Almost Home: Town marks pass-through point to Baltimore for running team
Karrah Weaver, a Williamsport, Maryland native, and recent college graduate will be passing through Shepherdstown today, along with other runners from her team, in the second-to-last day of what has been a grueling, albeit invigorating run across the country. The mission has been to raise money and awareness for cancer through the Ulman Cancer Fund (UCF), whose main mission is to help young adults with cancer.
Cancer is the leading disease killer among young adults in the 20 to 39 age range. While deaths from cancer in the United States have declined over the past two decades, the young adult with cancer demographic has been very under served.
Several years ago, the UCF began the 4K for cancer program for cyclists to ride across America – more than 4,000 miles. Five years ago, they added a running component. There are two teams: Team Baltimore and Team New York.
Kicking off in California, each team runs to its respective destinations over a period of 49 days, with route highlights such as Lake Tahoe, Grand Teton National Park, the Rocky Mountains, the Missouri River and, of course, Shepherdstown.
Weaver has been touched by cancer, herself.
“In high school there were two students who were diagnosed with, and passed away from Ewing’s sarcoma. Knowing about those students made me more aware of cancer, but I’ve definitely gotten a lot more passionate about it during this run,” she said.
The run itself is operated like a relay race with vans and runners, running two-mile increments. A team of runners will exit the van which then rides ahead to the next hand-off point, and waits for the runners to arrive. Once the team gets to the van, the next team exits the van to begin their two mile leg – and on and on it goes.
“Each morning we have a dedication circle where we hold hands and tell the team who we’re running for that day,” Weaver said. “We also write the name of that person on our leg. It’s usually people we know or we’ve met along the way. Every morning the Ulman Fund chose people for us to dedicate the run to. We usually send people of a picture of their name on our legs to let them know we’re thinking of them through our miles. Also, whenever it gets tough, we use them as motivation to get through our run.”
On their rest days they visit cancer centers to deliver chemo care bags and talk with patients undergoing cancer treatment, which Weaver says is very impactful.
Prior to beginning the run, the teams follow a training protocol set up by the Ulmand Fund, and they are responsible for raising a minimum of $4,500. All of the money raised goes directly to the fund. Food and lodging along the journey is all donated by civic groups or individuals, and runners stay at schools, churches, the YMCA or host homes.
The UCF for Young Adults was formed by a 19-year-old college student named Doug Ulman, who after receiving a cancer diagnosis, was frustrated with the lack of information and support for the hurdles and particular age-related challenges he was facing.
UCF’s 4K for cancer program has raised more than $5 million since 2002. Their goal for 2017 is to raise $850,000. Donations are always accepted.
Applications are now being accepted for 2018 trips for both running and cycling. Visit www.4kforcancer.org for more information or to donate.