Four thousand miles, forty-nine days, and one duffel bag. This is what John Hunt, a junior at NYU and a member of the Manhattan College Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, will face when he runs across the country for cancer during the summer of 2015.
Before becoming an avid athlete, training anywhere from 18 to 30 hours a week, Hunt was a semi-professional jazz musician.
“It was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, but I couldn’t escape the fact that it was, at the deepest level, only for me,” Hunt said.
Hunt attended high school at the Duke Wellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. where he studied jazz guitar and classical training for three years. During this time he was able to perform with successful artists Earth, Wind, and Fire, Smokey Robinson and John Legend.
“At that point in my life, I was holding a guitar in my hands for upwards of ten hours a day, and even more if I could swing it,” Hunt said.
During his senior year, Hunt applied to many music schools and created audition videos in a professional studio. It was during that time that Hunt started to realize that he was becoming very discouraged with the idea of being a professional musician. The experience had been an enlightening and fulfilling one for Hunt, but ended with graduation.
“Even then, I had a feeling that those pieces [in the studio] were the best music I would ever produce. It turns out I was right,” Hunt said.
Hunt then decided to spend his future helping others, attending NYU to study theoretical physics and becoming a member of the Manhattan College AFROTC. After four years he will graduate and enter the Air Force.
A few years into college, Hunt also found another way to help people through the Ulman Cancer Fund. UCF is an organization working at the local and national level to raise money for and awareness of cancer in young adults, the leading disease killer for 20-to 39-year-olds.
Along with 29 other college-age people, Hunt will be running the distance of four thousand miles starting in San Francisco and ending in Central Park. The Ulman Cancer Fund, because of the rigor of the journey, has an intense application and interview process for the event.
According to Maeve Koch, the program coordinator of 4K for Cancer, the reason for this process is to “determine a potential participants mental and physical toughness as well as their determination to succeed, their commitment to our cause, and their ability to adapt in unfamiliar situations.”
This is exactly where John Hunt stood out the most.
As one of the first people to be interviewed and accepted onto the 2015 team, Hunt was also appointed the role of director after impressing Koch with his application. “His experience in the AFROTC highlights his ability to both follow orders and lead effectively when situations are difficult,” Koch said.
Members of the AFROTC have a government required fitness level and grade point average. However, Hunt explained there is another reason why he became a part of the UCF and also the role of director: music.
“When I was playing guitar I always had a penchant for punishing myself. Some part of me told me to sit down and play until I was blue in the face… that just transferred over to what I became interested in, physically,” said Hunt.
Slowly, instead of playing guitar ten hours a day Hunt began running. Then he began powerlifting. Now he is training about 70 miles per week and lifting four times per week. “I’ve always been a bit of a masochist when it comes to my training,” Hunt added. The goal is to reach 130 miles per week before entering his recovery period.
Through a group on Facebook, nearly all 29 teammates have been able to communicate with each other. Although they meet as strangers in June, after less than 50 days they are like family.
Lala Grau, a junior at Johns Hopkins University and a co-director of the event, who participated in the run last year, said that all of her team members became family. “Everyone has a story, a motivating factor that inspired them to run. I know this summer I’ll be running alongside 29 inspiring people who will make sure that we get to New York together,” Grau said.
Koch, who has been involved with UCF since 2011, agrees that the runners become very close during their short time together. “Usually, the hardest part is when it ends,” she said.
The team, to date, has already raised almost $350,000 and it is barely 2015. While some of the participants can find corporate sponsors, most money comes from individual sources. Hunt’s largest sponsor is Chesapeake Surgical, Ltd.
The goal of the event is to raise money and awareness of cancer in young adults, but for Hunt, it is much more than that. “Nearly everyone knows about cancer,” Hunt said, “what I want is for those people to act.”