Marathon mission to boost legal aid

Lawyer Michael Freed to run 157 miles from Tallahassee to Jacksonville in 6 days

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Gunster law firm shareholder Michael Freed won’t threaten the Guinness world record for consecutive days running a marathon, unless there’s a special category for attorneys raising money for civil legal aid.

According to Guinness, Enzo Caporaso ran a 26.2-mile marathon each day for 51 consecutive days from Feb. 21-April 13, 2008, in Turin, Italy.

Beginning Sunday, Freed plans to run a marathon — 26.2 miles — each day for six days from the state Supreme Court in Tallahassee to the Duval County Courthouse, where he expects to complete his journey about 3:30 p.m. June 2.

Along the way, he’ll make overnight stops at the courthouses in Jefferson, Madison, Suwanee, Columbia and Baker counties.

In addition to running 157 miles along U.S. Highway 90 from Tallahassee to Jacksonville in less than a week, Freed’s goal is to raise awareness and at least $50,000 for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. The organization provides free civil legal services for low-income people in 17 North Florida counties.

“The legal and business communities raise a lot of money for a lot of causes. Being lawyers, we’re blessed to make good money, so we need to give back to the community,” he said.

Sponsors of the event include Gunster, The Freed Firm, The Jacksonville Bar Association, 1st Place Sports, Cross Creek Steakhouse, ELI Partners, Bold City Brewing and Beaver Street Fisheries Inc.

Freed admits he wasn’t a runner about a year ago when he was inspired to take on the sequence of marathons, but has since been laced up and out the door at 4:30 a.m., training seven days a week to get in shape for the gruelling undertaking.

He’s been signing up donors and so far has gotten more than $41,000 in sponsorships and pledges.

“What led me to JALA is the huge separation between the haves and the have-nots. A lot of people have problems that need a legal solution,” said Freed. “Coming out of the Great Recession, the need for legal aid has increased, but the resources have diminished.”

The money Freed is raising will have a substantial impact on JALA, said Jim Kowalski, president and CEO of North Florida’s 30-attorney legal aid provider.

“He’s almost single-handedly funding a legal aid attorney for a year,” Kowalski said.

Freed invites the legal community to join him June 2 on the final segment of his run, a 5K from the Jacksonville Farmers Market at 1810 W. Beaver St. to the finish line at the courthouse at 501 W. Adams St.

Runners should meet at the market at 1810 W. Beaver St. at 2:45 p.m. He’s asking for a $100 donation from each person who accompanies him on the end of his run and he’s confident that with the help of his colleagues, he’ll meet or even exceed his $50,000 goal.

“I’ve found that when you do something kind of crazy, people pay attention. When you do it for a good cause, they really pay attention,” Freed said.

To register for the 5K or to make a donation to JALA, visit

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