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Running 453 miles on Oregon’s Pacific Crest Trail in 8 Days for Charity

Three men attempt running 453 miles in a week along the Oregon's Pacific Crest Trail.

On July 16, at the first hint of morning light, Scott Loughney, Yassine Diboun and Travis Liles will already have begun their 453-mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). They’ll have a strict schedule to maintain—averaging about 50 to 60 miles per day—as they attempt to break the self-supported fastest known time (FKT) of 7 days and 22 hours for running/hiking the Oregon portion of the PCT. Plus, it’s all for charity.

They call it the Oregon PCT Running Project, founded by three ultrarunners residing in the Pacific Northwest— Loughney, Diboun and Liles—to support local organizations, including The Alano Club of Portland, the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Providence Cancer Center.

“We’ve all been around the sport for at least a decade, and we wanted to use our running for something more than just collecting more finishes at these huge races. That’s when we thought to each pick a charity that is somewhat close to us and we give people the option on which charity they want to donate to on our website,” says Diboun, who is 12 years sober and chose The Alano Club of Portland, an addiction recovery and support center.

But what also drove this project actually began with the first time Diboun had attempted this great feat in 2013. Three years ago, the now 37-year-old owner and partner of Wy’east Wolfpack, a training and wellness business centered around outdoor running, did a self-supported run of the Oregon PCT with Brian Donnelly. Diboun only made it about 150 miles, not even halfway, before calling it quits due to an injury. His friend Donnelly went on to claim the current FKT on the trail.

RELATED: Inside the FKT (Fastest Known Time) Trend

“It was one of those things that left a bad taste in my mouth because I put so much anticipation into it—training and money—and I came way short,” Diboun says. “I dusted myself off, got back to life and went on with my racing. But still in the back of my mind I would think, I want to go back and try that again someday.”

That’s where Loughney comes in. A 45-year-old private wealth advisor of his own financial planning firm from Camas, Wash., Loughney had heard about Diboun’s failed attempt from a friend and felt inspired to recreate the challenge. At first, Loughney proposed doing the entire PCT, a total 2,659 miles, spanning from the southernmost end of California near the Mexican border to the northernmost end of Washington, just past the border into Canada.

But Diboun and Loughney both decided it was better to finish what Diboun had started and just stick to Oregon. They then recruited Diboun’s friend Liles, rounding out their team to three.

“The planning pieces, building the routes and the maps, and getting that data out to the people who are going to help us and the technology side of it has been a big part of my duties,” says Liles who currently works as a technical strategist for Microsoft and was the race director for an ultra race in Missouri called the Mark Twain 100 and 50 before moving to Portland, Ore., a couple years ago.

For the past year, the three men have been planning in great detail the logistics of their run and figuring out the most effective way to run 453 miles within eight days. Luckily, Diboun’s first attempt has been valuable in laying most of the groundwork. However, unlike his first attempt, this run will be supported, meaning they’ll have a crew of four to five people at any given time that will follow them, occasionally help pace portions of the trail, provide food and water, and help set up camp at each of the stop stations. Among that support crew will be a photographer and videographer to document the entire experience.

“I think the key to success is really preparation,” Loughney says. “About a week ago, I spent 30 hours in the car starting at the northern California border and working our way back [to the Oregon/Washington border] from a crew perspective to make sure we would have all of the locations properly mapped out—where the camp is going to be and how they’re going to get us off the trail.”

RELATED: A Look at Notable FKTs from the Summer of 2015

And there’s, of course, the unfathomable physical aspect of it. How do three people train for a 400-plus-mile multi-day run? It’s certainly helpful that all three men are experienced ultrarunners who race frequently. But the key isn’t to be fast—in fact, it’s to slow it down.

“One of the biggest things is getting out of this mindset that you have to be running the entire time,” Diboun explains. “You have a different footstrike when you’re power hiking than when you’re running, I can feel the outside of my heel and they’re all callused up, but they feel ready to go. Compared to last time, I was coming off from Western States 100 and I was in great shape, but my feet were torn up within the first couple days because we were doing so much more hiking and climbing.”

But even with all the strategic planning and training, there will be challenges along the trail that will be largely out of their control. Although Oregon is the easiest route along the PCT in terms of elevation profile, the average elevation is still about 5,000 feet. Much of central Oregon is exposed with little tree coverage, increasing the mid-summer heat factor. And there’s still plenty of downed trees blocking parts of the trail that haven’t been removed yet due to this past winter’s storms.

Despite these unknowns and whatever concerns each man may have, Diboun, Loughney and Liles have maintained a relatively optimistic outlook of the run.

“I had a dream one night that we were passing across Mt. Hood, which is 50 miles to go to the finish, and in my dream I was saying to the guys, ‘I can’t believe we frickin’ run/walked across the whole state! So it was a good omen,” Diboun says.

Each man has also established something to look forward to on the trail. For Diboun it’s the idea that he’s running home, since the finish at the Bridge of the Gods connecting the Oregon and Washington borders is right down the street from his house. Liles says it’s waking up to Crater Lake on day 2 and receiving a Snickers bar and a Coke from his 8-year-old daughter on day 5.

Whatever will get them through the long adventure on foot, it’s the experience and raising awareness for the charities that matters most. There’s only one major concern the three runners can agree on … “Hopefully we’re not all having a bad day on the same day,” Diboun says. To which Loughney jokes, “If the two of you are sick on the trail, at least I don’t have to worry about holding back your hair because neither of you have any.”