wells thompson

Former Fire midfielder Wells Thompson takes on 24 hour running challenge in support of clean water relief

"It boggles my mind that there are people -- to this day -- who still don’t have clean drinking water."

The sincerity in Wells Thompson's voice is clear as he begins to dig into the subject.

"In my world and the world I live in -- I don’t want to speak for anyone else -- you just forget about those things. You go on with your daily life. If your water doesn’t get hot enough or cold enough in your sink, you get pissed off."

"You’re totally not realizing that there’s people still to this day that walk miles upon miles every single day to get dirty, gross water to give to their kids. That’s the only water source that they have."

It's a cause through which the former Chicago Fire midfielder has been able to channel his athleticism and competitiveness into a force for good, now that his playing days are behind him.

Starting at 3 p.m. CT on Friday, May 15, Thompson will attempt to run 100 miles in 24 hours, while along the way raising $50,000 towards an organization called Hydrating Humanity and its efforts to provide clean water in East Africa.

Thompson (left) takes on the Philadelphia Union in May 2013.

"We want to try to bring some light, some good, and some life into the world during a time where people are losing their jobs, dying, and there’s a lot of anxiety," Thompson said. "I have it myself. I can’t wait to get out into those woods and turn my mind off and just focus on how bad I hurt (laughs), and hopefully try to hurt even more so I can raise money for clean water."

A North Carolina native, Thompson appeared 158 times over a seven-year MLS career that took him from New England to Colorado and ultimately to Chicago from 2012-13. Affectionately dubbed "El Diablo" by Fire fans and teammates for his on-field tenacity, the 36-year-old has retained that mentality.

"I was always looking for something when I retired to fill that competitive void," he said. "I stumbled into ultra running and basically fell in love with it. I started out at 50k, which is like 32 miles. Then, I went to 50 miles, and then I went to 100k, so just gradually I climbed and continued my distance."

Friday's run -- which will take place across the hundreds of outdoor acres of territory at North Carolina's Camp Harrison YMCA -- is a natural combination of Thompson's newfound passion and his lifelong dedication to faith and philanthropy.

According to Hydrating Humanity, nearly 2,000 children under the age of five have their lives cut short per day due to water-born disease. Having done mission work in communities affected by clean water scarcity throughout his life, it's an issue to which the 36-year-old feels very close.

"I feel an obligation and a Christian sense of duty to give back," he said. "To whom much is given, much is expected. I traveled to Kenya and Zimbabwe while I was playing, and when you hear people talk about helping other people and mission work, I would go try to help these people but they always gave me so much more in return."

Thompson (second from right) in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014.

Thompson credits his professional soccer career with shaping his worldview, as well as the drive to help others that has come with it.

"I’m a North Carolina kid, and I probably would have never left the state if I didn’t have a job that moved me around," he said. "One of the greatest things about soccer is that you’re able to travel and literally see the world. You’re able to play with different people from all across the world. I think it’s one of the most enriching experiences ever."

"Then, the older you get, the more experience you have, the more you hopefully start to understand what truly matters in life."

Fans looking to donate to Thompson's fundraising efforts are encouraged to visit his website -- run4cleanwater.com -- and are additionally invited to join Thompson on his run digitally.

"Our message is just to inspire hope, and to continue to encourage people that you can give back and you can help those that are less fortunate than us," he said. "If you have a running app or an Apple Watch, take a picture of how far you run and commit to donating per mile. It’s a win-win for everybody."

"Get outside and run and you can donate a little bit to help a good cause."

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