At Chelsea Piers Fitness, 50 Epic Miles for Awareness and Charity
June 20, 2018
Chelsea Piers Fitness is the setting on Sat., June 23, when fitness director Josh Fly (center) embarks upon the 50 Epic Miles challenge. Seen here, Fly is joined by friends and supportive passersby following his successful 2017 treadmill run. | Photo courtesy of Chelsea Piers Fitness
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Josh Fly is helping others move forward by staying in the same place — and in doing so, he’s altering the notion that being stuck on a treadmill means you’re not making any progress.
The Chelsea Piers Fitness fitness director will be spending Saturday, June 23 on a stationary exercise device in the open-air Fitness Café space of the sprawling facility. Visible to others going about their exercise routine, and accessible to the world via a live Facebook feed, Fly will run until he’s logged 50 miles — all in the name of raising funds for a global clean water initiative that inspired his own journey from team sports participant to long-distance runner. Turning that comparatively solitary pursuit into a way to make friends and inspire others, it seems, is par for the course for the 37-year-old Chelsea resident, who grew up in Colorado playing football and baseball, snowboarding, trail running, and golfing.
“There’s an old African proverb,” Fly told Chelsea Now, when we joined him for a recent treadmill training session. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The seed for this marathon 50 Epic Miles challenge (nearly the length of two actual marathons) was planted, Fly said, while he was working at Chelsea Piers Fitness as a fitness manager and personal trainer. “On the side of that,” he recalled, “I started a community called Faith in Fitness, which was about getting together and exercising.” In 2011, word of the meetup reached Juampa Martinez, a local representative for Team World Vision — an athletics-oriented fundraising effort benefitting the work of World Vision International, whose website describes themselves as “a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.” Ending the global clean water crisis is a major focus of WVI and its likeminded sister organization, World Vision. As of 2016, wvi.org notes, “4.6 million people gained access to clean water in 36 countries” as a result of their initiatives.
Their mission resonated with Fly. After meeting Martinez, he noted, “World Vision propelled me into the sport of running.” Something also clicked when a friend gave him advice shortly after moving to New York City 13 years ago. “He told me one of the greatest ways to experience this city is to run its marathon. So I did my first New York City Marathon [the first marathon he ever ran] in 2007. I was like, one and done. I did it. Check it off the bucket list.”
That list, however, wasn’t done with Josh Fly. Becoming involved with Team World Vision turned out to be the perfect nexus of recreational, professional, and altruistic pursuits — pushing him to add to his list of running credits — including Grete’s Great Gallop (“two loops around Central Park”) and the NYC Marathon “a couple of other times” — by accepting an invite two years ago “to go to Africa and run my first ultramarathon.” And though Fly recalls those experiences with enthusiasm, there’s an unparalleled lilt in his voice when he describes what donated dollars and child sponsorships can do to address matters of physical and economic disparity. Granted, the fact that he’s talking while running on a treadmill, and breathing accordingly, gives urgency to his voice — but such dramatic heft notwithstanding, Fly’s passion and sincerity are unmistakable.
Mugging for the camera without missing a step: Chelsea resident Jenny Otto (an elite trainer at Chelsea Piers Fitness) joined her close friend, Josh Fly, for a portion of last year’s 50 Epic Miles challenge. | Photo courtesy of Chelsea Piers Fitness
Recalling another trip to Africa after his first 50 Epic Miles fundraising run in April 2017, Fly noted of the World Vision effort, “It’s not just clean water, but creating infrastructure. They invest in educating, training, and ultimately hiring [locals], to achieve a community that is self-sustaining.” That effort can take as long as 18 years, he noted, after which “they have real infrastructure; irrigation for better farming, and the creation of small business groups, to take any extra crops to market and sell them.”
Fly, who readily admitted to being “a competitive person by nature,” noted that he wants the June 23 run to exceed expectations — but beating his time from last year (8 hours and 40 minutes) is not one of them. “I actually think it’s kind of funny,” he said. “Getting through really fast might be an impressive physical feat, but the longer it takes, the more chances I have to inspire others to sponsor a child or get involved.”
Fly vowed that, just as he conducted himself last year, the only time he plans to stop will be for bathroom breaks (a necessary consequence of constant hydration), during which others will take over for him — so that treadmill will be running for the duration. Last year, he noted, “I also had to stop and tape my foot. I had blisters because the motion is so repetitive — whereas when you’re running outside, there are tiny undulations… and there’s a real mental challenge, because it’s arduous, doing the same thing over and over. So if I had to do it alone? I don’t know if I could — but seeing my friends, and colleagues come through the door, and being able to go through some of those long miles with them [there were, and will be, treadmills to his left and right], that’s actually the best part.”
As for armchair observers via a live feed on Fly’s Facebook page, he hopes “people who get so see the ups and downs throughout the day, who know what I am experiencing,” will be inspired to take up their own physical challenges and, of course, become involved with the 50 Epic Miles project. Doing so will yield immediate results to the home viewer. Recalling last year’s run, Fly said, “When I hit some of those low points of fatigue, one of my colleagues would run over to tell me a child just got sponsored, and it was great.”
L to R: Chelsea Piers Fitness’ Daron Hernandez (personal trainer/senior membership consultant), Josh Fly (fitness director) and Garson Grant (lead trainer). | Photo courtesy of Chelsea Piers Fitness
When the treadmill comes to a full stop, Fly has another Team World Vision challenge on the horizon. In July, he’s determined to scale Kilimanjaro — and not just because it’s there. Sponsorship of his first-ever mountaineering endeavor is encouraged, with every drop in the bucket going to the cause that’s become his passion. Looking back on last year’s run (and perhaps foreshadowing Kilimanjaro), Fly said, “I had no clue what I was getting into. But now? I’m going to keep going until we end the clean water crisis, which might be for the rest of my life.”
Josh Fly’s 50 Epic Miles challenge begins at 9 a.m. on Sat., June 23. Follow the live feed on his Facebook page: m.facebook.com/jay.zee.988373. For information on how to sponsor a child, make a donation, or run alongside Josh, visit chelseapiers.com/50-epic-miles. Also visit teamworldvision.org and wvi.org. Follow fly on Instagram via instagram.com/jflyfitness.
L to R: Chelsea Piers Fitness personal trainers Andrew Bond, Cliff Robertson, Garson Grant and Paul Pooh. As part of the Global Youthfit Project, Bond and Robertson recently went to Ghana, Africa to teach health, fitness, and physical education. | Photo courtesy of Chelsea Piers Fitness