Ethan Bennett started running. Slowly, but surely, he ran more and more eventually starting to participate in half marathons. After half marathons became easy, he began participating in marathons.
Now, six years since his mother's passing, the Lodi, Calif., native has turned that skill into a cause. On April 21, the 23-year-old Bennett took off from Bennett Park, N.Y., on a 3,289-mile run across the continental United States. His cause is appropriately dubbed "Run to Fight."
Bennett is running 30 to 40 miles a day to raise money for the Livestrong Foundation. The idea to jog across America came from Terry Fox, a Canadian athlete who ran across the Great White North in 1980 with an artificial leg that was a result of cancer.
"It was slowly coming together," Bennett said Wednesday afternoon from near Vernal. "I was going to school, trying to figure out when this thing could become a reality."
Now that he's run through 11 states, he'll make a stop in Park City Saturday when he'll run into town on S.R. 248/Kearns Boulevard. It will be Bennett's first time in Park City and he said he'd love to have some company during his run through town.
"That would be amazing," he said. "It's funny, because in some other states, people are just saying, 'You're doing what? Why are you running out here?'"
Parkite David Guyer stumbled across Bennett's story on the Internet. The vice president of marketing with BTB Sports Optics, a recreational sunglasses firm out of Salt Lake City, Guyer saw that one of his company's clients, H2O Overdrive, had sponsored Bennett's dream of running across the country.
Guyer, who does a 100-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail with some friends each year as part of a fundraiser, thought the idea of running across the nation during the summer months was mind boggling. He reached out to Bennett and said he'd like to be another one of his sponsors.
Bennett accepted the sponsorship and Guyer helped him get another sponsorship in the form of PROBAR, another local company.
"This kid's got some moxy," Guyer said. "I always ask him, 'How is your body going to hold up?'"
According to Bennett, it just has.
He said he sustains himself by "consuming as much as possible."
"Anything that is going to give me calories and taste decent, I'll take," he said, laughing. "It just burns off as soon as you eat it."
Bennett runs in increments of 6 to 10 miles before taking brief rests, then getting back on the road. He said the highlight of the trip so far has been running with Marshall Ulrich in Colorado. Ulrich is a world-renowned ultra-marathon runner who ran across the U.S. in 2008 and did so in 52 days at the age of 58.
In addition to his mother's death, Bennett has another reason for his journey. His brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year. He said choosing Livestrong as the charity to donate to was a no-brainer following the news.
When asked if he's ever had thoughts of throwing in the towel, Bennett laughed.
"Now it's kind of just about making it home," he said of being so close to his home state. "It seems like we're right around the corner, even though we're still a couple states away. There have been times when it's obviously been tough, but you always have those thoughts that come through your mind.
"I just keep pushing forward and keep seeing how far we can get."
Traveling in an RV behind him is his girlfriend, who, coincidentally, ran across the country last summer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Huntington Beach, Calif. The two met when Bennett was looking for some advice on cross-country running; they have another transcontinental running trip in mind.
"Not sure where or when yet," he said.
Guyer, who has only communicated with Bennett via phone and computer, said he's excited to meet him sometime Saturday afternoon near the Rail Trail and accompany him on a summer tour of his hometown.
"I'm not a runner at all -- I can't stand running," Guyer said, "but I'll suck it up. I think I can suck it up running with Ethan. For other people who want to come run, I say, 'Absolutely.' It's welcome."
For more information on Ethan Bennett's run across America or how to donate, visit www.runtofight.com . Bennett will be updating his blog with an estimation of what time he'll be in Park City Saturday.