CofC students run cross-country to raise money for cancer

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4K runner leads the group while representing America on one of many days running across the country. (Photo courtesy of Maeve Koch)
4K runner leads the group while representing America on one of many days running across the country. (Photo courtesy of Maeve Koch)

Most students spend their summers relaxing, working and trying to save money, catching up on sleep or catching up with friends. This is not true for for Hannah Ruegner, a CofC graduate as of December, or for Megan Shea and Matt Jordan, two current CofC students. These three are doing something a little non-traditional with their time off: running across the country in 49 days.

On June 14, 2015, Ruegner and Jordan will begin running on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and finish Aug. 1 on Federal Hill in Baltimore, while Shea will finish in New York City. But they are not just running across the country for the sake of running, but to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. For every dollar donated to the cross country run, 89 cents will go to the Ulman Cancer Fund, which seeks to provide support, awareness and education for young adults with cancer.

Their motivation stems from their love of running, their passion to make a difference and their personal experiences with cancer.

“My father was diagnosed with cancer and he lost his battle Christmas Eve 2013 while I was a junior at CofC,” Ruegner said. “After my father’s passing I became very depressed and couldn’t get out of my emotional slump. After some time I realized I wanted to make a difference and help others affected by cancer. The 4K run will allow me the opportunity to turn my passion for running into something more and help others literally one mile at a time.”

Ruegner finished her collegiate running career in the CofC Running Club as the Co-President. She has been running competitively since she was 13.

“When my father was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, I turned to running to deal with my stress and emotions,” Ruegner said. “I have always run to feel better and clear my mind. I found the 4K run when I was looking for internships and scholarships that help students that have had a parents with cancer. When I found the run I realized I could help raise cancer awareness while doing something that I love.”

Logistically speaking, Ruegner, Shea and Jordan will travel about 150 to 250 miles each day for 49 days. Each runner – there are 32 total – will run about eight miles a day with some days being slightly longer or shorter. It is a relay run, so vans will pick up and drop off runners at certain distances to keep everyone moving along. Lodging and food are donated by various hosts, including the YMCA, churches, youth centers, families, firehouses, schools, universities and recreation centers. These hosts are also asked to donate three meals a day. Ruegner is a leg leader, meaning she is in charge of securing the hosts and donations.

Members of the 4K Run for Cancer gather in San Francisco before their cross-country run in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Maeve Koch)
Members of the 4K Run for Cancer gather in San Francisco before their cross-country run in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Maeve Koch)

Shea is a sophomore at CofC and has been a member of the running club for two years now. She became involved in the 4K run through word of mouth. After researching it further, Shea decided it was definitely something of which she wanted to be a part.

“My grandma, RuthAnne Shea, who passed away from Sarcoma three years ago, motivates me to participate in the 4K and I dedicate my run across America to her,” Shea said. “I’m so excited to meet so many new people that not only love to run, but have a passion for giving back and supporting the cancer community.”

Maeve Koch is the Program Coordinator for the 4K for Cancer run teams. He completed the run in 2013.

“From telling applicants they’ve been accepted, to watching them reach their fundraising goals, to sending them off in San Francisco, every step of the way is an exciting part of the journey,” Koch said. “When I did the run in 2013, the support I received from friends, family and even strangers was incredibly uplifting. Once my team finally got out on the road, being able to meet people affected by cancer and share their stories, was absolutely unforgettable. The 4K changes your life for the better in ways you could never expect. It is extremely physically and emotionally demanding, but also incredibly rewarding.”

When asked what advice he would give to students that want to make a difference in the world, Koch said the following:

“…take something you are passionate about and find a way to use it for good. The more excited you are about something, the easier it will be for you to use it to make positive changes. The 4K started as one bike ride with a small group of friends and since then has grown into six cross country trips that have raised millions of dollars to support young adults with cancer. As long as you passionately believe in what you are doing, you can make a huge difference in the lives of others.”

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