A North Carolina man plans to begin an ambitious attempt to run the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway on August 9, and hopes to complete the 469-mile trip in only nine days. His purpose is to raise money for a camp that serves special needs kids and for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
Ned Erickson, 39, is an avid runner and writer who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. On January 1st, while running the section of the Parkway between the Mill Pond and Cumberland Knob, Erickson says he "had a crazy thought: What would it be like to run the WHOLE THING?"
That was the genesis of an idea that's grown into a project dubbed "We Run For Them," based on his hope of raising money for two causes: Carolina Point, a camp near Brevard, North Carolina that ministers to special needs children, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
His plans for the run are ambitious. Erickson will begin on August 9 (his wife Lia's birthday) and run every day until August 17. He notes that August 19th is his wedding anniversary, and after missing Lia's birthday, he's "not allowed to miss that!" That schedule will require him to average about 52 miles a day.
'I'm not going to set any speed records,' Erickson told the Winston-Salem Journal. 'I haven't been able to find out if anybody else has done this, but I'm going to try my hardest.'
Erickson has plenty of previous experience in long-distance running; he's completed several marathons and ultramarathons. 'One of my life goals is to qualify for Boston in every age bracket, and I've done that so far,' he said. 'I'm turning 40 in September, so that's my next goal with me moving to another age bracket.'
He plans to begin his run at the Parkway's southern end, near Cherokee, North Carolina, and complete it at the scenic road's northern terminus, at the southern end of Shenandoah National Park. His wife Lia will travel along with him by car, and the couple will spend each night with friends who live near the Parkway. The schedule for each day is to "wake up, stretch, eat, and go."
The runner offered some details about the groups he hopes the help through the event.
'Carolina Point, the newest Young Life camp, is near Brevard, North Carolina, and it's right off the Parkway,' Erickson said. 'They are outfitting their camp for special-needs kids, and we are raising money to up-fit their camp with the zip-lines. And they have mountain bikes that quadriplegics can drive."
'It's an amazing vision that they have, and I believe that every kid, no matter what physical limitations they have, should be able to live life to the fullest. And this camp offers that. To be able to raise money for something like that is just a thrill.'
The second beneficiary for the fundraiser is The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, which he notes "is the sole fundraising arm of the parkway; I've just been really encouraged by them and they do such great work,' Erickson said.
Erickson says about 75% of the money raised will go to the kids camp, and the remainder to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
You'll find more information about "We Run For Them" on Erickson's website.