Fulton native raises awareness, funds for cancer research with 353-mile run.
By Ashley M. Casey
Benjamin Hall is running for his life – and others’, too. Hall, a Fulton native who now hails from Manchester, Md., is raising awareness and money for the American Cancer Society with a 353-mile run from Maryland to Fulton.
Hall begins his journey on Sept. 28 and plans to arrive in Fulton on Oct. 12, with two planned days of rest. He will run an average of 29.4 miles per day – more than a marathon, which is 26.2 miles.
The motivation behind Hall’s intense mission is twofold. As a young man, he lost two beloved relatives to cancer – his uncle, Fulton resident Timothy J. Thurlow, died at age 45 in 2003, and his aunt, Fulton native and Florida resident Michele A. Thurlow Bellinger, was 46 at her death in 2007.
“It was my first real, adult encounter with death,” recalled Hall, who was 21 and 24 respectively when his uncle and aunt passed away. “It had an impact on me. Now that I’m trying to learn about getting healthy and learn about cancer, living that healthy lifestyle really, really makes a difference.”
Ben Hall’s own health played a significant role as well. For most of his twenties, Hall was very overweight. His doctor told him he had a high risk of developing diabetes, and even prescribed medication for the condition.
Determined to avoid the same fate as his aunt and uncle, Hall decided to take charge of his health and do everything he could to reduce his risk for cancer and other diseases.
He enlisted Baltimore-area personal trainer Chris Sams to help him shed pounds and get fit. Sams garnered attention in late 2012 and early 2013 for running from Baltimore to San Diego, Calif., over the course of five months. He applied that same intensity to Hall’s physical fitness transformation.
“My personal trainer gave me weight goals every week,” Hall explained, adding that if he did not meet each week’s goal, there would be “punishment” in the form of an added fee or an additional grueling workout. “We did a triathlon together … (for Chris) it wasn’t about the money. I had to pay the guy, obviously, but he took it personally.”
Hall cited eye-opening statistics from the American Cancer Society to show the impact of cancer. He said half of the men and one-third of the women in the United States will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime.
“I want to get people into the best shape they can. Smoking increases your risk 30 percent a year, and diet and lifestyle increase it another 30 percent,” Hall said. “One out of three cancer deaths is related to diet and exercise.”
As for the toll that the running spree may take on his body, Hall is not sure what will happen. The average recovery time for one marathon is approximately three months. Marathon runners risk dehydration, hyponatremia — over-hydration, causing a dilution of sodium levels in the blood — fatigue, tendonitis, sprains and, very rarely, cardiac problems.
“I’m going to take it very slow and easy. I’m going to properly hydrate, eat and stretch. It’s not a race — if I have to walk, I will,” Hall said of the precautions he is taking.
“I don’t know what it’s going to do to my body,” he said. “I think the mental aspect will be tough, too. No one is going to be there to tell me to do it. I have to do it myself.”
Hall plans to find host families in each of his destinations, and will take two rest days during the two-week trek.
Before his departure, he is hosting a workout session and sharing his personal story at Under Armour FX Studios Gym in Baltimore on Sept. 15. Hall seeks to inspire and educate the people of Fulton as well.
“A lot of my family still lives in Fulton. Maybe the community will make better food choices and get active. … I want the best for Fulton,” he said of his hometown. “Even if I could make just one person change, that would be great.”
Hall repeated the popular Audrey Hepburn quote: “Nothing is impossible — the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”
Fultonians who wish to join Hall in the final leg of his journey are invited to do so when he enters the city. He expects to arrive at the Kmart on Route 481 in Fulton around 1 p.m. on Oct. 12. Hall encourages city residents to gather there and run the last 2.8 miles to his late uncle’s home, 1740 state Route 48.
To learn more about Hall and the Crush Cancer Campaign, visit his personal site at crushcancer.webs.com. To contribute to Hall’s $5,000 fundraising goal, go to teamacs.acsevents.org, click “Donate to a Participant” and search for “Benjamin Hall.”