Like dealing with grief, there’s an emotional process most college graduates go through with student loan debt: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and, finally, acceptance.
Millions get trapped somewhere between steps one and four, tripped up by a weak job market, predatory private lenders, or out-of-control payment schedules.
Others skip all that mess and head straight for step five. They suck it up and move back in with mum and dad. They rent out their spare bedroom and get a side gig. They live on boats or camp out in their van.
And in the case of Jason Kasher, they turn their bodies into billboards and run 1,000 miles across the country.
Beginning this September, the Temple University graduate will spend 183 days running in dozens of different cities in order to pay down his five-figure loan debt.
“It’s a pretty unique challenge,” Kasher, 23, told Business Insider. “I was at work one day and I sat there asking myself, is this something I want to do consistently for five or 10 years? I came to the realisation that it’s not.”
He had toyed around with the idea of launching his own business in college but had only managed to pay down $US6,000 of his loans in the year after graduation, leaving nearly $US30,000 standing in his way.
It wasn’t until June that he started exploring the idea of a thousand-mile fundraiser.
“I was actually getting to ready to purchase a plane ticket to fly down to Florida to visit family down there … and the price of the ticket went up like $US100 in three days,” he said. “I remember thinking, I’d be better off just walking the thousand miles down there than paying this price. And I just made a connection.”
In early July, he quit his job as an operations manager for a central Pennsylvania-based logistics firm, moved back in with his parents, and started work on Paidtorun.com.
Six miles a day for six months straight:
Kasher isn’t the first person to sell their body for advertising, but he said his motives are much different.
“The one thing that differentiates me from [other sites] is that what they’re doing is based off the money aspect,” he said. “I’m trying to achieve a personal goal for myself, running 1,000 miles.”
Each day of his challenge, Kasher plans on running six miles. If a company wants to buy ad time, they simply ship him an outfit of their choosing with their logo (“T-shirt, uniform, whatever, I’m not picky.”) and he will wear it for the day. Rates start out dirt cheap at $US1/mile the first day, but increase by $US1 each day thereafter.
If he manages to secure funding for every day of his challenge, he’ll wind up raising close to $US100,000 — enough to cover his $US29,500 loan bill three times over.
Of course, that’s part of the plan. Kasher plans on using any additional funds raised to pump into a startup he is working on with a friend.
“Since I was a sophomore in college, I always thought about getting into entrepreneurship, but until now I never actually went full-force and did it myself,” he said.
Coming up with a game plan:
Running six miles a day is routine for most marathoners, but Kasher admits he hasn’t consistently run in more than a year. He’s spent the better part of three months conditioning his body to handle the demand he plans on putting on it.
If he runs into any injuries along the way, he has a couple weeks’ worth of cushion in his schedule for time off. As for where he’ll run, he has a few destinations in mind (New York, Philadelphia, and Miami, for example), all home to friends who will let him crash for free.
“I don’t have any set course right now,” he said. “I’m talking to friends about where I should run and I think I’ll [end up] couch surfing my way down South.”
Giving back along the way:
Kasher is setting aside two days on his trip to raise funds for charities, Oct. l and Dec. 25. He’ll donate 50% of those days’ proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Foundation and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, respectively.
“It started off as a quirky idea to see if I could pay off my loans or make a little money on the side,” he said. “I’m pretty much never going to have a better opportunity to do this in my life so I’m taking a shot.”
You can follow Kasher on his journey here.
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