Georgia man running cross-country for good cause - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

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Georgia man running cross-country for good cause

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Jack Fussell knows what it's like to lose someone you love to Alzheimer's disease. He's far from alone. Close to five million families are dealing with the same diagnosis. That's why the 62-year-old Talking Rock man has taken on the biggest challenge of his life: to run 3,000 miles from Georgia to California.

Every day, Fussell gets up and runs, tying to get just a few miles closer to California.
    
"It's going really well, I've done about 340 or 350 miles.  And things are just going absolutely great," said Fussell.
 
He's been training for months in the north Georgia mountains to run and walk 3,000 miles, through 12 states from the Georgia coast to Monterey, California.

Along the way, Jack hopes to raise $250,000 for the Alzheimer's Association to help find a cure to stop the disease from stealing away people like his father, Leonard Fussell.

"My dad was a good guy, he tried hard. He worked hard all his life," Fussell said.

Fussell says his dad, a World War II vet, survived two ship sinkings back in the war. Then, in his early 70s,  prostate cancer.
       
"Had 56 treatments for that. Come out, they announced him 'cancer free,' and then he immediately went into Alzheimer's and was gone within a year and a half," Fussell said.

That was when Jack decided to rewrite his own story. Back then, in 2001, he was 100 pounds heavier when he ended up in the emergency room with a bleeding ulcer.

"And they told me I might have a year to live if I didn't make some major changes. So I started doing a food pyramid diet and light weights and light aerobics, just like you're supposed to do.  And in 11 months, I lost 102 pounds," Fussell said.

Today Jack weighs 154 pounds and is good enough shape not just to run 3,000 miles, but to push a 60-pound jogging stroller packed with camping supplies.

"That's my clothes in it, I've got dehydrated food in it," he said. "I thought I would spend maybe every night in my tent.  I've spent one night in my tent."

Because strangers keep stopping Jack to run with him, buy him lunch or put him up for a night in a warm motel room.

"Or, like last night, people took me to their home, and I've done that several times. I mean people just coming out of the woodwork to make sure I make it across America," Fussell said.

And in almost every town, Jack people want to talk.

"There's nobody stopping really to ask me about running, or what shoes I wear, or nothing like that; they're stopping to talk about Alzheimer's," he said.

On the road, Jack shoots updates on his cellphone to post on his blog, acrosstheland2013.com.

Jack knows Georgia is the easy part.

"We I get on into the end of Tennessee and into Arkansas, I don't know anybody out there.  So, boy I know I'm going to need a lot of encouragement, cause I do need encouragement," said Fussell.

But he's convinced he can do this.

"It just feels to me like I'm supposed to do this.  I am supposed to try as hard as I can to make it all the way to Monterey," Fussell said.

And God willing, Jack Fussell says, he will.

The Georgia State Patrol gave Jack him some safety training about running on the shoulder of the road. He's clocking anywhere from 16 to 18 miles a day. He hopes to reach Monterey by October.

If you want to see the route Jack is taking, or see pictures from the road, visit: www.acrosstheland2013.com

RELATED LINK: Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org

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