Former Phoenix will cross country (literally) for Haiti project

Abe Clark, No. 456, on UW-Green Bay cross-country teamUW-Green Bay graduate Abe Clark is getting ready for his longest run yet — 2,860 miles. If all goes according to schedule it will be a 136-day journey that will begin Feb. 15 in Oceanside, Calif. and conclude on June 30, in Atlantic City, N.J.

Clark (No. 456 in photo above), a Gillett native who studied Communication Arts (graphic design) and graduated last spring, acknowledges that because this is a solo undertaking, planning is often an educated guess. He can map a course and plan meals, but there’s so much that is out of his hands.

When he finishes the journey it is believed he’ll be just the 12th person to complete such an ocean-to-ocean solo run. And yes, he’s heard all the Forrest Gump jokes.

Abe Clark

Abe Clark

“This idea has been in the back of my mind for a long time,” said Clark, who was a cross-country athlete for UW-Green Bay. “What I like to say is that it’s a journey of faith, that will be accomplished by many little steps of faith.”

What’s not uncertain is the cause: He’s raising money for Living Water International, a Christian organization that is dedicated to helping communities acquire clean water.

Clark hopes to raise $100,000 to help Living Water International toward its goal of repairing 500 hand pumps damaged by the recent earthquake in Haiti. Those hand pumps draw well water needed by about 250,000 people.

Phoenix cross-country coach Mike Kline isn’t surprised that his former athlete is about to step off on such an ambitious undertaking. “Abe is a great young man. In all the time he was here I never heard him complain, he was always thankful. It doesn’t matter, rain or snowstorm or heat, Abe will get through it.”

Because this is a solo project, Clark is taking this on with a proverbial shoestring budget. To raise money for his journey he recently sold his sailboat and has lined up a sponsorship with Striders, an athletic specialty store in Grandville, Mich.

Abe Clark, no. 456, and other runnersWhile Clark will be pushing a jogging stroller with basic supplies, including a tent, he’s hoping that along the way people will open their hearts and homes.

As he crosses the nation he’s looking forward to speaking about his journey, his mission, and his faith. And like Forrest Gump, there may be others who want to share a bit of the journey.

“I’ve built a schedule that plans for me to run from town to town with a rest day on Sundays,” he said. I’m hoping that maybe I can use those days to visit churches and speak.”

Of course we live in a modern age and even in a solo run Clark is going to keep in touch digitally with family, friends and supports. He plans to keep a regular blog with frequent tweets and maybe even a weekly video update.

“This isn’t a race. It’s a day-by-day thing, so I know that I’ll have to make adjustments,” he said. “I’m not going to get to Atlantic City in one day.”