RUN TO FIGHT: Local on a cross-country trek

Ethan Bennett

Ethan Bennett is on a journey. It is an open-ended passage that, in this particular case, has a destination. But, in other aspects, it may never truly end.
Either way, he’ll be running through it no matter what.
Technically speaking, after all the calculations, Bennett, 23, who graduated from Gilroy High School in 2007 and currently resides in Morgan Hill, is one-third of the way through a more than three month, 3,289-mile run across the United States.
That notion alone – running somewhere between 30 to 40 miles per day – takes the mind a minute to juggle. But setting the numbers aside, in some respects, this current trek is a segment taken from a pilgrimage that began in 2004, the year his mother Susan faced a bout for her life – cancer.
The first diagnosis was colon cancer, Bennett explained last Wednesday – Day 40 of his cross-country adventure – from an RV parked on the side of the road. He had just finished 20 miles and still had 10 miles from St. Joseph’s, Mo., his rest stop for the evening.
Following six cancer-free months, Susan went in for a checkup. There, doctors discovered rapidly moving ovarian cancer. She died in 2006.
“I knew I needed to do something, I just didn’t know what,” Bennett said.
During that two-year period, as he watched his mother go through the trials and tribulations, Bennett took up running. It helped with the stress, the anguish, the sorrow, he felt. But his running had never been to get away. It had always been for someone or something.
“I started small,” he said. “I’d run two or three miles. Then in 2009, I came across a video.”
That video documented the life of Terry Fox. In 1977, at the age of 18, Fox, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and forced to have his right leg amputated six inches above the knee, according to his foundation’s website. While in the hospital, Fox was troubled by the long suffering he witnessed and decided to organize a run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. With a prosthetic right leg, his run began on April 12, 1980. However, his cancer spread to his lungs, and he was forced stop 143 days into his excursion, the website says. He died on June 28, 1981.
“That just really inspired me to start running a lot more and basically gave me the idea for this,” Bennett said.
Since 2009, Bennett has participated in four half marathons and two full marathons – nothing compared to what he is attempting now.
“I was planning on finishing college before doing this,” said Bennett, who was attending Sierra College in Incline Village.
“I was supposed to graduate in May. But last October, I decided to move home and focus on the run, focus on the training and get everything ready for this, figure out the route, supplies, costs and what not. So I started doing my training and saved as much money as possible.”
His training increased from running 40 to 50 miles per week, to that regimen plus added cycling exercises and muscle-building workouts.
“I did a lot of cycling to save my knees and hips from the pounding but still build muscle,” he said. “I tried to build up my endurance as much as I could without beating my body up.”
He sold his Jeep to buy his RV, and using the tagline The Run to Fight, Bennett fittingly began his odyssey on April 21 from Bennett Park, New York City.
“Day 1 was long,” Bennett laughed through a deep sigh. “I covered 42 miles. I started running at about 5:30 a.m. and finished at about 6 p.m. Yeah, that was a long day.”
He, like Fox, is running to raise money for cancer research, donating the funds he earns through his website,, to LIVESTRONG, The Lance Armstrong Foundation. It was an easy choice under difficult circumstances.
Bennett’s older brother Daniel, 26, was diagnosed with testicular cancer nine months ago.
“LIVESTRONG really helped him out financially and provided a lot of support for him,” Bennett said, reassuring that his brother is doing well and now cancer free.
Often by himself for hours at a time, churning along desolate stretches of U.S. highways, Bennett has had plenty of time to reflect – well, for the most part.
“Sometimes (I’m not thinking about anything), to be honest,” he said. “You just kind of get hypnotized and your legs just move. But sometimes I’ll be thinking of the people I’ve met along the way. I think back to when my mom was going through her battle. I think about lots of things.”
He isn’t in it completely alone, though. Bennett, who also spearheaded Gilroy’s Relay For Life team last year, has encountered few curious travelers along the way, and even a few passersby who have pulled over to see if he was OK or needed a ride.
“One guy thought I had just escaped from the hospital because he saw me limping a little bit,” Bennett chuckled.
“A lot of the people I have met along the way have been very supportive,” he said. “A week ago a mother and daughter, whose grandfather was dealing with cancer, ran about 10 miles with me.”
Also, aside from a supportive home base in Morgan Hill, his girlfriend, Whitney Henderson, is helping coordinate the trip, mapping out the day’s course of action, which is done every morning using Google Maps on an iPhone.
Henderson has some experience in this type of thing, too.
Last year, the 24-year-old founder of Dare 2 Move, embarked on her own ocean-to-ocean charity jaunt from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Seal Beach.
“It’s awesome having her here,” Bennett said.
The two met for coffee last November, one month into Bennett’s training, and a bond was instantly formed.
“She knows what to expect and knows how to push through things and keep going,” he added.
People have asked Bennett why he is doing this. After hearing his answer, there usually isn’t a follow-up.
“To give hope to others,” he said. “When I was watching my mom suffer it was really tough, obviously. I don’t think anyone should have to go through that. So this is just to raise awareness and money so that one day nobody has to go through that. It’s also saying it’s not the end of the world if something so difficult like that happens.”
Bennett’s run will continue on Highway 36 for the next 500 to 600 miles into Colorado. He is due to arrive in San Francisco on July 29, where he will run in the San Francisco Marathon – the final leg of this journey.
NOTES: Bennett, who has also spoken at school assemblies along the way, said he’d like to thank his sponsors, UGG Australia, Pro Bar, Dare 2 Move, Be the Ball Sports Optics, H2O Overdrive and Ahnu. You can follow his path and donate on his website,

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