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Making strides for needy kids
Winder man races Gobi Desert to keep fathers dream alive
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JEFFERSON - The Rev. Jack Lindsay cared deeply about the young people of Jackson County.

A missionary, the founder of the Potter's House in Jefferson and the district director for Rotary, he was the first coordinator of the mentoring program administered through Jackson County Family Connection.

It was Jack Lindsay's caring and passion that inspired the community to eventually name the program in his honor. Lindsay's Legacy is in its third year, pairing struggling young people with community volunteers.

"I know that the seeds he planted in our county are still growing. I believe he was the pioneer. Our program is reaping the benefit of his work from years ago," said Lisa Stephens, mentoring coordinator.

Now Jack Lindsay's son is going to extremes to keep the vision alive. On June 8, John Lindsay plans to run along the ancient Silk Road across the Gobi Desert and help Lindsay's Legacy meet its budget.

Lindsay, who is a member of the Lindsay's Legacy advisory committee, hopes his trial across the fourth largest desert in the world will be a hugely successful charity endeavor. "I'm trying to get people to sponsor a mile on the run toward the mentoring program," Lindsay said.

Distance running has been a pastime of the Winder lawyer since he was a teenager. "I went into boot camp in the Navy when I was 17. I have been doing fairly long runs and marathons my whole life," Lindsay said.

In 2002, he participated in the Marathon des Sables, a race across the Sahara Desert in northern Africa. According to Lindsay, the Sahara run is "billed as the toughest foot race on earth."

Lindsay quickly admits that the Sables is a "big deal." But he doubts it is the most difficult trek, even though it took eight months for his body and especially his feet to recover. "I'm not sure it is. I'll let you know after I do the Gobi," he said.

The Gobi March through southern Mongolia and western China poses numerous obstacles. For starters, Lindsay is about 6 feet tall and 200 pounds - not exactly the ideal runner's build. He expects to be the "biggest guy on the run."

Lindsay is fully aware of the difficulty of the task ahead. It's difficult just to get to the starting line. He'll fly from Atlanta to San Francisco to Beijing, then two other cities in China before he arrives in Kashgar. The day before the run, the racers are bussed to the starting point, which is "in the middle of nowhere." There the race staff will check to make sure each of the competitors has the proper supplies and is in good health.

On the third day of the race, runners will be brought by support staff to a mountain path. The third day is called the "long day." The competitors, who average 25 miles per day, will race 50 on the third, running for 24 hours straight.

As the third day stretches into the fourth, it tests everyone's mettle. "Your feet are bleeding. You're dehydrated. You couldn't eat because you find food revolting. You're sunburned," Lindsay said. "It's really the dark night of the soul. But it's the middle of the day."

The desert itself ranges from extremely hot to extremely cold. Lindsay, who spent a lot of time in the Middle East in the Navy, is most concerned about the cold. And it's cold in the Gobi for good reason: Portions of the race will be run above an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Lindsay can't prepare for the tall order that cold and elevation will present, but he can build his endurance. He's training with a regimen of long distance runs through the Northeast Georgia countryside.

"He runs home from work sometimes, and that's like 15 miles," said Carolyn Spurlock, who works with Lindsay at the law firm Strickland, Chesnutt & Lindsay in Winder.

Impressive as that might sound, it's no match for the Gobi March, which takes place over five and a half days. Lindsay must provide his own supplies. The only thing the support crew offers, besides transportation between the legs of the race, is water.

"For most people, it's about finishing," Lindsay said. "The top five people are actually in there to place. The rest are not. They're there to finish. The destination is the journey. It begins there and on the run. And it is hard."

While running across the Gobi Desert is a fantastic story, Lindsay's foremost concern is that it draws attention to the mentoring program.

Even though an Antarctica trek may happen in the future, he knows the personal challenges he tackles are nothing compared to the everyday struggles facing the area's youth who are in need.

And with Lindsay's help, each will fight through them one step at a time.

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