Charles Moman is running against hate, a one-step-at-a-time mission to honor a friend and remind people of good conscience of some of the worst crimes of the 20th century.
This is a variation on running for a cause with hundreds or thousands of walkers-runners together bringing attention to breast cancer research or heart disease.
Originally, Moman planned to compete in an hourslong Terre Haute run with some friends Saturday to raise money for the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in that community, but some virus got in the way, and the event was canceled.
Instead, the photographer, composer and retired Seymour music teacher’s substitute essentially will be the Charles Moman Solo Ultramarathon. By his lonesome, he will run for six hours at his favorite training area on the roads in Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge to fulfill his pledge of sending at least $1,000 to the Terre Haute-based remembrance center.
“I decided I’m going to do it myself,” Moman said.
Perhaps in body, but not in mind. The ghosts of Auschwitz will be companions.
Moman, 68, taught music to elementary school children for 37 years, but since retiring from that life in 2010 has evolved into a prominent Indiana-based speaker about the Holocaust, lecturing from one corner of the state to another. If fees are provided, he donates them to CANDLES.
He has become a voice for the voiceless, relaying history, the story of the evils of the Nazis who murdered 6 million Jews during World War II and the tales of inspiration from the tiny percentage of survivors.
Most notable among them for Moman was the late Eva Mozes Kor, who became a friend before she died at 85 in 2019 and was the founder of CANDLES in 1995.
Kor and twin Miriam, born in Romania, at 10 were exiled to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where fiendish SS Dr. Josef Mengle performed tortuous experiments on twins. The rest of their family was killed.
Moman, also a twin, was transfixed by Kor’s courage and visited the Auschwitz memorial, where the world now publicly bears witness to the horrors of what occurred in secrecy.
Moman, who chokes up speaking of Kor’s passing, was struck by her motto of “Never give up” and her attitude of forgiveness when she said it was the most freeing and healing of feelings.
This Saturday is a nexus of Moman’s interests. A fellowship gave him time at Indiana State University in Terre Haute for special projects. He traveled to Auschwitz with a museum group and intended to race the Hawthorn Half Day Relay and Ultra until the coronavirus scratched it.
Moman was never a runner-teacher. He started in the sport to lose weight when he quit instructing. Someone suggested he enter a 5-kilometer race and he said, “What’s a 5K?”
“I did one 5K, and I was hooked,” Moman said of that 3.1 miles.
Moman never worries about fast times. He has focused on going far. For the thousands of runners who indulge in shorter road races, probably one in 1,000 ponder an ultramarathon, defined as longer than the standard 26-mile, 385-yard marathon.
To most people, the concept of taking on an ultramarathon is daunting at the least and unfathomable at worst.
Ultras used to be as rare as the animals protected under the Endangered Species Act but have proliferated. One of Moman’s favorites is the Indiana Trail 100. He’s participated in ultras elsewhere, as well, and is considering a 10-day crossing of Tennessee.
These are much less-serious challenges than the life-and-death existence daily facing Eva, but are protracted, wearying races where a never-give-up motto can be useful. Mental toughness is sometimes a pep-talk cliche but can be a tangible weapon when the body is subjected to more than it should be asked to handle.
Moman has been there, making a comeback after a drunken driver smashed into him in March 2014. The car wreck resulted in a broken neck, a split sacrum at the base of his vertebrae, broken ribs, being knocked unconscious and reduced to relying on a walker for mobility.
“Spoiler alert, I survived,” Moman said.
Survived to somehow compete in ultramarathons with a rehabbed, refurbished body. Survived also to educate those ignorant of the past about the more repugnant and horrifying suffering others endured.