Dan Heston runs absurdly long distances, but he does it for more than just the burn. For the past five years, Heston has teamed up with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona to raise funds against food insecurity in a unique way—he gathers donations for every mile. This year is Heston’s sixth fundraising event for the food bank, and he plans to run 100 kilometers at once – just over 62 miles.
“He’s just our hero,” said Norma Cable, who manages public relations for the food bank. “It’s amazing to watch athletes at work. We’re all captivated by what the body can do.”
“Dan's 100 Hunger Run and Wellness Fair” gives the community an opportunity to join in on Heston’s efforts by taking the challenge to run alongside him during the event, and at the same time, donate money to fight hunger in the local community.
But, why would someone volunteer to run 100 kilometers in 12 consecutive hours? For Heston, the answer is actually quite simple.
“It’s not as hard to answer as anyone might think,” Heston said. “I enjoy the solitude and the difficult nature of pushing your body beyond what most people can understand. I enjoy getting out there. The worries go away when you’re out there on your own.”
Heston started running marathons in 2009, but his toils took on a new meaning when he added charity to the runs. He first had the idea to run an ultra-marathon and to gather donations per mile as he ran. The first year turned out to be a hit, and he gathered roughly $1,300 from the community. Unprompted, he took the money into the food bank, and a bond immediately formed.
“I saw the sparkle, the genuine happiness in their eyes that someone would do that,” Heston said.
The following year was even more of a success, garnering four times as many funds. Every year’s marathon since the beginning has steadily increased in funds, with last year’s run earning some $22,000. In total, Heston estimates his five years of running have earned the food bank $45,000 to fight food insecurity. They’re hoping to break $20,000 in donations again this year.
“The more awareness we can raise about hunger, the better the community can be,” Heston said.
The community food bank is a nonprofit charity dedicated to getting in-need Arizonans access to healthy food. They estimate 1.6 million Arizonans do not have reliable access to adequate food. In turn, they offer community programs such as after-school snacks, community meals, community garden plots and farmers markets, and education programs.
This year, the hunger run will take place Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mountain View High School track, the smallest track people have been able to run alongside Heston on.
“With the new year, we all challenge ourselves to take better care of our bodies,” Cable said. “He’s a very practical and humble athlete. It really is inspiring to the rest of us, to set the bar that high.”
Of course, the public isn't expected to run the full distance alongside Heston. Anyone can participate in a mile, a lap, or just to cheer the runners on. According to CFBSA, “Dan’s Challenge is about getting on your feet and making a difference.”
For the previous fundraiser, Heston ran the 106-mile route of El Tour de Tucson. This year, on an enclosed track, will be more accessible for the public to join in.
“He cut it down this year from last year,” Cable said. “Now he’s only—only—running for 12 hours.”
For more information, visit communityfoodbank.org