Mikey Riley left West Asheville's Fire Station 6 to the sound of cheers as the sun rose Monday morning, taking his first steps on a roughly 62-mile run.
The longest distance he's ever set out to run, the Asheville firefighter planned to keep his station and friends in his thoughts as motivation, especially his late friend and former firefighter Will Willis. Willis started at Ebbs Chapel Volunteer Fire Department in Mars Hill and was an Asheville Fire Department engineer when he died from a rare form of kidney cancer at the age of 34. For only the second time in North Carolina sate history, his death was ruled a line of duty death.
Cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters, who are 14 percent more likely than the general U.S. population to die of cancer.