Running has always been an avenue to bring awareness to certain causes that are taking place around the world and this time is no different with the Via PanAm project with this team of four from Belgium.
“We are running for those who can’t and that’s the main message,” Seba Vandermolen said.
They are running the legendary Pan-American Highway which is a network of roads connecting the ends of North and South America.
The road goes from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina. Although, there is differing opinions on the total length of the road, the estimates are from 25,000 – 50,000 km.
Their particular route is 25,000 km and goes through spectacular highlights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Machu Picchu and Salar de Uyuni.
In total they will have run 590 marathons at the conclusion of their journey.
The team includes Weking van Reeth and Vandermolen the two runners and their wives Liesbeth Balemans and An Wouters.
The charity is To Walk Again, an organization in Belgium which offers customized sports and physical activities for people with physical disabilities. The organization was founded by Marc Herremans, who is a famous triathlete and motivational speaker from Belgium. During a training session he fell off his bike and suffered a spinal cord injury that left him in a wheelchair.
“He started the organization to promote the facilities for people in wheelchairs and they create recovery programs and sport facilities,” Vandermolen said.
“They do quite a lot of things in Belgium because there is a lot of work to be done for people in wheelchairs,” Vandermolen said.
He says the idea of getting involved in the Via PanAm project came from van Reeth.
“I had a great idea to run from Alaska to Argentina and I told Seba the story and he said it sounded nice and he would go with me,” van Reeth said.
The four arrived in North America at the end of April in Nova Scotia where they drove to their starting point at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska and began running on June 1st.
During their runs they do little challenges to keep them focused.
“We run every km of the stretch and do different challenges a long the way and try to get people excited about it by showing videos and sharing them on Facebook,” Vandermolen said.
“The different challenges a long the way keep it interesting but the big challenge is raising money for our good cause.”
Vandermolen adds they get motivation from people they meet.
“They give us motivation which keeps us going forward with our cause,” Vandermolen said.
They said one of the most enjoyable aspects so far has been seeing how different North America is from Europe.
“I think the most important quality in North America is that it’s very spacious,” Vandermolen said.
“We come from a very packed country in Belgium and to come here it’s very nice.”
Van Reeth adds the Canadian people they have met have treated them very well.
“Lots of people have given us food and provided us their home to stay and cooked meals for us, so it’s very nice,” van Reeth said.”
As they continue with their journey they will stop in Vancouver where they will meet the sister of Terry Fox, which they say is a great honour.
“We are going to try to do something for the Terry Fox Run because we will be there when the run takes place and will participate in the event as well,” van Reeth said.
They also compared Fox and Rick Hansen to Herremans.
“The story of Terry is quite similar to Marc with the causes,” Vandermolen said.
“Terry raised money for cancer and for us it’s raising money for people in wheelchairs, but it’s quite similar because they got involved in this life changing event.”
He added Herremans is a great trainer and motivator.
“In Rio one of his athletes came sixth in the Olympic marathon, so he has a nose for talent and knows how to motivate people,” Vandermolen said.
Although, it can be tough at times being away from home they know it’s for a great cause.
“Sometimes it feels like a sacrifice with everything we are doing, but in the end we have a good cause, a goal and people back in Belgium who are following us and people we meet who want to follow a long with our cause,” Vandermolen said.
On average they run 42 – 50 km a day and hope to raise one euro for each km with the goal of running 25,000 km.
Even though they get to experience a different part of the world while doing this project they want to make sure they hit their deadlines a long the way.
“We are not just travelling while we are doing this, there is a higher goal,” Vandermolen said.
“We have a tight schedule and want to be in the most southern tip of Argentina by April 2018.”
If you would like more information or would like to donate to their cause you can visit http://www.viapanam.be/en.