Alex Bacon vividly recalls the final conversation he had with his late grandfather, Paul Arca.
“I was visiting him in the hospital,” Bacon said. “And he told me to keep on running and doing good work.”
Taking that advice to heart, Bacon later came up with a unique yet fitting way to help combat starvation for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The former Oakdale High School cross-country captain decided to run from Towson University, where he had just graduated from, to his home in Frederick.
After mapping out his route on Google Maps, Bacon, 21, braved the grueling 50-mile run on May 27, documenting his trek on Facebook, and the endeavor allowed him to raise $2,025, which was donated to Action Against Hunger.
He made stops at places like Lake Roland in Baltimore and Oakdale High School and had his friend, Corey Levine, driving alongside of him as he jogged along roads like Md. 99 and Md. 144.
Bacon traversed the distance — 50 miles — of an ultramarathon, not that he worried about such a label.
“You can call it whatever you like,” he said. “I just called it my run home from college.”
He began envisioning this type of run in the spring of 2019.
“I thought, ‘How cool it would be if I could do the run to home and raise a lot of money, kind of in [my grandfather’s] spirit, and just do something good for the community?’” Bacon said. “I had always been involved in community service and philanthropy.”
The 2020 health crisis gave him extra motivation. Hunger became an even more pressing issue when the rapid spread of COVID-19 caused a shutdown that disrupted food supply chains. Also, the coronavirus gave Bacon plenty of free time as he shuttered at home and a triathlon he planned to participate in got canceled.
“So even though it was kind of a crazy idea, now that everything’s canceled and I’ve got plenty of time to train to run, why don’t I go ahead and do this?” he said. “So I started training late March.”
He ran 10 miles four times a week. On the remaining days, he did five- or three-mile runs.
Unlike other events he participated in as a runner, though, he had to plot his own course.
“The first thing I did was plug in my address on Google Maps,” he said. “I started at my apartment in Towson.”
He scheduled stops so he could rehydrate, consume energy packets and use Icy Hot cream to help fend off pain. After the first one at Lake Roland in Baltimore, he ran through Baltimore County before eventually pounding the pavement on Old Frederick Road (Md. 99). One of the most challenging parts of his run was the 10-mile stretch between West Friendship and Woodbine.
“It was kind of a gauntlet,” he said. “The weather was all right, it wasn’t too hot, but it definitely had its moments.”
From there, he headed to Mount Airy before hitting familiar turf in New Market via Md. 144 en route to a stop at Oakdale.
To those following his progress on Facebook, Bacon indicated Oakdale High School, where he graduated in 2016, would be his final stop. He forgot to clarify that his final destination would be his house, though, so a bunch of well-wishers, including his aunt and neighbors, waiting for him at his alma mater were a little confused.
“When I told them I had to keep going to my house, they all [were] like, ‘No, you’ve done enough, you’ve gone far enough,’” he said. “And I was like, ‘No, i’ve just got to finish.”
He finished. The run took him approximately 14 hours, but it was worth the effort, especially for someone who enjoys running.
Bacon joined Oakdale’s cross-country team as a freshman. He wasn’t very fast when he started out with the Bears.
“I started off really slow. I wasn’t the slowest but I was the second slowest,” said Bacon, who also ran track and field at the school until his junior year to help keep in shape for cross country. “But I just kept working at it, trying to get better. Just kind of kept grinding every year.”
By his junior year, he made Oakdale’s varsity cross-country team, securing a spot among the team’s top seven runners.
As a 19-year-old, he competed in the 2017 Baltimore Marathon. Aside from placing second in the 19-under age group with a time of 3 hours, 38 minutes, he raised money for the Johns Hopkins Miracle Network.
Now that gyms are open in Maryland, Bacon hopes to resume training for a triathlon and to take up Olympic triathlon. He would also love to try a half iron man and work his way up to a full iron man, something he might not have considered before his run from Towson to Frederick.
“Now that I did the 50 miles ... it kind of opens your eyes in a way, gives you some light into how powerful your mind is and how powerful your body can be when you’ve got a goal in mind,” he said.
The Towson grad, who majored in mass communications, also is still trying to land a job. Thanks to the health crisis, he saw a couple leads vanish. Then again, it also inspired Bacon’s run to home fundraiser.
“I figured this would be my way to kind of give back to the community and do what I can,” he said. “Kind of let people know that even when things are kind of dark and whatnot, there’s always a way to give back and do your part.”