“Chris Cuddihy is at it again.”
So began the Facebook message we received over the weekend, telling us that the Riverside man who’s rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, and run around downtown Riverhead for 24 hours straight — four times — was now running across Suffolk County to raise funds for veterans in the area.
Chris Cuddihy, the nephew of a veteran who made five beach landings in World War II and the cousin and stepbrother of Vietnam veterans, openly describes himself as a “guilty survivor.” He’s seen people impacted by war firsthand, he’s seen the impacts are painful ones, and he’s seen that many veterans today are still coming back home in need of a helping hand.
“Veterans now are getting a worse deal than they’ve had in years,” he said. Mr. Cuddihy recalled seeing one man at the Riverhead Veterans Center in Riverside being told the only job available for him was as a bus driver — and “he was so grateful.”
“To me, none of those guys should ever have to go, hat in hand, for a job,” he said.
That’s why Mr. Cuddihy, who works as a systems analyst with Suffolk County, has continued to run to raise funds for them. For the past four years, he has organized Riverfront 24, a day-long running event by the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead. One participant logged over 106 miles in a 24-hour timespan last year.
But after his “logistics people” who helped organize the event moved out of town, Mr. Cuddihy had to change plans this year.
So instead, he flew solo — think Forrest Gump — running on his own from County Line Road in Amityville to Orient Point, where Mr. Cuddihy promptly dipped in the water upon arrival.
The trip lasted over 81 miles and from start to finish, took 29 hours and 34 minutes. Though it was originally meant to be much faster — under 24 hours.
About 11 miles in, Mr. Cuddihy took a hard fall while trying to avoid a bicyclist on a sidewalk in Bay Shore. He split open his knee, tore his thumbnail, pulled his left groin and twisted his elbow.
That was “the most significant part of the run,” Mr. Cuddihy said. But not only because the injury slowed him down.
A homeless man who witnessed him fall ran over to Mr. Cuddihy once he hit the pavement. The man wouldn’t let Mr. Cuddihy leave until he was cleaned up.
“The guy who has absolutely nothing is the guy who’s making the biggest effort,” Mr. Cuddihy recalled.
You may be able to say the same for the runner himself. After his parents passed away when he was young, Mr. Cuddihy went from living in his home in Missouri to England; the move explains his accent.
He stayed overseas for the next 24 years, eventually returning to his parent’s hometown in Southampton. Over the years, he’s ran manufacturing companies, owned car washes, and run for public office twice.
That changed seven years ago, when he read a Shelter Island Reporter article about a man who was looking for a crew to row across the Atlantic Ocean and set a world record. After just one conversation with Roy Findlay, Mr. Cuddihy hopped on board the ORCA, the team’s custom racing boat.
While he admits that effort was purely for ego, Mr. Cuddihy eventually started putting his efforts toward veterans’ causes, like Suffolk County Homefront.
The group is a small operation run solely by volunteers. Launched by Ridge resident Cindy Dickinson after her cousin was killed in Iraq, 98 percent of its proceeds go to benefit those who serve.
Suffolk County Homefront tries to “accomplish each mission” when the group receives a request from a veteran, she said, whether it’s helping to make a mortgage payment or build a deck.
Ms. Dickinson said having Mr. Cuddihy raise funds for the nonprofit has been a “godsend.”
“We don’t keep a lot of money in the bank account to just let it sit there,” Ms. Dickinson said. “When money gets low, we plan a fundraiser, and with Chris’ help, we can run the tide for a little while.”