1,800 miles down, almost as many to go.
Norman Horn of Coast 2 Coast FTK began his journey in San Francisco on April 5 with the goal of walking 3,100 miles and raising $250,000 for THON. Three-and-a-half months later, this ambitious alumnus has reached the halfway point.
We checked in with Horn this morning to see how the trek is treating him so far.
Onward State: So, where are you right now?
Norman Horn: Halfway there! Well, even more than that, actually. I’m in Emporia, Kansas. In three or four days, I’ll be in Missouri.
OS: How many miles have you come, how many do you have to go, and when do you expect to reach your destination?
NH: So far, I’ve come roughly 1,800 miles — although I don’t have the exact number — which means I have around 1,400 miles to go! As for my destination, I will be in Atlantic City on Oct. 11. Once it gets closer, I’ll announce some sort of a big party to celebrate the end of the journey with the Four Diamonds families and other people in the THON community.
OS: How many miles a day do you typically hike? You told us your goal was 20 miles a day.
NH: Usually between 22 and 25 miles. My feet hurt, believe me! I’ve gone through five pairs of sneakers so far. I just put on my sixth pair this morning.
OS: Have you been sleeping in a tent, or have a lot of people taken you in along the way?
NH: Until I got about halfway through Colorado — so the first 1,300 miles — I camped probably 95 percent of the time. Every now and then, someone would take me in. But for probably 75 or 80 days, it was me, my tiny tent, and my sleeping bag. Now, though, I’ve only camped one night in the past five or six weeks! I’m meeting the most beautiful people in the whole world, and they’re welcoming me into their homes and guest rooms, letting me do laundry, and giving me great meals. I’m so lucky and so grateful.
OS: Speaking of meals, what have you been doing for food?
NH: Currently, I have a couple of meals and things that people have given me. But usually Clif Bars and granola bars are what I eat all day long. I eat Ramen noodles or a freeze-dried camping meal if I’m really hungry, just cheap stuff like that. I’ve been getting breakfasts and dinners for free from families along the way, though!
OS: How much have you raised so far? Are you close to reaching your $250,000 goal?
NH: I may have made my goal a little higher than was realistic. While I’d still love to raise that much for pediatric cancer, obviously, I think something more realistic is raising $100,000. So far, I’ve raised $15,000! I’m so proud of having raised that much, but of course hoping to raise much more.
OS: Have you heard any responses from Four Diamonds families about what you’re doing?
NH: I speak with Four Diamonds families almost every single day. Four Diamonds Families from all over Pennsylvania send me letters and words of encouragement. Four Diamonds children draw me pictures. It’s really amazing to have built relationships with all of these families, and I can’t wait to meet them. I’m scheduling a big event with the Four Diamonds Fund at the Hershey Medical Center on Sept. 30, and I’m hoping to see a lot of faces. It’s a Tuesday, which unfortunately might make it difficult for people with school or work, but I’m still hoping to see a ton of people there.
OS: What is the best memory you’ve made on your journey so far?
NH: That’s a tough question! I don’t have one specific memory, because I guess my favorite part of the journey so far has been meeting families and children, and spreading the word about THON and pediatric cancer. But personally, it’s that this trip has really restored my faith in humanity. Meeting all the people who want to help me along the way has been incredible. I had no idea I’d get so much support from locals. I knew, or I hoped, I’d get support from Penn State and THON and people at home, but the number of people I’ve bumped into through every state out here who have helped me along the way through food, a home, donations — it keeps my spirits high.
OS: What has been the hardest part of the journey?
NH: Weather, absolutely. Two days ago, I walked through the heaviest thunderstorm I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was pretty wild. I had a smirk on my face, just kind of like, “I know it’s not the end of the world, but this makes everything so much harder.” The day before that, I walked 30 miles, and it was 109 degrees that day. My milage goes between 20 and 30, the weather goes between 90 and 110. It’s getting humid as I get closer to the East Coast, too. The walking, that’s not hard for me. I love the mountains and the terrain, that part is enjoyable. It’s the weather that really throws me curveballs. Dehydration is no joke. I push a jogging stroller and carry all of my gear in there — extra water, food, camping supplies, first aid, extra shoes, a journal. And I set up checkpoints every 500 miles or so, and that’s where the Four Diamonds families can send me things, or where people can send me supplies, anything from bug spray to new shoes. Whatever I’ve needed, a volunteer has usually offered to help me. I’m trying to keep my expenses low, for obvious reasons — I want to be able to donate as much of it as possible, not spend it on supplies.
OS: Do you feel at least a little bit like Forrest Gump?
NH: *Laughs* Well, yeah! Every now and then, people will jump in and walk with me. And I’m growing my beard out until the end, so I probably look like him, too. I shaved my head and my beard bald when I started in honor of cancer patients, and the beard has just gotten ridiculously long since then.
To keep up with Horn throughout the remainder of his journey, check out Coast 2 Coast FTK on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To make a donation FTK (so that he doesn’t hike across the country for seven months straight without reaching his goal), click here.