campaign: Dare 2 Move
raising the money: Whitney Henderson
raised so far: $3,675
mission statement: “As I run from one large body of water to the next this summer, I will be thinking about the
1 billion without water every time I twist open a water bottle.”
Ever run a 5k? How about a 10k? A full marathon? That’s impressive. Now, what about running coast-to-coast and completing a near 3,000-mile physical and mental odyssey all to raise awareness about people in need of clean drinking water? The iron-willed Whitney Henderson has. We had to find out how:
How did you first hear about charity: water?
My introduction to charity: water was through word of mouth with some volunteers I worked with in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, weeks after the earthquake. The more familiar I became with the mission of charity: water and the mark they’ve made around our world, the more passion I felt to get involved.
When did you commit to the idea of running across the country and how did you motivate
yourself to actually do it?
After completing Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge (a half marathon and full marathon on back-to-back days at Disney Land), I conceived the idea of actually running from one Disney park to the other [that'd be from near Orlando, Florida, to Anaheim, California]. I had no clue how to make it work logistically or why I felt so confident in my ability, but I made a promise to myself on that plane and knew it was going to become an achieved reality.
From that moment, I had a burning desire from my very core to bring this idea to life, but throughout the entire run it was an incredibly physically and mentally grueling mission. I was uncertain even during the last days before reaching the west coast if I could complete my campaign successfully.
How long have you been a runner?
For as long as I can remember running has always been my passion and antidote, but I was not an accomplished athlete with impressive credentials before stepping foot off the East Coast. I only ran a handful of marathons and raced a 50K prior to the start of the almost 3,000-mile adventure. I was a state-recognized athlete in cross-country and track in junior high and high school, but before I started coast-to-coast, I was far from an ultra endurance athlete.
On nights I didn’t have a contact lined up, I would run into town and spark up a conversation with someone. As soon as I explained why I was toting a 50-pound backpack around, people were more than willing to help me in any way they could.
What kind of training did you do to get ready for such a long race?
I rocked my normal weekly average of 15-25 miles of road and trail running up until a few weeks before the start and then I basically stopped running altogether and just focused on fueling, resting and mentally preparing myself. Every stride after stepping foot off the east coast was checkered with struggles, especially the first three to four weeks, but as time and miles passed I became much stronger.
How many pairs of socks and shoes did you go through?
Socks without holes was a luxury. Twenty pairs of socks is probably an underestimation. I pushed my shoes as far as they could take me. Five pairs total got me to the coast. I put almost 700 miles on my first pair. The slight incline of the road shaved my shoe heels to an angle.
How did you plan the trip and where you would sleep each night?
Once I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, I took a taxi to the coast, stepped in the water, turned with the sunrise at my back and took off running. I relied on the generosity and hospitality of the American people to work my way across two-thirds of the country until my mother joined in the last one-third of the run by car, pacing my steps. I actually ran out of my way much of the time traveling from doorstep to doorstep for a place to crash. On nights I did not have a contact lined up, I would run into town and spark up a conversation with someone. As soon as I explained why I was toting a 50-pound backpack around, people were more than willing to help me in any way they could.
What would you eat when you completed each day’s allotted mileage?
As for eating, I only had room for necessities in my backpack, so carrying a bunch of food on me was not an option. The majority of my meals during the day consisted of what I grabbed out of gas stations and fast food joints. I did not have much of an appetite in the heat, but at night my stomach would scream. I was known to even chow an entire Domino’s pizza in one sitting! Depending on if I found a family to host me for the night, I would eat whatever they provided. A home-cooked meal meant the world. Sharing stories over dinner with people the road led me to was a highlight of the trip.
Are you still running? What’s it like now when you lace up?
For as long as my body allows me to run, I will be doing so. Not near as many miles a day, but I will never stop craving that open road. Every time I strap on my shoes now, it’s surreal. I still can’t believe all those miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific my feet traversed.
Any advice for other campaigners out there or for anyone on the fence about doing their own campaign?
Be unique, be bold and believe wholeheartedly in what you are trying to do, for you are the only one who can do what you are capable of doing to help our world. Use your talents and fire within for the benefit of others and do not be afraid of rejection or hard work. The rewards are forever fulfilling.