GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Running a marathon is challenging enough as it is, which is why less than 1% of Americans have done it, according to RunRepeat.

A West Michigan man will take that challenge to a new level when he runs the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5.

“I’m going to be the first human to run the NYC Marathon with my hands tied,” Derryk VanderJagt said.

VanderJagt, who has a baseball background, began “rucking” in 2021 after developing a health complication due to the stress of losing his father. 

“Rucking is walking slash jogging with weight on your back,” VanderJagt explained. “I’ve been rucking for about two years now, lost 65 pounds since my dad passed, did this whole transformation.”

Since his father’s death, VanderJagt has advocated against human mistreatment, specifically human trafficking. Through meeting with other advocates and lawmakers, he eventually got connected with a woman named Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo, president of the nonprofit Restore NYC.

“Ida ended up being from around the same neighborhood that my dad grew up in,” VanderJagt said. “So, all of that happening, just kind of the divine intervention — I knew I had to do something with them.”

Kaastra-Mutoigo offered VanderJagt a ticket to compete in the NYC Marathon on behalf of the charity. At the time, VanderJagt didn’t even know how long a marathon was.

In the spring of 2023, he shifted his training focus from rucking to preparing for the 26.2-mile run. 

VanderJagt wanted to find a way to symbolize the restraints placed on millions of people who are trapped due to human trafficking. He hopes his journey will serve as a powerful symbol of overcoming adversity to drive positive change.

“(My dad has) always been that rock for me, and he’s always pushed me to be the best person that I can be and reach my fullest potential,” VanderJagt said. “So pushing past those boundaries and overcoming my own limitations is a way to honor him.”

In the spring of 2024, VanderJagt plans to embark on another world first: a solo rucking expedition across Isle Royale National Park. He will carry a 40-pound ruck for 40 miles, symbolizing the burden of the more than 40 million people impacted by human trafficking today, as he works to raise awareness and demand action for the cause.

If you’re interested in supporting VanderJagt’s mission, you can find the link to his fundraiser here