Ethan Bennett, 23, has made it. The Woodbridge native has run about 30 miles a day for months to raise money and awareness for Livestrong, an organization dedicated to helping those affected by cancer. The Run To Fight is over.
Bennett ran into the waiting arms of friends and family outside of the Ferry Building in San Francisco at around 7 p.m. on Saturday night. He was showered in hugs, photos and offers of food.
He posted about his triumph on the public Facebook page where Lodians and supporters across the country have followed his trek.
"After 3,000+ miles, 6 pairs of shoes, and 98 days of every emotion you could imagine I have officially run across America!" Bennett wrote. "I can't thank everyone enough for the support and donations!"
Bennett planned the run in 2011 as a tribute to his mother Susan Bennett, who passed away from colon cancer in 2006. He started running as a way to cope with her illness and loss, but he knew he wanted to do something more.
He set out on April 21 from New York City and made it to San Francisco on Saturday. The Run to Fight raised over $6,000. Bennett relied on several sponsors to get him through the physical and mental strain, including BTB Sport Optics, ProBar, Ahnu Shoes, H2O Overdrive and Ugg Australia.
Along the way, Bennett was supported by his running partner and girlfriend Whitney Henderson, who ran across the country from Florida to California in 2011.
Even after reaching his cross country goal, Bennett had a little more running to do. The tan, lean, tired man competed in the San Francisco Marathon with Henderson on Sunday.
Post-race results showed Bennett completed the marathon in five hours and 40 minutes, running at a pace of about 13 minutes per mile.
"I was not in it to set any record times. There were so many people there, it was crazy. Everyone was fighting to get ahead of everybody else. But it was fun," he said.
While in San Francisco, Bennett took in a Giants baseball game. But he was standing on the field for the pre-game ceremony on A Night for Cancer Awareness on Monday.
Dave Dravecky, the former Giants pitcher who lost an arm to cancer in 1991, spoke to the crowd while Bennett represented Livestrong and stood with other cancer-fighting organizations.
Back at home in Morgan Hill, Bennett is relaxing and letting his body heal. He finally has time to take in what he has accomplished, and think over what he might do differently on his next run.
It was impossible to research every road Bennett traveled.
"I didn't realize how sketchy some of the roads are. Sometimes there was a six-inch shoulder or a blind corner. I didn't expect that," he said.
The best advice he received was simply to keep going.
"Put one foot in front of the other. Keep your body moving regardless of how fast or how slow," he said.
It was a challenge to keep enough calories in his body to keep going. Bennett wolfed down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Once he put away all but two slices of a large pepperoni and olive pizza. He was chased by dogs, ran by deer and never saw a single bear.
Bennett is pleased with his accomplishment, but he wishes he could have earned more funds for Livestrong.
"I would have liked to raise more money. I did the best I could with what I had," he said. "I kind of picked a number in my head and thought it was plausible."
Henderson and Bennett had a hard time keeping up with local media outlets on the way. By the time they got one newspaper on the phone, the reporter couldn't meet for a week or two. That delay didn't work with Bennett's mileage.
There were days when completing about 30 miles a day seemed insurmountable, but it was a good pace for Bennett. Any slower and he wouldn't have made it to San Francisco in time for the marathon.
He has come away from this adventure with a wealth of knowledge about his body and what it can do.
"You can push your body a lot further that you think you can. The mind tells the body to stop but you can keep going," he said.
There might be another major run in Bennett's future, but nothing is certain.
What advice does he have for runners planning their own transcontinental trek?
"Believe in yourself. Don't listen to others if they tell you that you can't do it, that you'll destroy your body. Expect pretty much anything and everything," he said.
His message to those fighting cancer is just as determined.
"I would tell them not lose hope when they're going through the disease or watching someone else go through it. Keep fighting and don't give up," he said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.