Former Marine plans coast-to-coast trek for injured troops

November 27th, 2011
Rick Hermelin on ellipticgo

Rick Hermelin, 70, plans to use a Solana Beach-built ElliptiGO to travel from the South Carolina's Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego next year to raise money for injured troops. Photo by Rick Hermelin.

By Mark Walker | North County Times | NCTimes.com | November 27, 2011

Take an aging marathoner and a contraption produced in Solana Beach known as an ElliptiGO, then toss in the Marine Corps, and the result is a 3,000-mile, coast-to-coast run-ride from South Carolina to San Diego to raise money for injured troops.

That's the plan for 70-year-old Rick Hermelin, a runner with 100 full and 100 half-marathons under his belt.

In March, the former Marine is planning to propel an ElliptiGO from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. And do it in 100 days.

"My support team will be the pack on my back," said Hermelin, a Ventura County resident who plans to move to North County soon to complete his training.

What, one may ask, is an ElliptiGO? It's a seatless bike that meshes running and cycling, propelled by employing a running motion akin to that used on an elliptical trainer found in fitness centers.

The ElliptiGO was conceived and developed by former Marine Bryan Pate and partner Brent Teal.

It's geared toward runners who want to avoid the beating that running on pavement can inflict on their joints.

Sales took off last year, reaching about 1,100, and about 3,000 have been sold so far this year, Pate said. The device retails from about $1,800 to $3,500.

Hermelin, a massage therapist, got the idea to propel his way across country while watching a television interview with ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes, who has incorporated the ElliptiGO into his training regimen. In the interview, Karnazes talked about many of his athletic accomplishments.

Hermelin said that rekindled an old idea he'd had about running through the 48 state capitals in the continental U.S. He said he had given up on that effort shortly after launching it in 1987.

Hermelin thought he was done with long-distance athletic endeavors when he completed his 100th half-marathon in San Diego in June.

But the ElliptiGO and his Marine heritage got him thinking about one more adventure.

"Doing something coast-to-coast has been on my mind for many years," Hermelin said. "To make this more about something other than just me and give it an added dimension, Bryan suggested the Semper Fi Fund."

The Semper Fi fund is the well-regarded and highly rated Oceanside-based charity that helps injured U.S. troops and their families with immediate financial needs as well as specialized equipment and adaptive housing, transportation, education and job-training assistance.

Hermelin has set his fundraising goal at $10,000, and a link to his effort will soon be set up on the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund at semperfifund.org.

"He has a lofty goal for us and he's such a nice gentleman," said the fund's Western states community outreach coordinator, Laura Catellei.

Hermelin served in the Marine Corps from 1959-63, and he's planning to leave Parris Island on March 23, the date he reported to the East Coast recruit training facility.

His plan to finish the trip in 100 days is a nod to the 100 full and half-marathons he has completed over more than three decades.

"I'll need to average 30 miles a day, which isn't too much," Hermelin said.

His only real worries, he said, are the weather he may encounter and some of the steep mountain passes he will confront along the way.

He'll have to stay off the interstates for virtually the entire route, restricting him to two-lane roads.

If all goes well, Hermelin will roll into the Marine Corps Recruit Deport at the end of June.

He said no matter what he does encounter along the way, he won't be hitching any rides.

"I'm an honorable person," he said.

Pate said he and the 14 people employed at ElliptiGO are excited about Hermelin's effort.

"We think it's pretty cool for a former Marine who is so fit and capable as Rick to be doing this," he said.

Pate said he's opening up the Solana Beach manufacturing plant to Hermelin after he relocates to North County so he can learn all the ins and outs of the ElliptiGO and do his own repairs during his trek.

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