Connecticut man races through deserts for good causes

When Tom Gallagher said he wanted to go out into the desert, he wasn’t just using a biblical metaphor.

The Riverside, Conn., ultraendurance athlete and Catholic is gearing up for his third seven-day footrace through 150 miles of desert to raise money for Malta House for pregnant women and children. His first two races through The 4 Deserts program were in the Atacama Desert in Chile and the Gobi Desert in China.

In Chile, Gallagher carried a 25-pound backpack filled with meals ready to eat, a sleeping bag, drink mix, socks, a foot kit to treat blisters, and nighttime equipment. Temperatures reached lows of 20 degrees at night and highs in the 80s during the day. Ice cold streams numbed his feet. Thick sand enveloped his shins.

He and about 70 others raced for seven to nine hours each day and slept on the desert floor. The first day began at 10,000 feet above sea level, and they climbed to 11,000 feet before descending to 8,000 feet.

Each day, Gallagher read his morning prayers using torn-out pages from the Magnificat. He recited simple prayers in his head throughout the day during tough points. He read evening prayers before bed. He finished the race in 29th place.

Gallagher wrote a speech to share his experiences. In it, he reflects on his faith and the biblical sensation of going out into the desert:

“I went into the desert and in fact met God–in the beauty of the desert itself and in the people with whom I journeyed the 150 miles in six days. Our Christian faith revels itself in the magnificence of the earth, and the Atacama Desert is truly an icon of God. Yet, the beauty of our faith is intimately revealed in relationships–ours with God and ours with each other. I came out of the desert with several lifetime friends. Such an undertaking teaches a person about the joys of the little things: a drink of water, the benefits of shade, the vital necessity of a good fire, the help of friends and the uplift of encouraging words.”

An entrepreneur, Gallagher works for a communications firm in New York¬† and writes the “best practices” column for the National Catholic Reporter. He will race through the Sahara Desert in Egypt in October.

4 Responses

  1. Tom Gallagher deserves much praise for taking part in seven-day footraces through 150 miles of desert to raise money for Malta House for pregnant women and children.

    Gallagher read his morning prayers, recited simple prayers throughout the day, and read evening prayers before bed.

    Indeed, Tom Gallagher is an inspiring Christian who met God in the beauty of the desert.

  2. Tom Gallagher is a rare breed of Christian. A Catholic who loves the Church and works hard for the Faith. He has stood alone in his published writings, and opposed by Church leaders who resist his inspired, yet peaceful calls for change.

    I have had the opportunity to work alongside Tom on several projects including documenting the Missionaries of Charity pioneering testimonials, helping setup its American Center, and Diocesan and fraternal works of the Faith.

    Intelligence; education; vision; perseverance; is it any surprise he is venturing into the desert yet again for
    re-inspiration? We will see what he has been called to do in the works he undertakes upon his return.

    God Bless Tom.

    Michael Macari
    EVTV

  3. I think of Tom Gallagher not so much as a friend but as a fellow sojourner in this our earthly trek to the Heavenly Jerusalem.

    His desert achievements witness to his top physical shape and endurance. Achievements that disclose his way to honor creation in his own body, to the encouragement of those of us engaged in our personal agons against excessive weight.

    Even more, no question that transforming the desert into his own environment further enables Tom to grasp the powerful salvific message contained in Deutero-Isaic regarding the divine transformation of the desert into a garden, and also an easy path back to Jerusalem. Spiritual enrichment that Tom graciously shares with so many others.

    How many more Tom’s we need in our contemporary USA church.

  4. Tom Gallagher is a friend and a unique human being who “walks the walk”.He has put his body at risk twice for the benefit of Malta House and raised awareness of a special home that cares for the “modern widow and orphan”- the homeless pregnat mother.Pope Benedict writes – ‘we have to rediscover God, not just any God, but the God that has a human face, because when we see Jesus Christ we see God’. Tom sees the face of Jesus not just in the face of the pregnant mothers but also in the precious children- and that is what makes him a special and unique philanthropist ( which, in its Greek roots, defines a “lover of mankind”).
    Regards,
    Michael

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