On Saturday, May 11, Ben Strunk, assistant director of Sports Programs at NC State Wellness and Recreation will set off from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee-North Carolina border and run nearly 1,200 miles on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks.
He will attempt to set the trail’s fastest known time by completing the statewide journey in 24 days, covering an average of nearly 50 miles per day.
The run will benefit the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and maintaining the trail. The organization also leads trail recovery efforts after the recent hurricanes in eastern North Carolina.
Strunk is not the typical long-distance runner. Six years ago, he weighed more than 300 pounds after finishing undergraduate school. During his first year as a graduate assistant at the University of Florida, he lost more than 100 pounds and turned to long-distance running to keep the weight off.
Since joining NC State Wellness and Recreation in 2014, Strunk has completed more than a dozen marathon and ultramarathon races.
Strunk says he chose the Mountains-to-Sea Trail as his next challenge to inspire others to go after their dreams.
Humans are incredible. I believe with the right attitude and effort, people can achieve anything, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. This challenge is an opportunity for me to put that belief to the test.Ben Strunk
“Humans are incredible. I believe with the right attitude and effort, people can achieve anything, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. This challenge is an opportunity for me to put that belief to the test,” he said.
Each day, Strunk plans to run for up to 14 hours and will burn 6,000-8,000 calories. He will be joined by family and friends serving as crew members throughout the run. They will meet him at intervals throughout the day with food and water supplies, first aid support and some needed motivation.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail passes through 37 North Carolina counties, climbs both the highest mountain and highest sand dune east of the Mississippi River, and includes two ferry rides. The trail is constantly expanding as new sections are built and is a mix of single-track trail, gravel roads, greenways, and multi-use roadways.
“I think the first week in the mountains, with spring rains and high temperatures will be my biggest obstacles on this journey. Although I have been training for months, it is extremely difficult to train and prepare for the toll on my body and the variables I could face on this run.”
You can follow along on Strunk’s journey, including a live tracking feature, by following Fat Guys Running Marathons on Instagram or Facebook. You can also make a donation to the Friends of the Mountains to Sea trail. The suggested donation is just $12.00, one penny for each mile of the trail.