Runner out to break Pacific Crest Trail record

Runner Sam Fox is taking on a grueling challenge to show support for his mother, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Fox is attempting to break a 65-day speed record for running the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. He is expected to reach the section of trail that crosses the back side of Mount Ashland on Saturday.

The PCT stretches from the Canadian border down through Washington, Oregon and California to the Mexican border.

"This challenge requires covering more than 40 miles every day, for two months, with an average daily elevation gain and loss of over 16,000 vertical feet," Fox noted on the website for the foundation he started, Run While You Can.

During his run, Fox is raising money and awareness about Parkinson's, a chronic disease that causes sufferers to gradually lose their ability to move normally. It is often characterized by shaking.

Fox and his supporters have raised nearly $100,000 toward their $250,000 goal.

On most days, the 24-year-old former high jumper for the Yale track and field team hits the PCT before dawn. He runs and walks until well after dark.

On Thursday, Fox left Crater Lake at about 5 a.m. and was due to meet up with his support team's RV at about midnight where the trail crosses Highway 140 near Fish Lake.

Fox carries a backpack with water, food, a headlamp, a GPS, batteries, rain gear, toilet paper and a sleeping bag, Support Director John Bernhardt said.

On Saturday between about 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., Fox likely will be at a spot where the PCT crosses Interstate 5 on the Siskiyou Pass south of Callahan's Mountain Lodge, near Exit 6.

He will then continue across Mount Ashland's south face before dropping down into California.

Bernhardt said people are invited to come and cheer Fox on or to run and hike with him on the trail.

"Anyone who wants to come out and support him in person is welcome. Sam spends a lot of time in the woods by himself," Bernhardt said.

Since beginning his run in Washington on Aug. 25, Fox has averaged 39 miles per day.

However, his pace since crossing into Oregon has quickened to 46 miles per day, probably because of fewer elevation changes, Bernhardt said.

Fox did leave the trail to detour around wildfires burning in Oregon this summer.

The current PCT speed record holders, Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley, did not detour off the trail when they ran from California up to Washington to set the 65 days and nine hours speed record in 2009.

To some purists, Fox's effort won't count if he breaks the record because of the wildfire detours, but Bernhardt said Fox followed detour routes recommended by the PCT Association and is doing all the miles that are required.

Several previous speed-record holders took detours, according to those familiar with the trail.

During Fox's run through Oregon, the wildfires have consumed oxygen, generated smoke and caused him to resort to such tactics as applying chapstick inside his nose to combat nosebleeds, according to one of his support team members.

Even without wildfires, running and hiking dozens of miles each day is taking its toll on Fox. He started to use hiking poles to take some of the wear and tear off his feet, Bernhardt said.

When Fox meets up with his support team, members go to work administering Motrin and ice baths, and elevating his feet, Bernhardt said.

"He's doing something amazing," Bernhardt said. "Every day, he gets up at 5 a.m. whether he feels like it or not and runs and hikes almost 50 miles. It's all for the love of his mom."

The money that Fox raises on behalf of his mom, Lucy Fox of Rhode Island, will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Sam and Lucy Fox are not related to the actor who suffers from Parkinson's.

For information on how to donate, visit The website also features updates on Fox's progress, blogs from support team members, photos of the journey and video from a film crew documenting the effort.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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