Graham Dessert, owner of Dessert Companies, a roofing, restoration and renovation business, is doing a 235-mile run for charity in Greece. In this Q5, he talks about the event.

Graham Dessert, owner of Dessert Companies, a roofing, restoration and renovation business, is doing a 235-mile run for charity in Greece. In this Q5, he talks about the event.

1. Graham, what is the Sparta 300 for Charity event in which you will be participating in Greece, and what appealed to you about the event so much that you decided you wanted to be a part of it? Where will the money you raise for charity go?
The Sparta300 for Charity event is an event that is following in the footsteps of history, in support of The Navy SEAL Foundation and the Glen Doherty Memorial Foundation. We are a select team of 20 mighty warriors – led by Retired Navy SEAL Lance Cummings and a team of Special Operations Forces coaches – and we are on a trek across Greece from the ancient city of Sparta to The Hot Gates of Thermopylae, over eight days, 250 miles, 30 miles per day, 24.000 foot elevation gain.
This arduous course retraces the epic march of King Leonidas and his army of 300 Spartans to stem the onslaught of the Persian army to Europe in 480 B.C., changing the flow of world history.
Beginning May 7,  our group of world-class athletes – including active-duty and retired SEALS, special ops, service members, wounded warriors and ultra athletes – are embarking on an eight- day endurance challenge, with a fundraising goal of $300,000.
We have designated three important nonprofit organizations as the beneficiaries: the Navy SEAL Foundation, The Glen Doherty Memorial Foundation, and CharityVision.
I was invited by retired Navy SEAL Lance Cummings to train and participate.  I first met Lance in a three-day weekend SealFit Camp in California last summer.  After successfully completing the camp, I was invited to apply to be an intern at the SealFit Camp.  I applied, was accepted, and interned at another camp last fall.  After the camp was complete, Lance approached me and told me of his plans for the trek to Greece.  I was immediately interested in this event because of the challenge, the length, the location, and more importantly who we were doing it for.  I grew up in a large military family and understand the sacrifice that is made not only by the men and women that serve our country directly but also everyone that supports them.  These soldiers and their families need support.  I am doing it because I can.  And I firmly believe if you can do it, do it 110 percent.  

2. Is the event covering the same ground as the Spartans and will the physical requirements be as extreme? How heavy is your pack and does it include a ‘sword’?
We are going the same route the Spartans did, the physical requirements are similar but not the same.  The Spartans covered 235 miles over six days with all of their equipment, gear, food, etc. – 70-80 lbs.  We are covering the same distance in eight days so it will be a slower pace and we won’t be carrying all of our equipment on our backs.  We will have a truck that transports our large bags to and from our daily destinations.  I will be carrying a ruck with food and water for the day (roughly 20-30 lbs.) and an 8-foot PVC pipe filled with sand (10 lbs.) to simulate the 8-foot spears they carried.  

