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Published August 11, 2012, 11:46 PM

Fargo ultramarathoner aims to raise $10K to fight autoimmune disease

FARGO – Ben Clark is going to put himself through 400 miles of aches and pains, hoping that someday, others can live healthier, happier lives.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

FARGO – Ben Clark is going to put himself through 400 miles of aches and pains, hoping that someday, others can live healthier, happier lives.

Clark, a 21-year-old ultramarathoner, plans to run a 3-mile loop around the North Dakota State University campus 135 times, starting at 3 p.m. today and going like an Energizer Bunny in running shoes until 3 p.m. next Sunday.

The NDSU senior’s goal is to raise at least $10,000 for the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.

Oh, and if all goes well, he’ll also be ready to start his computer science and mathematics classes the day after he finishes that last mile.

“Make no mistake; this is not easy,” he writes in his blog at www.benclarkruns.com.

“Yes, I will be running all week. Yes, it is humanly possible to do so on only a few hours of sleep. And yes, it is every bit as painful as it sounds,” he writes.

But the undertaking is worth it, he said Saturday.

Both of his parents battle autoimmune disorders.

His mother has multiple sclerosis, which is robbing her of the ability to walk. His father has a disorder damaging his peripheral nerves, causing numbness in his fingers and toes.

His grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease, which may also have an autoimmune component, he said.

“I want to help somehow. I want to give back,” he said.

A classic marathon is a 26.2-mile test of strength and endurance. An ultramarathon is any distance longer than that.

Clark said he’s finished 10 ultramarathons since taking up the sport at the age of 18.

Last year, he finished the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon, which is run in mid-July in California’s Death Valley.

The Minot resident also ran 366 miles across the state of North Dakota in six days, 22 hours, to raise money for the Minot Area Community Foundation to help that city recover from its devastating flood.

He estimates he ran three-quarters of a million steps last year.

Clark said he’ll allow himself a nap of 30 to 90 minutes a day, with an afternoon shower.

Others can run with him, but he asks that they pay to play by donating to the AARDA.

Where Clark will collect donations on the route was still up in the air Saturday.

He hopes to have a booth in the parking lot of the Candlewood Suites along 19th Avenue North, but if that doesn’t pan out, friends and family may just hold up signs at boulevard waypoints, he said.

Donors can give online at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/benclark/runaroundcampus.

Checks or money orders can also be mailed to: American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, 22100 Gratiot Ave. East Detroit, MI 48021. (Please include his name on the memo line so donations can be tracked.)

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583