By CNN's Bethany Crudele
Through the bloody knees of training, blistered feet and dehydration, Sam Fox is running to break a world record for one reason: His mother. "It's kind of like a big, 'I love you Mom.' I'm sure she'd rather I write a card than destroy my knees." At the end of August, Fox will begin one of the most challenging journeys of his life.
The 24-year-old Rhode Island native plans to run/hike all 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to break the current speed record of 65 days. The Pacific Crest Trail stretches along the Western Seaboard from Canada to Mexico. Fox will cover more than 40 miles each day for two consecutive months with an average daily elevation gain and loss of over 16,000 feet.
Fox is running to honor his mother, Lucy, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 10 years ago. Fox is the founder of Run While You Can, a foundation which affirms that, "a healthy tomorrow is promised to anyone, by creating awareness and financial support for events that emphasize the urgency of living fully today." During his journey, he hopes to raise $250,000 dollars for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Part of his challenge will be fueling his body along the trail. “I don’t want to carry a bunch of pasta or bananas. That’s inefficient because I have to carry it all,” says Fox. “I’m going to rely on lightweight and high density foods like protein bars and muscle milk. Those are calories that will add up and they’ll add up fast.”
With less than two weeks before his start date, Fox is undergoing intense preparation. He splits his time between hours in a Berkeley, California gym and along rugged terrain for more intensive elevation training in places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. Fox says the preparation is, “more of a mind game than anything else.”
His regimen of intentional pre-trail dehydration and food depravation is a way of preparing his muscles for the difficulties he’ll encounter when he starts. “I know it’s not healthy. I don’t suggest anyone do it but the reason I do it is to feel terrible so I can call upon this feeling for motivation when I’m actually doing the run and things are hopefully going a lot better.”
Fox will be accompanied by an RV along 38 support points in order to replenish his food and water supply. The longest distance between support points will be 195 miles. Fox will be entirely reliant on himself to carry food, water and sleeping gear for the four day stretch.
Beyond the physical challenge of the trail, Fox will also be forced to follow a strict caloric diet with a minimum of 1000 calories at breakfast just to sustain his day’s activity. Lunch and snacks will be constant with foods like jerky, nuts and granola bars, followed by a 3,000 calorie dinner of powdered protein drinks, carbs and energy bars.
"I don't know how I decided on this. I've regretted it every now and then," he says. "I know 99% of the population can't relate to what I'm doing." Fox hopes this experience will aid in raising not only money, but awareness for Parkinson's disease.
Fox says his mother, Lucy – like many others suffering from the disease – is forced to take an abundance of medications, has trouble sleeping and deals with daily discomfort. “Yet, she is still so unmistakably herself. Her gardens certainly haven’t noticed that she’s sick. From potatoes to broccoli, pumpkins to garlic, cucumbers to tomatoes, it’s all there, it’s all healthy, it’s all perfectly tended,” he says. “You might think, on first and even second glance, that perhaps a team of 10 experts works around the clock weeding, trimming, mowing and watering… it’s just Mom (Dad mans the rototiller on the weekends) and her unmatched affinity for truly hard work.”
Gardening has always been a part of Lucy’s life, having grown up on a 60-acre farm in Connecticut, where she developed her craft. Until last year, she was selling self-grown flower arrangements to local supermarkets. “The fact that she still [gardens] daily says something about her resilience and drive to ignore her medical issues,” says Fox.
Fox still has quite a way to go before he reaches his fund-raising goals and more than 2,000 miles of trail ahead of him. To date, his fund-raising efforts have netted more than $70,000.
Fox says it’s the lessons of hard work and toughness –learned while helping tend to his mother’s flower beds and vegetable gardens— that will help him push through the long days and nights of solitude on the trail. “It’s those lessons that will carry me through cold, rain, blisters and breaks, steeps, mud and racking exhaustion, for 2,650 miles with at the least an ironic smile.”
To learn more about Run While You Can click here.