Man stops in Breckenridge on cross-country fundraiser run for veterans |

Man stops in Breckenridge on cross-country fundraiser run for veterans

Russell Larkins runs down Breckenridge Main Street last weekend during his cross-country run fundraising for military veterans.
Photo by Elaine Collins

BRECKENRIDGE — It was this week, while cresting Loveland Pass, when a real-life Forrest Gump ran into what he described as the “most beautiful place” he’s ever been in his life: Summit County.

“I ran over the Continental Divide on Loveland Pass, through Arapahoe Basin (Ski Area) to Keystone and over Swan Mountain, and that was the most beautiful run I’ve done since I’ve been on this trip,” said Russell Larkins, 30, of Wilmington, North Carolina. “Originally, it would have been through Chattanooga, Tennessee, before this, but now this totally is the coolest place I’ve ever been.”

The U.S. Marine Corps veteran is in Breckenridge while running coast-to-coast from North Carolina to California to raise money for struggling veterans and the service dogs who care for them.

Since departing North Carolina, Larkins’ cross-country journey and its purpose has evolved as his story has gone viral. Larkins began his run in late April after he decided to take a leave of absence from working at a doctor’s office in North Carolina. He felt taking a break from learning to be a physician’s assistant would benefit someone else who could return to work at the office, which was furloughing employees.

With the leave, Larkins wanted to attempt something that seemed impossible. Larkins was already waking up most days at 3 a.m. to train for a marathon when the coronavirus pandemic shut the world down in March. Weeks later, he was inspired by the book “Can’t Hurt Me,” authored by retired U.S. Navy SEAL and ultramarathon runner David Goggins.

While on a pre-dawn run listening to Goggins’ audiobook, Larkins said the author’s message of “attempting the impossible task” inspired him to run to Mount Mitchell more than 300 miles away near Asheville, North Carolina. A friend told Larkins it would be cooler if he ran all the way to California. After borrowing a running stroller via the local Fleet Feet running store in Wilmington, Larkins ran the first 61 miles in 24 hours.

Through Georgia, Larkins slept from place to place on his yoga mat, sometimes on the side of the highway. He switched to hotel rooms after nursing a hurting Achilles tendon and after running 30 miles in flip-flops when his feet were so swollen he couldn’t fit in his sneakers.

“People thought I was insane,” Larkins said. “But if you set it in your mind you are going to do it, your mind will make it happen.”

Larkins spent an extra day in Breckenridge on Wednesday, Aug. 5, while waiting for OOFOS Recovery Footwear to send him sandals to run in. The company is one of several that have connected and helped Larkins after finding out about his journey (and flip-flop run in Georgia).

Michelob Ultra has been the leading sponsor of Larkins through the later part of the journey. The beer brand helped Larkins come up with the “Run Russell Run” social media hashtag and website. To this point, Larkins has raised $35,000 toward his goal of $100,000. Some of that money would benefit the Semper Fi & America’s Fund and Dog for Our Brave foundations while Larkins hopes most of it will go toward the nonprofit organization he’s in the process of launching that will help struggling veterans.

Since he ran through Alabama, Larkins has dedicated 20-mile segments of his route to individual veterans. By sharing social media content featuring the veterans’ photos with the specific Strava segment he ran, Larkins hopes he can bring positivity to the lives of the service member’s families as their loved one is celebrated on social media.

“So there could be a larger percentage of Americans who can see and acknowledge their life,” Larkins said.

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