCann was saying before leaving for Tanzania, “it is pretty hard to train for climbing a mountain when most of my training is done at sea level by running up and down the boardwalk.” New Jersey is definitely not known for its mountains. “For this reason, the pace will be six days up and one day down. When you are coming down, it doesn’t matter how quickly.” It is the opposite of scuba diving.
Through his Tanzania run and climb, McCann raised money for a nonprofit organization called CROSO, whose mission is to make a positive impact on Ugandan communities by providing post-secondary education for former street children there. His goal was $2,500, which is how much it costs per year, per student. CROSO provides food, counseling and access to medical care, finds housing for the students and supports them to attend school. The program was spearheaded by Kate’s sister-in-law, Molly MacCready, after a study-abroad semester in Uganda, working with students. If you would like to make a donation, go to croso.org and follow the links.
DAN McCANN’S TANZANIA REPORT
Just before we went to print with this issue of Sea Isle Times, I received an email all the way from Africa. It was Dan following up with me and filling me in on his incredible experience. The exuberance in his words was so wonderfully palpable that I felt I could not tell it better myself. So in his own words, here is his story:
“Epic. The journey far exceeded my expectations, and was much more difficult than I imagined.
“The race atmosphere was electric. It is the premier athletic event of the year for Tanzania. We stood in the arena in pitch-black darkness waiting for the first sign of light for the race to start (Tanzania is run mostly on fuel, not electricity). The dry heat was intense, but the hills were on another level. At the 21k mark, runners then hit a 10k straight uphill. Many racers didn’t finish. A lasting impression for me was the village children, they were so excited to see us and would run next to us for a few steps at a time. It was very uplifting and inspiring to see how little they had but how happy they were.
“The climb was an entirely different challenge. We had four hikers in our group, Kate and I, plus an endurance athlete from Australia and a professional hiker from Maine. We had two guides, Emmanuel and Frank; on the 5-day ascend they repeated ‘Pole, pole’ — meaning ‘slow, slow’ in Swahili. The challenge is won or lost in the first two days, we had to change our competitive mentality from the marathon (just keep pushing) to SLOW SLOW in the hike. For only four hikers, a crew of 17 support staff helped us with setting up tents, cooking meals, and transporting gear. They were remarkable! Summit day was one of the most physically and mentally challenging days of my life. We met our guides at 10:00 p.m. and started our hike at 11:00 p.m. in the darkness. Just minutes into our hike it began to snow, and the strong winds made our visibility nearly blinding. Because we were the first team to start that day, our guides were literally blazing a path for those after, this was taxing on our guides, and at times it seemed we were lost. So there I was, 5,000 meters above sea level, stuck in a snow storm at midnight. It would be hours before the sun would break and provide guidance. There was a brief moment of — will we survive this?! Fortunately, we kept pushing forward and focused on our breathing — I was at 65% oxygen intake at this point. Once sun broke it provided comfort, but also added a new challenge; there were no support lines, and we were all one misstep away from falling off the mountain. As the snow stopped and the sun began to melt what had fallen on the ground, we had to be careful of slipping on ice.
“Finally, after 7 hours and 15 minutes from leaving the Kibo Base Camp, we hit summit! The rush of emotions took over. It was pure euphoria. Hugs, cheers, and pictures took over the scene. But because of the altitude and weather, we only had 15 minutes to take in what took months/years of preparation. At that point I looked at Kate and said we did it, all three goals accomplished: Hit our fundraising goal, finished the marathon, and reached Uhuru Peak on Mt. Kilimanjaro. We embraced for a special moment. Then began our descent.
“To us, the pain and sacrifice are worth making a child’s dream come true. And at the end, what we walked away with, was priceless.”