Written by Sean Oakley, Footwear Expert at Charlotte GOPC

Running has always been a somewhat selfish venture for me. Whether for stress relief, health reasons or just to get outdoors, it has always been a very personal endeavor. Inspired by the recent record setting run on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail by Diane Van Deren – which she used to help raise money and awareness to help complete the trail – I have sought out ways to use my passion for running to help others.

Great Outdoor Provision Co. has been outfitting and sponsoring the Extreme Hike for the Cure of Cystic Fibrosis for the past several years. I have personally outfitted hikers for the two previous events, and in doing so made loose promises that I would one day participate – perhaps even run it. The passion and excitement the people I met had for finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis was contagious. As they pointed out to me, we all probably know someone who suffers from CF. I indeed found out a few months ago that they were correct – two very close old friends of mine in Raleigh have a beautiful daughter who was born with Cystic Fibrosis.

CF is inherited and affects the digestive system and lungs. Lung infections are common and life threatening, and the body has increased difficulty breaking down and absorbing food. The good news is that there are many incredibly motivated people searching for a cure, and thanks to the CF Foundation, they are getting much needed funds. The Extreme Hike is one fundraiser that has been very successful at getting money raised and into the right hands. A majority of the drugs that help folks live longer with CF were funded by the CF Foundation. But there is no cure yet, so more money is needed.

Originally started by three friends in 2009 as a way to get outdoors and raise funds for CF research, the Extreme Hike has grown tremendously in the past three years. It has expanded to include hikes in Massachusetts and the hope is to set one up out west as well. The Appalachian Trail has been the setting for the two previous Extreme Hikes, and this fall marks the move to the Art Loeb Trail. Generally considered one of the most technical and difficult trails in our region, most hikers take on the 30.1 mile trail over 2-3 days. Some would say that the word “extreme” gets used a little too liberally – not on this hike! Fewer people have completed the Art Loeb in one day than have reached the summit of Everest. I have decided to up the ante and combine my love for trail running with this very well organized hike and attempt to run a majority of the trail – all to help raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis research.

The furthest distance I have ever run is a marathon, 26.2 miles. This run will push me into “ultra” territory, which is generally considered any run further than a marathon. My love for running is renewed, but my goals are far different than ever before. I am taking on a distance further than I have ever run on a trail, and more difficult than any I have traversed. But the training runs have gotten surprisingly easier – no amount of pain or exhaustion can keep me down for too long. I just need to remind myself that every day I wake up free of the ailments that CF sufferers face, and the next step I take becomes a lot lighter and easier.

If you would like to donate to the Extreme Hike for the Cure of CF, please donate here. Donations are tax deductible and can be made with credit card.

Please visit www.cff.org to learn more about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.