Hannah Ruegner ’14 is about to finish running a 4,000 mile, coast-to-coast trek that took her from San Francisco to Baltimore in 49 days.
What have you done this summer?
This amazing alumna of exceptional endurance has been running the 4k for Cancer to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund For Young Adults. She’s also running to honor her father, Peter, who passed away from cancer in December 2013. Each day before hitting the road, Ruegner has penned her father’s initials on the back of her leg to give her an extra spring in her step.
These legs have racked up many miles, been sunburned, and have gotten very sore, but Ruegner has kept at it. Part of her motivation to continue, she says, has been the support of teammates and current College of Charleston students Megan Shea and Matthew Jordan, who have also been running across the country as part of 4k for Cancer (Shea is part of a team finishing in New York, while Jordan is running with Ruegner). Also inspirational, says Ruegner, is the perseverance she’s witnessed in a number of friends and family who have battled, or continue to battle, cancer.
A native of Walterboro, S.C., Ruegner is a former president of the College of Charleston’s Running Club. We caught up with the speedy Ruegner (figuratively speaking, of course) while she was in Louisville (Day 32 of 49) to ask about her incredible journey. Below Ruegner answers the College’s questions and explains exactly what it’s like to run across the entire United States. She’s also chronicled her journey on Facebook and Instagram.
Q: Dear Hannah, can you enjoy the scenery while you run? If so, what places or landscapes have you particularly enjoyed?
A: I definitely enjoy the scenery while I am running. I cannot pick a favorite place because I have loved seeing all of the country. I would say that Utah was amazing because it went from desert to forests by the time we got to the top of the state; however, I may be biased because I spent half my time growing up in Utah. Nebraska was also amazing. There was a lot of wildlife, rolling hills, and nice people that would stop and talk to us on the road.
Q: How do you keep your spirits up when you grow fatigued or become overwhelmed?
A: Being tired and overwhelmed happens a lot on this trip. I would say about twice a day I think I am crazy for doing this and want to go home but I think of my Dad and what he went through during his cancer treatment. I also think of all the people that my teammates are running for and they motivate me as well. Knowing that people with cancer can’t give up or take a break makes me want to keep running and sharing my story with others.
Q: Have you suffered any injuries? How do you cope with them?
A: Injuries are common occurrences on this trip. Thankfully, I have not had any serious injuries. I have had some IT (iliotibial) band problems but I use the foam rollers, ice, and stretch a lot. Some of my teammates are in boots for stress fractures and ankle problems. I am very lucky my body has stayed healthy.
Q: What’s been the hardest part so far?
A: The hardest part so far for me would be running, getting back into the vans, and running again. We cover the mileage like a relay. One pair will run two miles then get in the van and another pair will get out and run their two miles. It works really well but my legs get stiff and tired from not being able to stretch a lot after each leg.
Q: Has anything particularly strange happened on your journey so far that you’d like to share?
A: The coolest/strangest things that have happened involve other cross country journeys that are raising funds to help with cancer awareness, research, or grants. While we were on Highway 51 in Nevada we passed a Texas 4000 biking team who are making their way from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, to raise money for grants. Then when we were in Utah we found The Van Without A Plan on the side of the road. This group of 7 people consisted of 4 British long boarders that are skating from San Francisco to New York for The Teenage Cancer Trust. Overall, both teams were amazing and it is just by chance that we saw them!
Q: Does your mind wander as you run? What do you tend to think about?
A: Yes, my mind wanders while I run. Most of the time I am talking to my partner about their life or random things but when I am not talking I tend to think about how crazy it is that I am running across the country. I also think about how pioneers made it across the terrain I am running without roads or vans. It is crazy to think about. We saw the Oregon Trail and the ruts in the dirt were five feet deep and it really put into perspective how hard it was for the pioneers.
Q: Why did you choose this type of event/action to honor your father? What significance does running have for you?
A: I have been running since I was 13 and love it. I have always used running as an escape from stress and as a way to have some alone time. When my Dad first got sick in 2013 I turned to running to deal with everything. It really helps me clear my head and make sense of things. My Dad getting cancer and passing away still doesn’t make sense and probably never will but running is letting me spread awareness and turn my Dad’s death into something better. I am able to help others by running and giving them hope.
To learn more about Ruegner, as well as to have a chance to donate to her cause, check out her profile and blog posts regarding the journey.