One foot in front of the other, Trinity High School’s principal pulled of a monumental feat earlier this month, in an effort to raise funds for the school and express his gratitude for its unwavering support during a serious illness.
Step by step – more than 200,000 of them, in fact – John Cominsky walked 100 miles around the track at COBO Field April 13-15, spurred on by students, family, faculty and the community in the “Shamrock 100.”
His 402-lap journey around Trinity’s new track began at midnight on Thursday, April 13, and the checkered flag dropped on Saturday afternoon, April 15.
A daunting task, yes – but not nearly as daunting as what Cominsky was faced with two years ago, he told The Witness under the noontime sun as he passed the 60-mile mark April 14.
“In January of 2021, I was hospitalized with COVID. I was sick for quite a while,” he said. “The same day I went into the hospital, so did my mother, and she passed away.”
It was two weeks after the birth of the Cominsky’s fourth child, Teddy. Faced with so many challenges, the family found support from the school community.
“There was a lot on our family at the time, and Trinity pulled together and really helped us with so many things,” Cominsky said.
“When I was in the hospital, I had a lot of time to think because no one was allowed to come into my room because of COVID. I thought about things, personally and professionally, and that if God got me out, I’d make better choices,” he said.
Last spring, co-workers gifted him with a Smartwatch, and he began walking. Soon, he upped his daily steps, determined to surpass each goal he achieved.
“When he sets his mind to do something, he goes off and doesn’t look back,” John’s wife, Katie, said. “If the recommendation is 10,000 steps a day, he’s doing 20,000.”
Eventually expanding his walks to 10-15 miles per day over the course of the past year, Cominsky considered how he might convert his healthy habit into a benefit for the school.
“For many months, I’d been averaging well over 20,000 steps a day, and I had a lot of time to think then, too, while walking, so we came up with the idea for the Shamrock 100,” he said.
The fundraiser brought in donations for Trinity’s new track and turf field, with a tithe benefitting the St. Francis Soup Kitchen in Harrisburg.
“The response has been fantastic – from the students and parents to the community, faculty and staff,” Cominsky said on April 14, as students joined him for a ceremonial lap during their field day activities.
Katie said she was initially hesitant when he told her his idea of walking 100 miles in three days, but understood it because of his passion for Trinity High School.
“I tried to dissuade him at first, but I fully understand how important this goal and this school is to him,” she said. “It’s allowed people to come in and do a few laps with him, and it’s been cool to see how many people have gotten back in touch with him or made a gift to the school. That’s definitely energized him along the way.”
“At almost no time have I been on this track alone. That’s a big thing for safety and for mental health,” Cominsky said. “When we started this walk at midnight, the chairman of the board came and walked the first 27 miles with me. Others came out at three or four in the morning. Once the school day started, there was never a time that I was alone. That’s great for the effort. When you get deep into the miles, sometimes you get deep into yourself, what hurts, how you’re mentally fatigued – so their spirit and support has made a huge difference, and the kids give me the energy to keep going.”
Cominsky took care of his physical health, too – sleeping at home, taking regular breaks, frequently drinking water, changing sneakers every ten miles, wearing compression socks. He also took a 15-minute ice bath, saying he was more daunted by that than the thought of walking 100 miles.
Having lost 55 pounds since the beginning of his walking regimen last June, Cominsky is hopeful that his journey will inspire others to take care of their health.
“There are people who told me what an inspiration it was to see this change happen with me. But it’s something you really have to commit to do,” he said. “Walking is low impact, but it is time-consuming, so you have to make it part of your day.”
He couldn’t do it without the support of his wife, he said.
“I’m blessed because Katie allows me to make time for it. If I didn’t have her support, we wouldn’t be doing this today,” he said. “I walk 10-15 miles a day. When you walk at a typical pace of three miles an hour, you can see what a time commitment that is.
By the conclusion of the Shamrock 100, Cominsky’s efforts had inspired donations upwards of $120,000, celebrated the Trinity community, and shed light on the importance of exercise.
“I want people to understand that my family and I are invested in Trinity,” Cominsky said, as he, Katie and their kids prepared to lead the student body in a community lap.
“For me, this is as good as it gets,” he said.
Learn more about the Shamrock 100 at Trinity High School at this link.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness