Cappelloni achieves athletic feat, and much more

Cappelloni achieves athletic feat, and much more


SCRANTON — He stormed down Smallacombe Drive, perhaps running more on excitement than on energy. He soaked in the cheers of purple-clad workers. He saw the balloons and smiled as he squinted toward the midday sky and, then, toward the elaborate finish line draped across a parking lot just around the corner.

He pointed toward the sky. He pumped his fist. And, as he broke through the tape, he cut through it with both hands, a double uppercut of triumph and exuberance and, for sure, relief.

Then, Corey Cappelloni did the most important thing he set out to do a week earlier. He ran to Nana.

Cappelloni, a Scranton native and ultramarathoner, arrived on schedule Friday afternoon at Allied Services Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, a week after venturing from his Wasington D.C. home to raise both awareness and funds for the COVID-19 fight at Allied.

“I made it! I love you so much!” Cappelloni said through a microphone from the parking lot, as his Nana, Ruth Andres, waved from the window of her fourth-floor room at the facility. “I’m exhausted, but I can’t believe how great I feel to see you and to be here. ... This is to honor you and to all these staff who do such a great job taking care of you.”

As he crossed the finish, he completed a grueling 220 miles since June 12 and raised more than $24,000 for Allied along with the spirit of caregivers, staff and residents at the facility.

“It is a great day for our staff,” said Jim Cooney, Allied’s vice president of skilled nursing. “It has been a long road over the last few months for workers in long-term care facilities. Today was very uplifting, and that was much-needed.”

Speaking of long roads, Cappelloni and Nana have both faced their share of those.

Nana, Ruth Andres, is a 98-year-old who has been a resident at the facility for more than a year. She has been quarantined at the facility since the state issued a stay-at-home order for Lackawanna County in March, and while Cappelloni has called her every other day and sent gifts, he acknowledged that his grandmother’s state of mind has been a daily concern for him since access to family has been restricted.

So Cappelloni’s girlfriend, Susan Kamenar, developed an idea to help both feel better: With plans to run an ultramarathon this year nixed by the coronavirus anyway, why not run from the nation’s capital to the Electric City, raise money to support Allied and at least say hello to Nana from a safe distance outside her fourth-floor room at the facility?

It was an idea that had its own set of challenges.

Cappelloni, 45, has run long distances before. In 2018, he completed the Marathon des Sables, a six-day, 156-mile foot race through the Sahara Desert’s searing heat and unforgiving sand. He has also completed half-Marathon des Sables through Feuartaventura, one of Spain’s Canary Islands in 2017, and the Ica Desert in Peru last year, becoming the first American runner to complete the Marathon des Sables trilogy. But seven ultras in a week presented its own set of physical challenges.

There was also a significant mental hurdle: On June 4, eight days before he was to start his run, Cappelloni learned that Nana tested positive for COVID-19.

Cappelloni said there was a brief thought of driving to Scranton to visit earlier than planned, given the news. But, he dismissed that idea. Nana is a fighter, he said. And he had no plans to back away from the challenge, as he knew his grandmother wouldn’t.

On Wednesday, as he struggled through his run in Bloomsburg, Cappelloni got the news that tests indicated Nana had overcome the virus. Slumping and hurting as he was at that point in the endeavor, he got an extra burst of energy and emotion.

That’s why the run to Nana holds a place as special in his heart as any of his previous running accomplishments.

“It was just as I expected, only better, the emotions I had inside,” Cappelloni said. “I really think, besides my daughter being born, it was one of the highlights of my life. Just from the whole entrance — seeing the staff all in purple, my grandmother’s favorite color — and looking up there and being able to tell Nana how much I love her and to thank all of the staff for taking care of her, it’s hard to beat.

“I don’t think I can ever do an ultramarathon that would beat the feeling of this one. I think that would be impossible.”

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