By Sophia Ricco
Running a marathon is a huge challenge to undertake, but as Sean Vogel of Huntington proves, anything is possible when you have a cause that you are passionate about to motivate you.
The New York City Marathon is approaching, and Vogel has been hard at work training for the race and raising money for his charity, United Way of Long Island. He will be running the 26.2 mile race for the first time on Monday, Nov. 4.
“The distance is more than I’ve ever done, but I’m confident in my ability,” Vogel said. “From a guy who four years ago, never run, smoked a pack and half of cigarettes a day, and I weighed almost 400 pounds. I quit smoking and dropped a ton of weight, so every year my goal has gotten a little bit tougher.”
For last four years, Vogel has been on a journey of dedication. After being shocked by the number on the scale, Vogel went to his sister for help. She had a friend put together a workout and diet plan for him to follow.
Vogel began walking around the neighborhood, progressed to jogging and in time has run 5ks, 10ks and half marathons. Now, he will be taking on his biggest race yet, running for Team Mission United and the 120,000 veterans and military families in Nassau and Suffolk that the organization supports.
“I am truly honored and humbled to be doing this on behalf of the United Way,” Vogel said.
The program assists veterans with many services, like employment readiness, emergency financial assistance, case management support and housing.
“Honoring our veterans and doing everything we can for them is major part of my life,” Vogel said. “I specifically look to go out and do everything I can do support that.”
As a charity partner of the New York City marathon, United Way’s team of four runners are tasked at raising $15,000, with each runner encouraged to raise $3,000. Vogel feels confident he will be able to raise his share with the help of his co-workers at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Many have donated and help spread the word about his cause.
“I’m lucky enough that I work in a place like Enterprise, where we all work together, it’s all about teamwork,” Vogel said. “I’m friends with a lot of these people outside of work and we support each other. When you’re passionate about something, everyone around you rallies around and comes together and help you anyway they can.”
Vogel became involved with the United Way through Enterprise, which encourages employees to support the charity through charitable acts and financial giving. He has been the leader of the employee giving campaign and has helped sort donations for the United Way.
“Enterprise is extremely proud to be sponsoring a Team Mission United runner for the second time,” said Henry Hong, Regional Vice President at Enterprise Holdings. “Sean is a dedicated employee, and we know that he will bring that drive and passion to helping raise awareness for the struggles that veterans on Long Island face each day.”
His devotion to the United Way of Long Island comes from his close connection to veteran causes and the charity’s outreach helping those on Long Island.
“When I look for races, I try to find races that benefit veterans specifically,” Vogel said. “My grandfathers were in WWII, my sister and brother-in-law both went to the Naval Academy and I went to SUNY Maritime. I love to give back and support veterans, doing my part to ensure they are being taken care of. I run to support those who maybe are unable to run themselves, or just need the support of their community.”
To prepare for the marathon, Vogel has been running many races that support the armed forces. He recently ran the Army 10 Mile Race in Washington, D.C. and has completed around 50 races just on Long Island, but none as long as the marathon.
“It’s challenging, you look at it and think 26.2 miles is longer than my drive to work,” Vogel said. “It’s an intimidating number but you know I am confident in my abilities of how far I’ve come and what I can do, that I will be able to do it.”
Vogel has been running and cross training in the gym with his fiancé Kathy Wagner, who ran the NYC Marathon two years ago for Team Mission United. As an experienced marathon runner, she has been guiding and motivating him.
“On days when you go, ‘Oh my god, I just ran 10 miles and I’m exhausted, how am I gonna do another 16.2?’ She does for me what I did for her,” Vogel said. “She tells me, ‘You’re gonna be fine, relax. You’re gonna be okay, you got this. This is just training.’”
With a cause to motivate him and streets lined with people cheering him on, Vogel is looking forward to completing his first marathon for the United Way.
“Everybody has their own reasons for doing anything, but as long as you’re passionate about it, you can be successful,” Vogel said. “You can do anything and this is coming from a guy who was 400 pounds and was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, who can now run an eight minute mile. Set your mind to a goal and you will accomplish it, but it won’t come overnight.”