Meet the man running 50 miles out of love for the Eucharist

5 mins read
Jimmy Coleman
Jimmy Coleman is planning to run 50 miles in one day with a special goal in mind: Drawing attention to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Photo courtesy of

Jimmy Coleman is planning to run 50 miles in one day with a special goal in mind: Drawing attention to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

“I’m going to have a flag with me the whole time that, on one side, says ‘Eat my flesh’ and, on the other side, says ‘Drink my blood,'” the 29-year-old athlete from Charlotte, North Carolina, described to Our Sunday Visitor. “On the bottom, it’s going to say John 6:51-56.”

The Bible verse cites Jesus instructing a crowd to eat his flesh and drink his blood — a teaching that led some of his disciples to leave him. It’s also a teaching that reignited Coleman’s Catholic faith and inspired him to run an “Adoration Ultra.”

On Jan. 26, Coleman will run an “ultra” — a run longer than the 26.2-mile length of a marathon — to re-energize Catholics, educate Protestants and evangelize atheists by expressing love for the Eucharist. Along the 50.6-mile journey through Charlotte, he plans to stop at five churches where he will spend two-and-a-half hours total in Eucharistic adoration.

Photos courtesy of

“It is meant to call attention and get people to ask the question of what the Eucharist is, why I’m so fired up about it,” he said. “Why am I doing this ridiculous thing out of love for the Eucharist?”

The husband and father of three (including one due in July), wears many hats: He serves as the founder of marketing company Leadballer and, now, Adoration Ultra, which he hopes to grow into a community of Catholic runners who adore Christ.

His upcoming run coincides with the National Eucharistic Revival, an ongoing three-year initiative by the U.S. Catholic bishops that aims to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.

“It’s providential,” Coleman said. “I’m hoping that this contributes to that movement.”

He called the Eucharist his favorite part about Catholicism. The Eucharist, he added, brought him back to Catholicism after a time of questioning his faith.

“It is the real presence of Jesus,” he said. “And, if that’s true, you can’t keep doing what you’re currently doing probably.”

The big day

Coleman’s run on will begin at 7 a.m. with Mass and adoration at St. Mark Catholic Church in Huntersville. From there, he will run to four parishes in Charlotte by 6:30 p.m.: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Neumann, and St. Matthew, his home parish.

At each church, he plans to visit Jesus in Eucharistic adoration for around 30 minutes.

Online, Coleman invites people to participate by signing up to attend Mass with him, pray at one of the churches with him, run a portion of the 50 miles, or support and cheer him on at different points.

The run, which will be filmed and made available through his website, also offers an educational aspect. Coleman is planning for the finished video to include a voiceover describing Eucharistic miracles, the history of the Eucharist, and how the early Church Fathers celebrated it.

A lifelong dream

Coleman, who always dreamed of one day becoming a professional athlete, spoke about combining his passion for fitness with his love for his faith.

“I wanted to infuse as much meaning into what I’m doing in my athletic journey,” he said. “I wanted to involve my faith in it as much as I possibly could.”

He came up with the idea for an adoration ultra after noticing that people regularly run races to draw attention to various causes and issues.

“What is the one thing that, if I were to bring attention to it, it would make the greatest impact?” he remembered asking.

He decided on the Eucharist.

Today, he hopes that the run will reinvigorate Catholics in their faith and educate Protestants by inspiring them to read John 6 or how the early Church Fathers celebrated the Eucharist.

“If I told you that I’m with Jesus at my church — the real body of Jesus — you’re not going to pass my church and go to another church that doesn’t have that,” he said at another point.

He also wanted his message to speak to atheists.

“What a lot of people are doing is, they’re watering down their faith in order to try to reach these people,” Coleman said, “when really they need to see people that are fired up about their faith.”

He added later: “I’m hoping that it really just plants a seed to put people on a journey toward realizing the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”

A father’s inspiration

Becoming a father, Coleman explained, jumpstarted his current journey into fitness and faith.

“There was that feeling of pressure all of a sudden, right? Of, all right, all the important areas of life — where are you compared to where you thought you’d be when you’re a dad?” he remembered. “I thought about, as a financial provider for my family, am I on the right trajectory in my career, when it comes to my faith.”

Being a dad and feeling that sense of responsibility, he said, led him to dive into his faith. It also encouraged him to set a good example for his children by prioritizing his fitness and health and by following his dreams.

“The size of their dreams are limitless,” he said of children. “Then, along the way, trying to accomplish that dream, [it] probably becomes a little harder than what they realized.”

“Sometimes interests change,” he added, “but I think oftentimes what happens is, they’re surrounded by a majority of other people who gave up on their dreams and that normalizes them giving up on theirs and makes it okay. I’m hoping that my children don’t have too many examples of that, but I’m really worried that, what if I was an example of that?”

After his son’s birth, he decided to again pursue his dream of becoming an athlete. He started with running. He signed up for a 50-mile race and then, six months later, a 24-hour race where he set a new mileage record of 103.5 miles.

From there, he decided to go professional by running five ultras in five months. The adoration ultra, he said, will be the fifth.

“The first one was a relay with a group of my Catholic friends,” he said. “I was telling them, hey, I would love to find a way to incorporate my faith into a race or into a run.”

He said one of his friends, John Cannon, the founder of SENT Ventures, a Catholic business network of founders and executives, suggested running to different churches. From there, they brainstormed spending adoration at each one along the way.

A running prayer

Ahead of his adoration ultra, Coleman shared that he prays before running, even while training. He places an emphasis on gratitude, from being thankful for the time and ability to run to being grateful for the person who paved the path that he runs.

“I usually pray that this run is used to help me grow my fitness and my health, that it’s an opportunity for me to have conversations with God,” Coleman said. “I pray that he’s with the people that I love and care about in my absence. I pray that he’s, if I’m running during working hours, he’s with my company in my absence.’

“I’m asking to grow in faith, grow in relationship with him, for him to speak to me during this run,” he added.

Sometimes while running, he added, he will listen to the Catholic prayer app, Hallow, or the “Pints of Aquinas” podcast.

“There’s a lot of beauty in the silence as well,” he said.

Looking to the future, Coleman hopes to create a community of Catholic runners. Online, he encourages people to get involved by signing up and offering input about the future of Adoration Ultra.

“Right now, I’m just building a community and taking people’s information,” he concluded, “so that if we turn it into an ongoing thing … I can let them know about it.”

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.