LOUDONVILLE, Ohio (WJLA) - Last month, hundreds of runners began the Mohican 100-mile Trail Race in Ohio – just before dawn.
“We got four miles down, we got 96 to go," said Mitchell.
Tattoo Tom Mitchell is the Springfield, Virginia man known for his skin markings -- and for running this four-loop course with training partner Adam Katkhouda. He is doing this for 100 heart-wrenching reasons: each mile is for a different child who is battling cancer or has died from cancer.
The race is a fundraiser for his foundation, Stillbrave, which was formed after his daughter Shayla died five years ago of cancer.
“With my daughter I haven't gotten over it. I haven't pushed past it. I haven't worked through it," he said.
Stillbrave supplies non-medical needs to families with children who are battling cancer – like gas cards and groceries. Mitchell hopes that this race replicates the anger, fear, and pain that come with the disease.
And at the halfway point, Mitchell starts to suffer:
"It hurts right now to run like this, but these kids go through worse every day."
Among those cheering for Tom and Adam are Ellyn and Mark Miller. Their daughter, Gabriella, was the local 10-year-old who was an outspoken advocate for more pediatric disease research funding while fighting cancer herself.
Mitchell dedicated this race to his dear friend on the day she died last October.
“Today's been an emotional up-and-down swing," said Ellyn Miller. "What Tom is doing is unbelievable and amazing. But he's doing it because our daughter is dead."
For Mitchell, the third lap was the crack in his inked armor:
"I just don't want to quit. I don't want to lose. I don't want to lose again," he said.
To make matters worse, his training partner Adam dropped out at Mile 77, and Mitchell feared he wouldn’t be able to finish by himself – which led to an emotional outburst mid-race.
Somehow, Mitchell managed to push past his exhaustion, and at Mile 99, he greeted Gabriella Miller. And at Mile 100, his daughter Shayla. With only 30 minutes to spare before reaching the race’s 32-hour deadline, Tattoo Tom Mitchell crossed the finish line.
"As I was running after Adam dropped, I got really scared. And I got really lonely. I said, 'Gabriella, Shayla, I don't know how this being dead stuff works, but I need your help because I can't finish this race by myself. I know I can't finish it by myself.' And all of a sudden, people started crossing my path and they got me across the finish line," said a triumphant Tom.