Cross-nation runner hopes to speak with Obama on veterans’ care

Steve Knowlton pauses outside of Tucumcari on his way to Washington, D.C., where he hopes to speak to President Obama about veterans' health care.

Steve Knowlton pauses outside of Tucumcari on his way to Washington, D.C., where he hopes to speak to President Obama about veterans’ health care.

By Steve Hansen QCS Managing Editor. Steve Knowlton stopped in Tucumcari Aug.5,  about third of his way to Washington D.C., where he hopes to arrange a meeting with President Barack Obama to talk about the care of veterans and their high suicide rates. To get there, he is running and walking. He hopes his efforts and the minor celebrity status of the man who would have been his running partner, Terry Hitchcock, will get them an audience with the president. Knowlton was treated to a dinner at the Rockin’ Ys restaurant in Tucumcari, and a night at the city’s Best Western Discovery Inn.  Jack and Noreen Hendrickson, who are both active in Tucumcari’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Chapter 2528, arranged the meal and the motel stay. Knowlton is no stranger to gargantuan running efforts.  He has 47 marathons under his belt and 10 ultramarathons, which are races of up to 100 miles, usually covered in a single day.  In 2010, Knowlton ran from Seattle to the tip of Florida, about 3,700 miles to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease, which he Hitchcock was the subject of a highly accaimed documentary in 2009 called “My Run” that featured Hitchcock’s participation in 75 marathon races in 75 consecutive days and his raising of three children as a single dad after his wife died of breast cancer in 1984.  Actor Billy Bob Thornton narrated the film. Now 75, Hitchcock is still a long distance runner. Knowlton, a Prior Lake, Minn., carpenter,  did a cross-country run to draw attention to Crohn’s disease, a disorder from which he suffers, in 2010.  Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflamation in the digestive tract. He and Hitchcock, another Lake Prior resident, started from Oceanside, California, on July 4.  A mile and a half into the run, Hitchcock tripped as they crossed over rocks on the beach, and suffered a long gash on his forehead, Knowlton said.  Hitchcock was knocked unconscious.  He was placed in neck traction and sent to a hospital.  That set them back a day, but a few hundred miles later, Hitchcock said,  Hitchcock’s son, who was driving their equipment van, fell ill with complications from diabetes.  Hitchcock decided to go home with his son, and now Knowlton is going it alone. Like others who have passed through Tucumcari on similar missions this summer, Hitchcock is pushing a well-loaded shopper’s cart in front of him that prominently displays a website through which followers can track his progress on a Facebook page and donate to veterans’ causes.  It’s “I arrived into Tucumcari around 4 today,” Knowlton said in a Tuesday Facebook entry. “It was pretty nice day until mile 16 it became hot and hilly. I just stayed focused and pushed through it all. Had a nice night with Jack Hendrickson who was a Vietnam Vet serving three tours and a total of 20 years in Army Special Forces.” The Hendricksons, he said, gave him a preview of Wednesday’s destination.  Knowlton also conducted an interview on KQAY radio, and said Rockin’ Ys helped in arrangements for his stay at the Best Western. “Thanks everyone for a great day,” he said.

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