Out of the blackened darkness of the woods came the flashlighted  figures of nine determined Hope House men plus Super-Volunteer Connie. It was late Friday night March 3, 2023 . They had just completed the first of 12 segments of the 4x4x48 Challenge, in which they would run 4 miles every 4 hours for a total of 48 miles in 48 hours. Some of the men had been high school runners, and others were willing to give it a try. Father Frank arrived at the start to bless the event with water “straight from Lourdes”. For a good sendoff, “Rocky” was blaring from Father’s mini-boombox. 


But as the runners finished their first lap, ominous droplets of rain started to fall. Then at 3am Saturday came THE DELUGE!!! The runners’ van driver could hardly see the road in the downpour. But the men were undaunted and braved the rain with adrenalin pumping to begin the most difficult part of the Challenge. “Dr. Steve” Rabeno popped from a car and joined them on this and two other segments of the Challenge. They ran up 4 miles of sloping highway-bordering terrain into driving wind and pouring rain in 50-degree weather. Their clothing became dripping wet, as they dodged puddles with running shoes rapidly filling with water and mud. But still they continued on.


By morning, the rains had subsided and the clothes had dried, so the 7 am run at Mt. Sinai High School occurred without event. At 11 am we assembled at North Shore Little League Park to cheer the runners on as they disappeared up the “Road to Trails”. On Saturday at 3 pm, they moved to Port Jefferson High School track. Beating my Grateful Dead drum, I walked the track and cheered in solidarity as the men whisked by. Saturday at 7 pm they ran at Heritage Park. The track was smooth and even—very different from last year’s rubble at the track’s far bend. I took a “bye” for the 11 pm Saturday “wild card” location and another “bye” for the 3 am Sunday run at Holiday Inn Express in Setauket.


My eyewitness tale resumes at 7 am Sunday, just past daybreak. It was bright and beautiful as the men cascaded down the winding hill from the Friary and around the scenic beach curve at Mt. Sinai Harbor to the outer point of Cedar Beach dock. After the men assembled for the customary group photo, there suddenly was a splash! Ronan, who had introduced the 4x4x48 Challenge to Hope House two years before, had just jumped off the dock into the Harbor’s water with an air temperature of 50 degrees! Brrr!!!


The weather was sunny, beautiful and somewhat warmer at 11 am Sunday. Connie and Maureen, with pony-tail bobbing, joined the men running at Mt. Sinai track. And Christine and her cute little dog walked quite a few laps. Two surprise family visitors greeted Mike at the track, after hearing of the run at a nearby Mass. When Mike resumed running, his 3 year-old nephew Jamison got so excited that he took off at a full run around the whole track after his Uncle Mike, with his mom in hot pursuit! 


The men ran again at Port Jefferson High School track at 3 pm Sunday. Some faithful Hope House supporters and staff, including Deacon Pat and original Guest House alumnus Mike, came out to show their support for the runners. Several women joined me in walking the track and making noise to urge the runners on. Even 71 year-old Father Bob, a Friary resident with an injured foot, walked an amazing 5 quarter-mile laps, aided by his walker, with a few of his “brothers” by his side!


There was mounting excitement at 7 pm Sunday as the runners did the final leg of the grueling 4x4x48 Challenge, most going on adrenalin for lack of sleep. The runners were to run from CVS on Route 347 up to the Friary. They decided that, as “brothers”, they would all come up the Friary hill together, arm in arm. Another car and mine with hazard lights blinking followed the runners on the narrow, winding roads to the Friary. JP’s car was out in front with his megaphone and blaring horn. A joyful crowd greeted the victorious runners at the entrance to the Friary with noisemakers, strobe lights, many hugs and a few tears of joy. 


Hooray for the triumphant runners, and hooray for their loyal supporters, who helped the men by their presence or by their generous donations.


Barbara Catoggio Kullen