Jack Murphy was a cross-country runner a few years ago when he attended Canisius High School. Now he’s finding out how the term “cross country” can have a literal meaning.
Murphy, the son of Buffalo Bills’ announcer John Murphy, is part of a team that’s raising money for charity through a run from the United States-Mexico border to the United States-Canada border along the Pacific Crest Trail.
The story starts for Jack with a friend of a friend, Joe McConaughy.
“Joe’s cousin, Colin, passed away from Neuroblastoma” at the age of two, Murphy said by phone from the outskirts of the Mojave Desert in California earlier this week. “Joe had wanted to do something in tribute to Colin. The original plan was to run along the West Coast, but the more he learned about the Pacific Crest Trail, he decided to run the length of that to raise money.”
The PCT is quite a challenge, stretching 2,663 miles from border to border. Elevations go from near sea level to more than 13,000 feet. McConaughy would like to break the record for running the length of the trail, which is 59 days.
McConaughy looked to Western New York for help. He is a teammate at Boston College of Jordan Hamm, who holds some school records in his days at Canisius High. Hamm then went looking for additional support.
“I first heard about it when my friend Jordan told me about it,” Murphy said. “I said it was an amazing idea, and an awesome opportunity.”
Another ex-Canisius Crusader, Mike Dillon, is working with Murphy on a video of the project. Hamm covers such matters as supplies, logistics and motivation. Murphy is a general handyman, also helping with supplies while supplying jokes and musical interludes (guitar and belly drum).
“It’s strange to worry about everything,” Murphy said. “Is Joe going to have enough water, enough food? What’s the calorie count? How many liters of water does he need?”
This odyssey started with a single step in Campo, Calif., on June 18. The first obstacle has been the temperature.
“In Southern California, it’s so hot. The sun goes up at 6, and by 8:30 a.m. it’s at least 80 degrees,” Murphy said. “We haven’t seen any rain yet. One day we had a little cloud cover.”
Hamm and Murphy have been doing some running of their own along the way. Sometimes it’s to keep McConaughy company, while at other times they will move ahead of him and then run to drop off supplies.
It’s quite a change for Murphy, who calls himself a casual runner in order to stay in shape. But he’s got it easy compared to McConaughy, who plans to run more than a marathon per day for two months.
“We want to average 45 miles per day,” Murphy said. “It does vary every day. Our lowest day so far has been 38 miles.”
Those distances probably will go down a bit in a few weeks. After all, running through the Sierra Mountains, home of such places as Yosemite National Park, will take a toll on the fittest of runners.
In the meantime, Murphy seems to be having a great deal of fun so far. He says the contrasts in his day are incredibly striking.
“We’re living like vagabonds at times - camping in the woods, freezing at night, waking up at 4 in the morning miles from anything,” he said. “Later that day, I’ll be in an air conditioned Starbucks, posting on Facebook. It’s kind of bizarre how weird it is. I camped out in a windmill farm one night, and now I’m at a Best Western doing laundry.
“It’s awesome. I grew up in Buffalo, and haven’t explored the West before. The landscape blows me away.”
The goal is to raise $30,000, and the team was more than a third of the way to that goal as of this week. Funds go to CancerCare, which helps people affected by cancer.
To follow Murphy and the others on the trip, visit runforcolin.com.
• Old Home Days 5K, 5565 Main St. in Williamsville, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, 634-7095.
• Lake View Field Day 5K Run, Center & Lake View Road in Lake View, 8 a.m. Saturday, 698-4005.
• Tuscarora Nation 10K Run, Tuscarora Indian School, 9 a.m. Saturday, 940-0582.
• Tom Drake Memorial 5K Thunderbird Club Run, Mayville Lakeside Park, 9 a.m. Saturday, 607-0328.
• Bonafest 5K Run, Murphy Building at St. Bonaventure Univ., 9 a.m. Saturday, 790-0056.
• Tim Frank Memorial Canal Fest, 4 miles, 325 Franklin St. in Tonawanda, 10 a.m. on July 13, 510-3971.