A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Monday, August 15, 2011

Run While You Can

In 10 days, 24-year-old Sam Fox of Berkeley will attempt an arduous outdoor trek that has been accomplished by far fewer people than have climbed Mount Everest.
He's going to run, hike and climb 2,650 miles along the Pacific Coast Trail from Canada to Mexico, an odyssey that will take him past three national monuments, seven national parks and 24 national forests.
He will ascend 60 major mountain passes, descend 19 major canyons and pass more than 1,000 lakes through freezing cold, sweltering heat and driving rains, dodging mountain lions, black bears and rattlesnakes along the way.
The trip will start on Aug. 25 at Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia and, if all goes according to schedule, finish at the Mexican border on Oct. 24.
To meet that schedule, he'll need to average 44.6 miles per day. But he has no choice.
"The weather window is so tight," he explained. "That's the reason why so few people have completed the trail north to south: Not many people have tried."
That much exertion requires more than 8,000 calories per day, some in the form of high-protein drinks he will carry with him.
The rest of the menu will be what he calls "real food" - steaks, fresh veggies (especially avocados), even the occasional Big Mac, all provided by his two-man support team, who will be traveling on a parallel course in a recreational vehicle, meeting up with him at 38 strategically located contact points along the route.
"I'll call them on the walkie-talkie when I'm about 15 miles away from each contact point, and they'll have my foot bath waiting for me when I get there."
The month-long journey is a fundraiser for Team Fox, the grassroots support organization for the Michael J. Fox (no relation) Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
He hopes to raise $250,000, which he intends to leverage into four times that amount by asking people to donate through his own website, runwhileyoucan.org.
"An anonymous donor has agreed to match everything we get from now until August 25," he said. "And the Michael J. Fox Foundation has found someone else to match all their donations. So if you donate to them through us before that date, you can quadruple your contribution."
People can also send checks to Run While You Can, P.O. Box 786, Narragansett, RI 02882. The same leveraging applies.
Fox is dedicating this run to his mother, Lucy Fox, who has been a Parkinson's patient for more than 10 years.
"My mom is not a victim. She's not sitting at home feeling sorry for herself. Her attitude is that everybody has stuff they have to deal with, and hers just happens to be Parkinson's disease. She's probably embarrassed by the spotlight I'm putting on her.
"She doesn't think of herself as an inspiration, either, although she is to me. She's just so tough. I'm sure she feels awful, but if you ask her how she's doing, she always said, 'I feel great!'"
Fox's Canada-to-Mexico trek is one of many grassroots efforts taking place throughout the country to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
"Michael's daughter, Esme, had a lemonade stand at this year's New York City Marathon," said Sheila Kelly, the foundation's deputy director of development. "Another person swam the English channel. We've also had mud wrestling, golf tournaments and pancake flipping events."
Sam Fox has other projects in mind, too.
"It might be somebody putting on a guitar-a-thon, or somebody writing 20 songs in 20 days," he said. "I can also see us branching out to other causes, like injured veterans.
"I didn't found Run While You Can only to fund Parkinson's research; that's just the first project. My larger goal is to remind people that you have to live in the moment because nothing is guaranteed for tomorrow. My mom's Parkinson's disease is a good example of that. A lot can happen in this life, and I don't want to regret not having given things a shot.
"So when my friends ask me, 'Why are you doing this?' I say, 'Because I want to do something for my mom, or for society.' But the real reason is because I can."

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