This Saturday at 9 a.m., Eric Proffitt is going to go for a run. The Canadian-American singer-songwriter will drape himself with 10 pounds of chains, climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and then set off on a 15-day sprint to New York, his chains lapping his sides. Then he’ll fly to London and run to Hull. Why is he doing this, you ask? At a Starbucks in Chevy Chase, D.C., Proffitt and his wife, Rebecca, corral their five daughters into some window seats and get them noncaffeinated frappuccinos. The plan to run 500 miles, they explain, dates back to February of last year, when Eric performed at a United Nations conference about human trafficking. He’d never given much thought to human trafficking before. “We were horrified,” he says. “I wondered, if it was my kids, what would I not do to rescue them?”
“It kind of ignited a fire,” says Rebecca. They decided they had to do something to publicize the issue. So Eric’s gonna run in chains. “They’re painful,” he says. “I don’t recommend them.” But he says they’re an “easy symbol” for the problem.
Eric says he hopes his run will be a “tipping point.” They want to raise a dollar for every victim of human trafficking—-27 million, he says.
I ask about the safety of all this. “Aren’t you worried you’ll break something?” I ask. Proffitt’s been working with a running trainer. “He’s not a runner,” says Rebecca. “He’s a singer.” (He’s remade the Proclaimers’ “500 Miles” with running-in-chains-appropriate lyrics; you can buy a copy here.) She and the kids will be following him in a van.
Eric’s got special running socks, plus padding for his legs. The chains beat against him while he runs. “In a bizarre way it sets a rhythm,” he says. “I try to run with the chains rather than fighting them.”