By Samip Delhiwala
Published: March 7th, 2018
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year, while an estimated 600,000 Americans die from cancer every year; that yearly death toll means that cancer is the second-most leading cause of death in the U.S., right below heart disease.
While medical advancements and policy changes have helped yield more optimistic prognoses for many types of cancer, there is still work to be done. Some individuals choose to directly donate money towards cancer research. Others may choose to run, jog, or walk in 5k events to bring awareness. But for Brooklyn College junior Emily Guth, running from the country’s West Coast to the East Coast is her method of contributing to the cause.
Guth has partnered with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF) to embark on a 49-day run of over 4000 miles from San Francisco to New York City. She, along with the 25 other college students participating with her, will leave from San Francisco on June 17, and return to Brooklyn’s Brooklyn Bridge Park on Aug. 4. During her journey, she will be stopping in major cities and small towns to do service projects.
“It’s my first time working with a cancer organization,” she said. “I lost both my grandmothers and a good friend in high school to cancer. I’m doing this in memory of them.”
The UCF specializes with cancer patients aged 15 to 39 years old. It raises money for cancer research, and provides college scholarships, fertility preservation, and chemotherapy bags. It is also in the process of building a “home away from home,” which, according to the organization’s website, will provide “free housing for young adult cancer patients and their caregivers in East Baltimore” near Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Guth found out about the UCF through a Facebook ad, and subsequently discovered that many people connected to her have participated with the organization in the past.
“We tend to focus on pediatric cancer a lot, and there’s nothing wrong about that,” she said. “But cancer among young adults is just as important, which is why I really like this organization.”
Before coming to Brooklyn College, Guth was in a theater program. She only took up running three years ago, but she fell in love with it instantly. She is a frequent marathon runner as well.
Guth has connected with the other participants of the run through group texting and a Facebook group. She has taken upon leadership roles on her team; as a trainer, she is in charge of training tips and will be in charge of wellness and injury protection during the run.
When the runners depart from San Francisco, they will be split into pairs. Each pair will run on a marked route, run a couple of miles, and switch with another group traveling in a van. The groups will keep switching until the required mileage for the day has been covered; according to Guth, they will average 10 to 12 miles per day, with at least six and at most 16 in a day.
To prepare for the high demands of the long-distance running that is required, she has been following a strict training regimen.
She has been training in Manhattan since January with a running team called the November Project, which is a free fitness movement that originated in Boston. She explained that she has been setting “mini-goals” during her training, which will ultimately help reach her final goal of having the stamina and durability to complete the 49-day run. The most difficult part of the training will be preparing for the scarcity of rest days; she will only receive a rest day every seven to ten days.
“The big thing in training is being able to go multiple days without rest days,” she said. “As the training progresses, the rest days will get further and further apart.”
Her regimen consists of very early mornings; she trains every day at 6:30 a.m. To balance her training with her commitments to her classes, job, and diet, she tries her best to allocate her afternoons, evenings, and free time for schoolwork and her job.
“In order to stay healthy and injury-free, I have to eat more when I’m running more, and that’s when my budget has to increase and keep up,” Guth said. “As training gets harder, so does the semester. The longest distances are during finals, and I have to balance that with my diet and job.”
To keep her motivated during her training, Guth says she has drawn inspiration by many people that she runs with in the city.
“Having certain people such as my coach around me has kept me going as a runner,” she explained. “My coach is a marathoner and dancer, and sometimes runs a marathon and then does a two-hour show right after.”
In addition to the physical responsibilities that she has in order to prepare for the run, Guth, along with the rest of the participants, has to fundraise $4500. The fundraised money will go directly into the organization’s various projects, and not a single penny will be spent on the runners. Everything, including food, gas, and shelter, is provided by donation through local churches, homes, and YMCA branches.
“I know a lot of people are sometimes wary about where donations are going, but we’re not staying in fancy hotels or anything like that,” she reiterated. “Many gracious people along the way are opening up their homes to us.”
Guth’s fundraising goal is May 15, and she has smaller goals within that timeframe. As of Tuesday night, she is just over halfway there, having raised $2260.09 of the total $4500. In addition to donations from family members and friends, Guth and her theater friends did a cabaret in Manhattan, and a portion of the cover charges went to her fundraiser. She is also doing a charity workout with her closest friends, which will contribute to the fund.
Guth, an exercise science major, will soon be a senior. She aspires to get a Master’s degree in athletic training while also running in charitable marathons in the future.
“I would like to help athletes in any way that I can,” she said.
But for now, her focus has been locked in on her upcoming run in the summer.
“Most people, if not everyone, have known someone whose life was changed by cancer,” she said. “This is something that is very close to my heart, and it would mean the world to me to have the support of my school.”