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100 pounds down for local man training for fundraiser
Dean Randall is shown on a hiking trail. Randall will participate in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Xtreme Hike on Saturday. He has been training for the 31-mile hike locally on the Dick and Willie Passage, and at other locations. He has dropped 100 pounds since he began the rigorous regimen. (Contributed photo)
Commitment can be tough. Especially when the odds seem against you.
That’s exactly how Dean Randall of Axton felt when it was proposed he hike a 31-mile mountain trail to support finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
It took Randall, the former principal of Bassett High School, about a month and half to commit to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Xtreme Hike on Sept. 28. Part of his hesitation was because he is 55, and when he was approached about the hike in February, he weighed in at 327 pounds.
“I didn’t know if my old body would allow me to do this by September,” he said. He mostly feared he would not be able to recover adequately as he went from occasional fitness walks to the extensive, all-terrain nature hikes required to prepare for the 31-miler.
Committing to the hike also meant raising a minimum of $2,500 for the foundation and paying a $100 fee to participate. The fundraising was coordinated through his own website, www.cff.orgLWCDeanRandall, where donations can be made online.
In addition, Randall’s mother, Alma Randall of Bassett, hand-stitched a full-size comforter and pillow shams that will be raffled when her son completes the hike. Tickets cost $5, and the blanket can be viewed at Casting Logos, where Dean Randall works. Ticket proceeds will support his fundraising goal.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease of the lungs and digestive system. A thick, sticky mucus clogs the lungs and causes life-threatening lung infections and obstructs the pancreas from breaking down and absorbing nutrients. Many with the disease are expected to live only into their 30s. Approximately 1,000 new cases are diagnosed yearly.
Randall’s younger daughter, 22-year-old Olivia Randall of Richmond, asked him to join her in the hike.
“I don’t think you ever say ‘no’ to your children,” Dean Randall said. “So I said, ‘We’ll see.’”
For Olivia, and the rest of the family, the hike’s cause was personal: her boyfriend, Jake Bowers of Richmond, has cystic fibrosis.
Bowers was diagnosed when he was 3 months old, according to what his mother, Kathy Bowers, wrote on Dean Randall’s website.
“Daily medications, chest physical therapy, regular hospitalizations became our way of life,” she wrote.
She continued, “people were always amazed at what he was able to achieve physically and telling me that he doesn’t look like he has a disease. I would always reply, ‘he doesn’t think he has a disease,’ which is the way he lives his life.”
With the goal of supporting Jake Bowers, Randall’s commitment became visible: Once he began the rigorous regimen of training, he quickly dropped to his current weight of 217 pounds.
His routine involves walking or hiking long distances once a week and then walking shorter distances during the week. “The most challenging thing is finding the time,” he said.
While most of his shorter walks can be accomplished on the Dick & Willie Passage trail or at the Smith River Sports Complex, his longer hikes require different locations. Randall said he has likely driven close to a total of 1,000 miles to reach various hiking spots.
Time isn’t the only expenditure. He also had to buy appropriate gear, such as two pairs of boots, hiking poles, a bladder backpack, wool socks, moisture-wicking shirts and pants tailored to hiking activity. In all, Randall calculated that he has spent close to $600 on gas, hotels and gear.
Randall has taken hikes up to 23 miles long. The training directed hikers to build up stamina and strength to be able to do 20-25-mile hikes. Randall also has had to practice hiking with a head lamp because the hike will start at 4 a.m.
As the actual hike approaches, he has been advised not to walk as long distances as before. Hikers even were told they were “better off waiting until the day of the hike” to walk on the actual trail, he said. Randall knows only that the trail, which is in Front Royal, is in the mountains and is reputedly quite extreme.
Although Olivia Randall initially hoped to join her father on the hike, as school and work obligations began absorbing much of her time, she had to skip it.
Instead, Dean Randall and Jay Gillette of Richmond, the boyfriend of his daughter Cara Randall, 25, also of Richmond, have decided to do the hike together. They have trained with a group of other registered hikers.
“I’ve been very pleased with the progress I’ve made in the last six months,” Dean Randall said. “It really doesn’t matter your age. Putting in the time and work is what it takes, but the work never stops. It’s a constant endeavor.”
Randall is confident he will be able to complete the race.
His wife is Pam Randall, off-campus coordinator for elementary education at New College Institute for Longwood University.