Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
That phrase has been used tirelessly to describe an effort, but for Phoenix singer-songwriter Lee Perreira, it rings true.
Known for his latest single, “Bonafide,” Perreira is preparing to run 16 marathons in 16 days—from his front door in Glendale to Ellen DeGeneres’ studio in Burbank. His goal is to raise $1 million and present the check to the talk show host. He begins March 29.
Last year, he raised $15,000 for charities that deal with cancer, abuse and long-term care. They’re all close to his heart.
“Three years ago, I never thought about running a marathon,” he says.
At that time, he was serving time in prison for a DUI. Since his release, he’s become sober, went vegan and continued running, the latter of which he started in prison.
“Last year, I expected to raise some money. I didn’t know how much,” Perreira says after a gig in Phoenix. “What I didn’t anticipate was the level of inspiration it would give to people. It’s not just with the nonprofits that I represented, but the people who followed along.
“A couple weeks ago, I was playing here and somebody I didn’t know showed up. He said a friend of his who lives in another state followed the marathons and it inspired her to finish writing a book. She always wanted to write, so she mailed it to him and asked him to give it to me. I was touched.”
Perreira is doubling down with the runs. In October, he launched his own 501(c)(3) named after his runs, 16x16inc.org.
This year isn’t all about running, though, unless it’s sprinting toward a No. 1. On January 31, he released his single “Bonafide,” an ode to his fiancée.
“It’s a pretty straightforward song, like musically and structurally,” he says. “When I wrote it, I knew it would be a full-band song and it would be a lot of fun to play.
“It’s about how she stood by my side through a bunch of ups and downs. She lifted me up when I was down and then cheered me on when I was doing well.”
He has two other singles slated for release: “Firing Range” on April 3 and “Doctor’s Orders” on July 3.
The music is part of Perreira’s rebirth. He never felt like he was a bad guy, but “I definitely could have done better.”
His downward spiral began when his brother, who was struggling with heroin, died unexpectedly.
“If you would have asked me if I was OK, I probably would have told you, ‘I’m fine,’” he says. “Then I got three DUIs in less than six months. My brother died right in the middle of that. He was living on the streets. He had stolen from our family. It was a hard thing to go through, to have your brother reaching out to you. I told him I would pay a bill, but I wasn’t going to give him money. That wears on you.
“Then, for him to die, it just really rocked our family. Then, here I am (screwing) up my own life, getting three DUIs. That was weighing on my family, too. Obviously, it needed to happen because I fought this case for three years. I lost and had to go to Florence West for four months.”
In prison he ran his first marathon. After all, he wasn’t trying to make friends there.
“I was this crazy white gringo running laps all day, but I needed to focus on something,” he says. “I said, ‘Let me break this down. What would a marathon be? Oh, 26.2 miles. That would be 102 laps.’ On Father’s Day 2018, he ran 26.2 miles in prison.”
When he got out, he figured he would promote his record by running and performing at the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. Forty-five minutes after he finished, he was on stage performing with his band.
“I was devastated afterward,” he says now with a laugh. “My feet were throbbing, and the band was like, ‘Are we doing this again?’ I said, ‘Hell no.’ Then I came up with the Ellen idea.
“Last year, it was completely unknown. I had no expectations of what each day would look like. That helped me get through each day. Now I know what it looks like and there’s that little bit of fear and daunting nature to it because I can recall those crazy roads through the Mojave Desert.”
That, in turn, has lifted up every other aspect of his life.
“My business has gone up. My songwriting has gone up. My original music reach has gone up. My relationship with my fiancée has improved.
“She’s on a similar parallel journey herself,” Perreira says. “She’s becoming a better person and creating a different mentality. I have been getting better, little by little, by committing to do small daily things every day, like meditating and affirmatios and reading and listening to inspirational YouTube videos. I really want to surround myself with positive people and people who are moving in a certain direction.”