3. Who does the wide variety of participants include? Are most of them servicemen and former athletes. Will any women be participating? Will any wounded warriors be taking part?
When I committed to this event last December, the only participant that I knew personally was Lance.  Over the last few months of training, I was able to talk via facebook, text, and phone with most of the 18 other participants.  There is a range of active duty Special Ops personnel, retired Special Ops personnel, world-record holding athletes, a quadruple amputee, a Special Ops coach who was wounded during a deployment in  Afghanistan, and a host of ultra-athletes including the lone female athlete.
Lance Cummings – Retired Navy SEAL and active animal chiropractor.  US Navy (Active/Reserve) 1983-2011 – SEAL Teams 1, 3, 4, 5, 7.   He retired after 30 years as a Chief Warrant Officer 4. With multiple deployments as a Navy SEAL and Independent Contractor to Blackwater to Middle East, Africa, South America, and Southeast America in support of U.S. foreign policy, his last duty station was at Naval Special Warfare Group 1 in San Diego. There he was instrumental in establishing the Human Performance Initiative, a data and performance program that significantly enhanced operational capability, injury prevention and rehabilitation procedures in Naval Special Warfare.  Lance was the director of the SealFit camps I attended last year, he had a hand in my development as strong business leader for my local roofing business Dessert Companies.  
James Lawrence ‘Iron Cowboy’ – world record holder for most consecutive Iron Mans competed.  50 Ironmans in 50 days in 50 states.  I first heard of James after I had announced to my community what I was training for.  I was approached by one of my gym buddies with the recommendation to follow James on social media.  I reached out to James to ask him for help in training for this event.  He actually joined our team prior to me reaching out to him.  James has been training me since February.  James has been working with me on a weekly basis to ensure I was preparing properly for this event.  
Kyle Maynard - is an entrepreneur, speaker, best-selling author, award-winning extreme athlete, and the first man to bearcrawl to the top of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet), and the summit of Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua (22,838 feet), the highest peak in both the Western and Southern hemispheres.  What makes Kyle unique is that he is a quadruple amputee.  I first met Kyle at a speaking engagement in California last December. Within seconds of hearing Kyle speak I told myself I had zero excuses for not accomplishing what I set my mind to.  
Farris Amrap - After losing his leg to an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan, he found himself laid up in a hospital for a year. During that time he vowed to not become a victim of his circumstance and set a goal to return to peak physical and mental strength. After training for two years he enrolled in a 50-hour Navy SEAL Hell Week endurance event and not only completed the challenge, he excelled and became a coach at the camp. Now F Amrap is coaching athletes and training special operators around the world.  Farris was a coach at the SealFit camps I attended last year.
Palmer Douglas Durr - filmmaker and storyteller who has worked around the world for organizations including the Environmental Defense Fund, Ball State University, University of Maryland, Purdue University, Interkultur, and Meeting Music, as well as the Brazilian government. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Ball State University and is a SEALFIT Kokoro 40 graduate.  Palmer loves to participate in noble narratives about people and the earth. He personally lives these narratives by participating in physical events such as the upcoming 300 of Sparta march for charity.  He will be creating a documentary on our journey in Greece.
Other athletes include – Sean Easton, Levi Hensel, Jolene Wilkinson, Hewes Hull, Steve Grobecker, Dave Crandall, Jimmy Whited, Dallin Rogers, Mitch Aguiar, Jeff Gum, Robert Owens, Jeremy Crider, and Jon Eichelberger.  

4. What is the day-by-day experience like? Have you been running the entire time? How many miles have you covered per day and at what historic location will the endeavor terminate? 
We started May 7 at 8 a.m. and marched (4 mph) towards our first destination roughly 30 miles away.  I took food and water for the day in a ruck that roughly weighed 20-30 lbs.  
I carried an 8-foot PVC  pipe filled with sand to simulate the 8-foot spears the Spartans used to carry.  We went together in one large group.  
The majority of the path is on a paved road, which means a good running shoe is adequate.  I took three pairs of shoes and one pair of trail shoes.  
The second half of every day was the most difficult.  
From my experience in events like this, your body fails and you have to stay mentally positive to push through.  
When both your body and mind drop, you rely on your spirit and your team to get to the finish.  I may or may not get to this point but I expected physical hardships and challenges that I would have to work through very similar to my experience at the SealFit Kokoro camps where I was physically challenged for 53 hours with no sleep.  
Simple techniques I have used when I have been physically and mentally stressed are slow, long breathing, positive self-talk or affirming statements, and micro goals – breaking down an overwhelming task into smaller tasks and actions.   
We will be covering roughly 30 miles per day, some days will be flat and some days will be through mountain passes and hills.  
We will end in Thermoplyae where the infamous battle between the Spartans and Persians took place.  
I have been reading the book, “Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield to give me a good idea of what the Spartans went through leading up to, during, and after the battle.  

5. How long have you been training for this event and what have been the most challenging parts of the event? What have you most appreciated about this physical and mental challenge?
I have been training for this event daily since the beginning of January.  I have not had a day off physically since December – the minimum I have done physically has been stretch routines or yoga.  
The longest distance I have covered was 22 miles during my training.  It has been a mix of speed interval running, long distance rucking with weight, sprints, crossfit, yoga, and stretching.  
Physical training is just one aspect of preparing for an event like this.  I have a disciplined nutrition plan with balanced meat, veggies, fruits, and nuts, excluding processed sugar as much as possible.  I have also had to teach my body how to recover quickly within a few hours to overnight.  Ice, cold water, good food, and a good amount of sleep have been vital for this.    
I looked forward to meeting my teammates and completing this journey together as a team.  I feel the most authentic when put in these situations and operate at my best as a person.  
There have been historic sites along the way, good stories, friendships forged, and of course extreme physical challenge.  
Marching through the Arcadian Mountains has been an unforgettable experience.  
“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training.  What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without even seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”
This quote has fueled my training and gives me purpose!

— Rimsie McConiga