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Woodbridge native Ethan Bennett’s ‘Run to Fight’ cancer will begin early

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Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:02 am, Thu Feb 2, 2012.

A Woodbridge native has moved up his plan to raise money to fight cancer by running across the United States this year.

Ethan Bennett’s life changed completely the day he lost his mother Susan Bennett to colon cancer in 2006. But he decided to pour his grief into running, a habit he picked up while living through the stressful months of his mother’s declining health.

Somehow, he wanted to try to give back to the community that helped his family through a tough time. Running 3,289 miles and raising $500,000 for Livestrong, an organization that provides support for people affected by cancer, seemed to be just the ticket. Bennett calls his adventure Run to Fight.

But the journey has taken some unexpected turns, including generous sponsors, a complete change in timeline and even romance.

As the calendar rushed toward 2012, the reality of what Bennett had undertaken was staring him in the face.

He wanted to find someone who had completed a cross-country run, so he could pick their brain for advice.

In November, he met Wendy Hendersen for coffee. Hendersen ran solo with just a backpack for more than half of her journey across the nation in 2011. The pair hit it off and started dating. They often go on training runs together.

“It’s cool because she thinks I’m normal,” said Bennett. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to who’s done it.”

Bennett has secured two official sponsors so far and others are in the works.

Ahnu Shoes will be providing all the running shoes for the three-month trek. The company sent him six pairs so he could select the style and size that suited his running gait best.

H2O Overdrive, a company that makes sports nutrition drinks, has offered to provide Bennett with as much of their product as he can drink while he’s running.

Bennett says there are a few sponsors who may help him out with travel expenses, to bring a crew and some supplies along in a van, but the deals haven’t yet been secured. There’s also a production studio in Reno that may document the trek.

What he still needs is a sponsor to donate protein or granola bars he can eat on the go.

Run to Fight’s timeline has changed quite a bit.

Originally, Bennett planned to take off running from New York City on June 5, so he could graduate from college before heading out. But planning the journey has taken up more of his time than he anticipated. He took this semester off from Sierra Nevada College so he could focus. He had one semester remaining before graduating with a degree in digital arts.

Instead, Bennett will head out at 7 a.m. on April 21. Each morning will start with a 20-mile run, followed by a break for lunch and another 20-mile run in the evening. He wants to cover the most distance during the cooler hours of the day, especially while running through the Midwest.

If all goes well, he’ll make it to San Francisco on July 28 after only 98 days, just in time to run the San Francisco Marathon. After clocking in at 40 miles a day, the 26.2-mile distance will be like a cool down for him.

His training regimen is anything but.

“I run whenever I’m not working. Whenever I feel the urge,” he said. Bennett works part-time at a photo studio in the Bay Area.

This weekend he’ll be running what he considers a “warm-up marathon” in Death Valley. March and April will be very low-key in terms of training as Bennett rests up.

Bennett maintains that only a major injury could cut his trip short.

“It would be pretty hard to make me stop,” he said.

Not everyone has been completely supportive. When Bennett tells people of his plans, they sometimes react with laughter, shock and even by questioning his sanity.

One guy blurted out, “You’re running across the country? You’re going to die,” Bennett recalled.

His reaction?

“Yeah, whatever. I’ll see you at the finish line. Then we’ll talk.”

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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