A cross-country cause

For most students, plans after graduation consist of finding a job and moving to a new city, state or even country. For Alex Lang, a senior who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in movement and exercise science and minor in biology, his plans after graduation are a little different.

Just over a month after receiving his diploma, Alex will travel to San Francisco to start the 4K for Cancer. Sponsored by the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, this 4K spans from San Francisco to New York or Baltimore, both routes over 4,000 miles long. Alex and his team of fellow runners will be running to New York over the course of 49 days with 10 rest days, with a total of 10 to 16 miles ran per day.

Panther Caucus, University of Northern Iowa

For Alex, this run goes beyond his interest in exercise. Alex is originally from Mason City, where he ran cross-country during high school. However, he wasn’t initially interested in cross-country, but wanted to go out for football instead. The cross-country coach, David Wilson, saw his potential and reached out to Alex’s mom, who was also a teacher, to encourage him to give cross-country a try.

Coach Wilson was a mentor and role model for Alex and the team. His motto of attitude and effort encouraged Alex to always make the best of every situation, and he still carries those words with him today. “Coach Wilson made all of his students a priority,” said Alex. “I really admired that he took the time to talk to everybody on the team about their goals.”

Wilson passed away from cancer in 2012. Alex recalled that even after long days of treatment, Wilson would still come to practice, and was always ready to work and focused on the students. “His motto meant that with the right attitude and effort, anything is possible,” said Alex.” He just cared exponentially about all of us and we all cherished him. In a way, I want to do this run for him.”

Alex’s experience at UNI also motivated him to step up to the challenge of running across America. He found a passion for leadership development after being encouraged by his family, friends and co-workers to apply for a student supervisor position at the Piazza, which helped him become more confident and intentional in his actions. Alex credits his managers, Susan Devine and Mike Weiglan, for giving him new opportunities and encouraging him to try new things, including joining a fraternity his senior year.

“I am running for those who have and have had cancer, who continue to influence me to this day,” said Alex. “This run means the world to me. I am truly blessed to have this opportunity, as I am able to run and honor those close to me. I want others to know that they can do anything they set their minds to.”