Talking Rock man to run across country for Alzheimer's
Jack Fussell has set a goal of running from Georgia to California beginning in January. He will use a stroller similar to this one on his journey.
Invoking the spirit of Forrest Gump, Terry Fox and Ashley Kumlien, Talking Rock resident Jack Fussell has decided he wants to run all the way across the country – by himself.
“I was an insurance agent and was on the road a lot and ate all the wrong things - fast food, McDonald’s. I was pretty heavy for 25 years,” Fussell said, who peaked at nearly 300 pounds before having a serious health issue that encouraged him to lead a healthier life.
“I came in one afternoon after mowing the yard and I felt extremely weak and in about five minutes I was throwing up solid blood,” he said. “The fear of being in the hospital with wires all over me and that much blood, I came out and drove to Amicalola a few days later and tried to walk a little, which I probably shouldn’t have.”
That fear transformed Fussell’s life. He immediately changed his eating habits and began exercising every day, including a weekly trip to Amicalola to walk up and down the stairs leading to the head of the waterfall.
“I set five goals to do the stairs, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 times in one day,” he said. “Last year I got in touch with the guy in charge and I got permission to come in at four in the morning and did 50 times down and 50 up. It was 17 hours and 18 minutes. That was my last goal. About three days later I found myself really down. It was the first time in years I didn’t have a major goal.”
Fussell then decided he wanted to run all the way across the country, from Skidaway Island, Ga. to Monterey, Ca. by himself, with just a running stroller, a cell phone and a few other items.
“It hit me one night that I wanted to run across the country,” he said. “I called about 15 people that night to tell them, just to lock it in, because that’s what’s you’re supposed to do, verbally commit. “
One of the friends he verbally committed to asked Fussell if he was raising money for a cause.
“Then it popped into my head because my dad died from Alzheimer's,” he said. “I hadn’t thought about it at first. When I started I had just wanted to complete the goal, but now it’s much more about raising money for Alzheimers than my goal.”
Fussell said his trek is a miracle on another account as well, in addition to the healthy transformation his life has taken over the last 10 years.
“It’s really amazing because my father ran over me when I was three and they told him I’d never walk again,” he said.
Fussell has plans on setting off on foot on January 12. The day of the interview he had 113 days until the start. Fussell’s goal is to do 25 miles a day, which he says should take five months to complete the 3,419 miles from here to California.
For shelter, Fussell says he is going to petition the goodwill of people across the country.
“I might stay in a hotel once every two weeks,” he said. “I’ll stay in the woods. If I was in a town like Jasper I might go up and knock on a door and show them my card and show them letters I’m getting and say, ‘Do you mind if I put my little tarp in your side yard?’ and spend the night so I feel safe. The reason I know that will work is I know people are good and I have faith that they will let me stay.”
Fussell said his route was generated through Google Maps by selecting a few destinations he wants to travel to and choosing the “walking” option.
“I’ve got my route planned out,” he said, “but I have a GPS that may show better ways towards small towns or state parks. I’ll be running with the stroller where my stuff will be, but I’ve been practicing with that because you have to get off the road and it’s a little different than running without it.”
If you want to follow Fussell’s route and learn more about his story, check out his website at acrosstheland2013.com. While you’re there you can make a donation to support Alzheimer's research.
“Like I said, I want this to be about Alzheimer's,” Fussell. “I want people to feel like they are making a difference.”