To fight back against cancer affecting young adults, a student from the University of Rhode Island is slated to run across the United States after graduating in the spring.

Sarah Smith, a senior biological science major at URI, was accepted last week to be a part of the 2016 4K for Cancer, a 4,000-mile run across the country to benefit the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

“Every night I’ll be sleeping in my sleeping bag on the floor of either a church, a YMCA, or a host family[‘s house],” said Smith. “[We’ll] get to hear stories of the communities and how they’ve been affected by cancer, and usually the host people are people who have directly lost someone.”

The 30 runners, including Smith, will begin their 4,000 miles by running over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and will end their trek by running across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. They will be taking turns throughout the course of their 50-day run across the country by using a relay system. Three vans will be driving alongside the runners, and pairs of two will take turns running every two miles. Depending on the time that a pair begins their running for that day, each runner could cover between 10 to 20 miles per day.

Their only breaks will be one day off, after every four consecutive days of running. During these breaks, the participants will continue to do work for those affected by cancer.

“On the days off you are usually volunteering in the hospitals, bringing chemo care bags to patients, visiting with patients, hosting dinners, going to different events,” said Smith. “It’s all about the Ulman Cancer Fund [for Young Adults], and bringing comfort and inspiration to these people who wouldn’t be able to do this [cross-country run].”

Each of the runners has their own personal connection to cancer and their reason for running, and Smith is no exception. The 21-year-old lost her grandfather to kidney cancer five years ago.

“He was such an influential person in my life that when he passed away I felt like I never really got that closure,” Smith said. “I’m hoping that through getting the support of my team and hearing everyone else’s stories, and creating these communities with other towns of the people who have been affected by cancer, I will get that closure.”

In order to participate as a runner, Smith must also raise a minimum $4,500 through her profile on the 4K For Cancer website. With each of the 30 runners helping to raise funds, the group hopes to contribute to those who are directly affected by cancer.

Though literally running across the country may not be a traditional post-grad celebration, for Smith it simply makes sense.  

“I’ve [always] used running as such a major outlet in my life that doing this run will help me as a person to close one chapter of my life with college, and allow myself to step back and think about what I want to do with the next chapter of my life,” said Smith.