“ALS has been speaking to me through the death of friends,” said Ben Davis on the eve of his attempt to complete the Appalachian Trail in 62 days to draw attention to the disease. “A man I worked with contracted the disease, and I watched as he gradually just wasted away. And it happened to a marathoner I used to run with as well. I felt like I needed to do something to raise awareness.” What Davis came up with was a fast trip down the Appalachian Trail. Although he says he uses the term “running” loosely, he does plan to maintain a very fast pace, completing the route is roughly half the usual time. He’ll be aided along the way by a crew, a support vehicle, and even a “pacer” who will help him stay on schedule. His equipment was donated by Altrec.com, parent company to GreatOutdoors.com. "I don't think we could have done it without the gear from Altrec," he said. “It’s not a hike in the traditional sense,” Davis told GreatOutdoors.com last weekend, just before he began the route. “The support vehicle will meet us multiple times on most days, so I don’t have to carry a lot of weight. There are a couple of days where we’ve had to extend our planned mileage to make sure we can rendezvous with the van, but for most of the route, it’s not a problem.” Davis also said on a few rare occasions road access is too far for one day’s run, so he and his pacer will make a traditional backpackers camp on those sections. For the rest of the two month journey, however, Davis and his support crew will sleep in tents near the vehicle. “It’s going to be a challenge,” Davis said, “but nothing like what people with ALS face.The average life expectancy is only two to five years from the time of diagnosis. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, slowly takes away one's ability to move, speak, swallow and ultimately breathe. There is absolutely no cure. A great number of people suffer from ALS, but most of us don’t know much about it. It’s not like cancer, which everyone understands.” Davis started 2175forALS.com to get the word out about his run, 2175 being the number of miles he’ll cover on the AT. A daily blog by him or a support crew member will keep those who are interested up to date on his progress. “We’ll also use the blog to tell a story every day of an ALS hero,” Davis added, “people who are coping with the disease as best they can day to day. His two-month jog down the AT isn’t Davis’ first encounter with long distance running. “I started out as a marathoner, then moved up to Iron Man Triathalons, and managed to get to the world championships at the 70 mile distance,” said Davis, who lives in Northern Virginia. “I tried long races, but frankly didn’t fare too well at the 100 mile distance of the Tahoe Rim. But I’m hopeful we can make our 62 day schedule for the AT.” Davis started on September 22 at Katahdin, Maine, and hopes to finish at Springer Mountain, Georgia, on November 21. Running with him much of the way will be Rick Cheever, who will try to keep Davis on the correct pace to reach the end on time. September is late in the year to start the Appalachian Trail, but Davis says that’s by design. “I do better in cooler temperatures, so I think our timing is good. We’re aware we’re likely to hit some snow later in the run, but we’re prepared for that. Overall, I think this September to November time frame is the right one for what we’re doing.” The current record for completing the Appalachian Trail is 47 days, so Davis said he's not going for a record. "We just want to do a fast journey down the AT to make people more aware of the tragedy of ALS." For blog updates, click here.