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Photo: Two Men Raising Awareness of HIV/AIDS by Running Minimum of a Marathon a Day from San Francisco to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mike Sacco and Lejon Boudreaux are running a minimum of a marathon a day for 14 days, withstanding bone-shattering pain, reckless drivers and tons of highway debris to get a message across.

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"We want 1 million African Americans to get tested by June 27, 2009, which is National HIV Testing Day," says Sacco, 26, who came up with the idea to combine his love of running with the need for HIV/AIDS awareness.

"Run in a Million" as this quest is called, is a part of a larger "Test 1 Million" campaign sponsored by the Black AIDS Institute in partnership with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), and other leading national black organizations.

The Institute is sponsoring the Run in a Million that started Dec. 1 at the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge and ended at NIKETOWN in Los Angeles on Dec. 14. Nike is providing all running gear and accessories for both men.

"When Mike told me about his idea, I thought, that is awesome," said Boudreaux, 30, who is in the Air Force. "I couldn't think of anything better than to combine my joy of running and my desire to do something about HIV/AIDS. It seems like these days everyone is waiting for the next big thing. People forget about the power of one. One person can make a difference."

HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects African Americans in the United States, according to latest statistics from the CDC. Nearly half of the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS are black and 54 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States are among black Americans.

"When Mike first walked into my office, I thought "wow, here is a white guy who understands that the AIDS epidemic is not over and we all have a moral epidemic to do everything in our power to fight this deadly disease until it is over," said Phill Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute.

Wilson and an A-list of black celebrities, who took public HIV tests, kicked-off the Test 1 Million campaign during a news conference this past June at the SAG headquarters. Celebrities included Regina King, Jimmy Jean Louis and Vanessa Williams.

Sacco and Boudreaux, like human billboards, are wearing Test 1 Million T-shirts, and are being accompanied by a pace car outfitted with the Test 1 Million logo.

"It has been a dream of mine to run from the Bay area to Los Angeles," Sacco said.

However, he said, he wasn't aware the dream would come with so many challenges.

The men are running anywhere from 26.2 miles, the regulation marathon, to up to 50 miles per day.

The trip is arduous and hard on the body, the fellows say in their daily blog Each night, they retire to an ice bath to ease some of the pain in aching limbs.

"The usual [daily] self-inflicted torture of bathing in ice came soon after our run. I'm beginning to really despise the ice bath," Sacco wrote on Dec. 4. "In fact, if anyone ever wanted to know any deep secrets, all they would have to do is put me in a tub of ice water and I would tell them anything they wanted to know. 30 plus miles of running is much less painful than 15 minutes spent in the freezing cold bath."

After stopping for dinner at a local restaurant, the two men joked about the pain in the fingertips as they hobbled to the car.

Other runners have been joining the men on various legs of the event. Rounding out the running team on selected days has been world-renowned, ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes.

So far along the way they've encountered growling dogs, drivers speeding 70 mph along curving roads in the rain and tons of debris spewed along the roadside. They've also encountered seals and good Samaritans.

In some cities, volunteers from local AIDS service organizations greet the runners. Monterey County AIDS Project met them in downtown Monterey with signs and applause.

Beyond the aching bodies, the men talk about the beauty of nature.

"Being able to look over the edge of the road at the right moment and watch seals frolic in the waves, a humming bird perched upon a tree, a waterfall flowing onto the beach, walking within 10 feet of a hawk hunting its prey on a bridge, watching the marine layer follow the curvature of the landscape as it flows up and over the road, and being a part of such a massively beautiful area with no one else around," Sacco says in a blog.

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Shaun Saunders

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