54 mile run, is it even possible for one man?

The other day, Friday, to be exact, we, my husband and I, were a part of an incredible feat. When I say part, we set up our band organ which we played at an event while this feat was underway. The Carousel Melodies Band Organ set the stage and served to encourage the actual participant to press on toward his goal. The participant was Elijah Miller and his goal was to run fifty-four miles in twelve hours. This was no relay race, Elijah was the lone runner.

Elijah Miller

Elijah Miller

We were at the “Rockathon,” a three day fun event, that was being held to raise funds for two special projects to be constructed at the Rock Rec Center, Trucksville, Pennsylvania. Events, to be held the following day, were a 3v3 Basketball Tourney and a 5K Pow/Mia Memorial Trail Run. The three days of events were planned to benefit two causes, the erection of a POW/MIA Memorial and the construction of the Matthew Benjamin Rondina Memorial Sports Field at the Rec. Our interest was mainly on the “Strong Run”, by Elijah and we were here to see him through it.IMG_0986  72 DPI

We did not know Elijah, nor did he know us. But he saw our performance with the band organ at the Luzerne County Fair and immediately approached us with a few questions. “Would we come to the Rockathon and did we have patriotic music?” That’s when we agreed to our part in the event, not knowing quite what we were getting into, but well aware of the Rock Rec Center, built, years ago, as an outreach of the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly.

Carousel Melodies was parked high above the event and could be heard well.

Carousel Melodies’ appropriate music added to the excitement of the race.


Elijah had marked off a mile stretch along Carverton Rd., that ran along the highway in front of the church. It was this mile he was to run 54 times. This is over double the miles run in a Marathon. We arrived at twelve noon, and written high on the score board were the large numbers 23. He had been running since 6:00 a.m. and still had a long ways to go. Since Elijah was a new acquaintance, we wondered what motivated him to try to accomplish such a feat and learned that this event honored the memory of Matthew Benjamin Rondina, a high school friend who had died of brain cancer. We couldn’t help but hear some of the comments being made about Elijah. “He is determined to do this,” said one woman. “I told him he had better get some running shoes, and he has trouble with his knees.” We met up with his father, Pastor Dan Miller, who is minister at Harvest Assembly. He jokingly laughed, and said that Elijah’s show of determination and perseverance comes from his mother.

This was the score board where each completed mile was recorded. I' pictured in the red vest.

This was the score board where each completed mile was recorded. I’m pictured in the red vest.

When the figure on the score board stood at 37, Elijah showed some signs of exhaustion. He complained of cramps in his abdomen and the afternoon sun was having its effect. His attendants massaged his body, drenched him with water, changed his clothes including his socks and sneakers and adjusted the supports he wore for his knees. And always, a large photograph of his deceased friend, dressed in his football uniform, motivated him to keep going. His friend’s uniform displayed the large number 54. Now we knew why Elijah had set his goal at 54 miles. After a short break, Elijah walked for several miles, then returned to jogging again. As if the running were not enough drain on his strength, Elijah did a number of chin-ups at the end of each mile, always between seven and ten. Then he would return to his course.  

This photo shows the young man whose memory was being honored this day.

This photo shows the young man whose memory was being honored this day.


The community showed its support of Elijah’s attempt to honor his deceased friend, an ambulance stood by and fire trucks were on hand for the big bon-fire scheduled in the evening.

Hours later, at 6:00 p.m., the score board read “52” and Elijah doubted that he could make the last two, l-o-n-g miles, but, to the raves of the people who had rooted for him the whole day, he did it !. He completed the race, all 54 miles of it and he had performed over 400 pull-ups.

Here's Elijah coming in for the win.

Here’s Elijah coming in for the win.


Elijah is Supervisor of Business Development at the Rock Rec, which operates independently of the church. His determination and perseverance will figure greatly in the construction of the football field in his deceased friend’s honor. After the accomplishment of this day’s feat, we can’t help but believe that this will become a reality.

We didn’t go back to the next day’s event. But Elijah, coordinator, must have been there, with his memories of the successful day before. His memories will remain prominent for years to come. For us, it’s an event  we’ll always remember, too.

This configuration of flags formed a cross. A reminder that this was a God-honoring event.

This configuration of flags formed a cross and was a reminder that this was a God-honoring event.

5 thoughts on “54 mile run, is it even possible for one man?

  1. Thank-you so much for coming out to the Strong Run, playing the music, and supporting Elijah. After the 54 miles were finished, he continued on with the pull-ups until he had completed 540 of them for the day. 12 hours and 43 minutes was his total time to run the 54 miles, and complete the 540 pull-ups. A couple months ago, he said, “Mom, if I die doing this strong run, I will die happy, knowing that I did what I was supposed to do.”

    The ambulance personnel found his blood pressure dangerously high at one point, and his blood oxygen much too low. He refused an IV that could have helped. That is when he walked a couple miles. He drank lots of “Jungle Juice”… his own mixture of beet juice, orange juice, pickle juice, and water. He did all he could do on his own, and God supplied the miraculous strength needed to finish the course.

    Several months ago he told me that everything he accomplishes in life will be for Matt as well as himself. Little did we know just how much Matthew’s death had affected Elijah 15 years ago when Elijah was 11 years old, determined to sit in the bedroom with Matt’s body after he had passed away.

    Matt will live on in the lives of many, many people. With this field, thousands of children will see number 54 in center field. Matthew left this life much too early, but he will stay with us for our lifetimes.

    Here is a link of highlights of the last 20 miles of the race. There are 3 other videos, as well. Thank-you again for your support! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i48s7USvPWQ

    Deb Miller (Elijah’s Mom)


    • I appreciate the time you took to make comment on this post, Deb.. Surely there isn’t another person as loyal as Elijah. The details you have added has made shirlandyou complete. It is my hope that the field to be constructed in Matt’s memory will soon become a possibility. Elijah mirrors of his parents’ fine character traits and those of the God he serves. I’m glad my husband and I got acquainted with Elijah and are delighted to have watched his tremendous accomplishment. To God be the glory!.


  2. What an inspiration Elijah is…willing to give his life for the precious love of a friend whoes memory will live on because Matt is in Elijah’s heart. We should all be so lucky to have such a devoted friend. It’s that devotion that gave Elijah the strength to press on…and Elijah knew your music would be a great motivator as well. We have no idea how what we do affects our enviornment. It’s truely amazing what the human spirit can accomplish.


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