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Remember in “Forrest Gump” when Tom Hanks ran across the country for no particular reason?

Steven Bethune, a 24-year-old Cal Poly graduate, is planning to do the same thing, only his motive is to help those with heart disease.

“By raising money for the American Heart Association it makes my lifelong hobby more meaningful,” said Bethune in an American Heart Association press release. “I get the chance to do something big, the chance to help those afflicted with heart disease and others who are in danger of losing loved ones.”

Bethune, who has lost his grandfather and great-uncle to heart disease, will leave Manhattan on Aug. 15, 2006, and will run 40 miles every day for three months until he reaches the West Coast. A few of his friends will be driving along side him, providing him with a place to eat and sleep.

His primary goal is to raise $50,000 to benefit the American Heart Association and help fight heart disease. The money will go toward research, funding existing programs and coming up with new programs that encourage people to become active.

So far, only his close friends and family have made donations. However, Bethune plans to earn most of the $50,000 through corporate sponsorships and donations. A company on the East Coast has already donated 1,200 T-shirts with a logo that he designed for Bethune to raise funds.

Bethune, who has not participated on an organized running team since he was in elementary school, began running with his brother when they were kids. Running has not always been his most consistent activity, he said, but has been his biggest dedication since he decided to run across the country.

“I first read about a guy doing this in spring 2003, up until then I didn’t know people did that and I was intrigued by it,” said Bethune, who came up with the idea to do something similar, but set the idea aside for a while.

“This summer, I was walking down a side street in Tokyo and we ran into a Japanese foot bag (hacky sack) team,” Bethune explained. “More than the things they could do, what really amazed me was the fact they had chosen something and dedicated themselves completely to it. I wanted to know what that felt like, to devote myself to something and see what I’m capable of. At that point, I knew what I wanted to do and I knew the cause I wanted to do it for.”

Currently, Bethune runs 17 miles a day, and will raise the distance he runs daily by one mile every two weeks until he is running 30 miles a day.

Once he begins his run, a nutrition professor at Cuesta College, who Bethune has been consulting for dieting guidelines, estimates Bethune will need to eat 8,000 calories per day to meet his body’s intake requirements.

At 6-feet-5 inches tall and 185 pounds, Bethune doesn’t exactly have the long distance runner’s body type.

“A lot people are worried about me, as far as my health and my joints,” he said. “When I finish this, it won’t be because I’m a great runner, it will be because I worked my butt off.”

Overcoming his size will not be his biggest obstacle, he said. Finding an RV to rent or borrow while he runs across the country will be his biggest hurdle in his quest to cross the country.

For more information on Bethune’s run, or to make a donation for his cause, visit Starting Jan. 26, Bethune will also have a booth at Farmers’ Market in San Luis Obispo where he will distribute information about his cause and sell T-shirts.

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