Walking the walk. Jogging the jog. Running the run.
This summer, Jennifer Esquivel will be doing all of it.
From June to August, the 22-year-old Nampa resident will cross the mainland United States — from San Francisco to New York City — wearing a pair of running shoes. The trip will cover 4,000 miles over 49 days.
She’s doing it to raise money and awareness for cancer victims.
“I’m really excited about this because I know I’m doing it for a good cause,” Esquivel said. “It’s something that is dear to my heart.”
Her empathy started from an early age. As a child, Esquivel wondered why her mother would routinely send money to St. Jude’s, a cancer research hospital. Her mother’s explanation moved the young girl to start sending her own money — whatever she had, whenever she had it.
She was helping strangers then, but it eventually hit closer to home.
Three of Esquivel’s cousins — now ages 15, 13 and 11 — were diagnosed with cancer. All siblings, lymphoma was found in two while doctors said the oldest had leukemia. Presently, two of the siblings are in remission, Esquivel said, while the youngest continues treatment.
“This kind of affected me because I wanted to help out my cousins,” Esquivel said. “But I didn’t know how.”
But she was determined to find a way. Esquivel, who works at Saint Alphonsus Home, Health and Hospice, started doing research. On Facebook, she found a program called 4K for Cancer. The running campaign, which started in 2001, appealed to Esquivel because it focuses on cancer victims near her own age.
“In 2015, 170 4K for Cancer participants traveled across America and were able to raise over a million dollars to support young adults affected by cancer,” the program’s website reads.
Specifically, the running campaign, which supports The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, will help raise money for college scholarships for those victims, Esquivel said. She’s trying to raise $5,000 as part of her run.
Part of the journey involves Esquivel, and the 29 other college students who will join her, helping to select individuals who will receive scholarships. The process involves reading stories victims submit of their own struggles with cancer.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking, but there are some really tough people out there; all the things they do,” said Esquivel, who attends the College of Western Idaho and aims to attend Northwest Nazarene University’s nursing program. “It’s empowering knowing we’re going to go out there and do this for them.”
Esquivel likened the process of joining the 4K for Cancer program to submitting a job application, interview included. Upon being selected as a participant, organizers provided each runner with a 20-week training regimen.
The cross-country trek starts June 19, when Esquivel will run across the Golden Gate Bridge, and finishes in New York on Aug. 6. She’ll pass through Boise on June 26.
They’ll run in pairs, Esquivel said, going from 2 to 20 miles per day. They’ll rest in sleeping bags wherever they stop along the roadside, with three support vehicles in tow.
“I never had that in mind,” Esquivel said of the idea she’d spend a summer pounding the pavement in running shoes.
It will easily be the biggest athletic challenge she has taken on, though Esquivel has completed a handful of half marathons in recent years and ran track while attending Nampa’s Columbia High School, where she graduated in 2011.
Esquivel also has an athletic obsession she counts as one of her favorite things to do. The varied, high-intensity workouts served as a springboard for her 4K for Cancer pursuit.
“CrossFit. I love CrossFit,” the 22-year-old said.
Esquivel also enjoys hanging out with friends and watching movies. She likes hiking trails with her brother at Jump Creek, near Marsing, and Boise’s Camel’s Back Park and Table Rock.
She will, of course, be doing plenty of jogging in the near future. She’ll also continue trying to raise her goal of $5,000.
Esquivel has already raised $1,250 and has a fundraising page online where donations can be made.
“You want to help them out, but what can you do?” Esquivel said. “Cancer’s a tough thing. The only thing you can do is support them and be there for them. There are good days and there are bad days.”