By Katie Garwood | email@example.com
If not for her father Carl, Haley Kenyon wouldn’t be a runner.
A runner for most his life, Carl asked his 12-year-old daughter if she wanted to run a YMCA Turkey Trot race with him. As many 12 year olds would answer, Kenyon said ‘no,’ and as many fathers would respond, Carl said ‘too bad, you’re doing it anyway.’
Since then, Kenyon’s been a runner, competing in anything from 5K races to a marathon, which she did last year. But this summer, Kenyon’s taking on a new challenge: The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults 4K for Cancer–a 49-day, 4,000 mile run from San Francisco to New York City.
But if it weren’t for her father, she wouldn’t be doing it.
When Kenyon was 14, Carl was diagnosed with skin cancer. Living in Pennsylvania, he went to treatment in Ohio, and ended up having his bottom eyelid and part of his cheek cut out to remove the cancer. While Carl made a full recovery, two years later, Kenyon’s grandmother was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. She battled for six months, but passed away.
Now, after seeing an ad on Instagram for the 4K for Cancer, Kenyon’s locked in to run the width of the country in their honor, putting her passion for running toward a cause she believes in. And her father couldn’t be more proud.
“He’s always been my biggest supporter when it comes to running,” said Kenyon, a Flagler College sophomore. “So he thinks it’s really cool.”
While 4,000 miles sounds like a long distance to run–and it is–Kenyon will be splitting up the distance with 25 other runners on her team, most of whom are college students like herself. Kenyon will run between seven and 16 miles a day in three mile increments and in total, will run 160 miles. In between the three mile runs, Kenyon and her teammates will stop to rest and eat, of course, but also visit cancer patients in hospitals as they pass through town.
Many other runners completing the journey across America are doing so for similar reasons to Kenyon: to commemorate a loved one’s battle with the disease.
“I think it’ll be a really good way to make a difference and see the country and help people at the same time,” Kenyon said.
Overnight on the road, Kenyon will be sleeping a lot on the floor: in high school gymnasiums, church basements, camping tents and occasionally, in host families’ homes.
The most Kenyon’s run in her life at once is 26.2 miles, so between running during the day and sleeping on the floor at night, she expects it’ll be a challenge, but not impossible.
“I definitely think it’s going to be difficult and very mentally straining,” Kenyon said. “But I think the way they’re training us, it’ll definitely be doable, but it’ll be hard.”
To train for the race, Kenyon runs four to five days a week, which adds up to 14 to 15 miles a week. She also does cross-training in the gym on days she’s not running, which consists of weightlifting in the gym to build strength and endurance.
When she’s not training, Kenyon’s out in the community, fund-raising for The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. So far, she’s raised $3,870 out of her $4,500 goal. She’s tried a few different tactics to raise money–from selling tomatoes to holding fund-raisers at Chipotle Mexican Grill. But what she’s found to work best so far is standing out on St. George Street, “basically just panhandling for money.”
“Since people see that I’m doing it for a good cause, they’re a lot more generous,” Kenyon said, adding that people are often shocked when they hear the distance she’ll be running. “A lot of people will be like ‘The whole thing?’ and I’ll be like ‘Yeah, the whole thing.’”
Aside from running for her father and grandmother who fought cancer, Kenyon’s found fulfillment in hearing stories from complete strangers who have donated to her cause.
“Seeing just how many people cancer has affected, and how a lot of people have a really positive take on it,” Kenyon said. “So it’s really nice hearing people’s stories and getting their support and getting support from people you don’t even know–people are very generous.”
To donate to Kenyon’s cause, visit: https://ulman.z2systems.com/haley-kenyon