Paul Staso: The Guy Who Ran Self-Supported Across America, Germany, Alaska, and the Mojave Desert...
The man who ran alone across the USA, Germany, Alaska, Montana, and the Mojave Desert writes about athletic goals and adventures, as well as fitness topics, as he keeps reaching for life’s mileposts at age 53. A high hurdler until post-college, Paul embarked on a 30-year journey in ultra-endurance running. Now, he reaches for mileposts on a bicycle!
On June 15, I wrote a post about taking the summer off from blogging to do some work on my new house before my upcoming wedding. Last week I made a few posts about some items that I felt were important to share and was told by a friend that it's good to see that I'm blogging again. Well, I'm diving back into working on my new house (interior painting and some other items) and will be away from this blog for the next couple of months. Enjoy the rest of your summer!
On October 24, 2016, I wrote a blog post about Pete Kostelnick setting a new world record for a crew-supported run across America (averaging 73 miles per day), surpassing a record that had stood for 36 years! Well, he has rested up and is about to embark on his next big running adventure. On August 1, 2018, Pete is going to begin a 5,300-mile run from Kenai, Alaska to Key West, Florida... aiming to average about 50 miles per day SOLO!
Pete is going to push a jogging stroller of gear, as I did when I ran across America in 2006, and will not have a crew this time to support him. He's quoted as saying, “In 1999, my family and I drove most of this route from Kenai to Iowa. I’ve wanted to go back since, this time to run another transcontinental route, this time in a self-supported manner. I came up with this idea about a year ago. I’ve done a lot of research to see if it’s feasible. I won’t really know until I start, but I am confident it is.” The run should take just slightly more than 100 days.
I grew up in Alaska and did a 500-mile solo run in Alaska back in 2009. I know the geography of Alaska and the Yukon/British Columbia territories of Canada very well and this is a massive undertaking that Pete is about to embark on. A few years ago, a guy in Florida planned to run from that state to Juneau, Alaska -- but the adventure never got to the starting line. If Pete can pull off this run, it will be a first!
As bizarre as it may seem, there appear to be some people who are under the impression that I'm dead. The topic of my supposed death first arose in 2013 when an ultra-endurance runner I know was told that Paul Staso died while on one of his running adventures. Of course, I was quite alive and the runner put that man's mind at ease... and then he chuckled when telling me the story about it. The topic of my demise arose again in 2016 when a teacher sent a message through my website sending her condolences to my family regarding my death -- which she was told about by a former student who read online that a "Paul Staso" had died. Wrong again! There are actually around six different people with the name of Paul Staso. Well, today the subject of my running off into the great beyond has once again surfaced.
I have an old online guestbook from past running adventures that hasn't seen any activity in years. Today, I was alerted to an entry needing my review and approval to officially post it. This is what I read:
Someone apparently "heard" that I died somewhere. I'd like to know how this person heard that. I have no way of contacting the writer, but once again am surprised that there are those who believe that I'm no longer a part of the 7.6 billion people on planet earth. I've said it and written it before, and I'll say it and write it again: I AM NOT DEAD!
For goodness sake, just Google "Paul Staso" and you'll see on the first page of results that I have an active blog and work in a law firm. Come on, is it really that difficult to conclude that I am still alive? No, I didn't die on one of my running adventures. I haven't been hit by a bus, been eaten by a shark, or had a piano fall on my head. I'm alive and well...recently purchasing a new home and looking forward to my upcoming wedding. So, once again, if you or someone you know has "heard" that Paul Staso (the former adventure runner) is dead, do some quick Google research and find out the truth yourself! Now, I'm putting the topic to rest... in peace.
In my last blog post back on June 15, 2018, I shared that I'm taking the summer off from blogging in order to spend my spare time doing some interior painting and other projects on a new home I purchased -- particularly since I'll be getting married soon. However, today I just had to share the news that yesterday Björn Suneson of Sweden completed his sixth solo run across the United States, and yes... he's considering a 7th crossing.
Björn and I exchanged messages today and he said that seeing me while he was running through Indiana was one of the highlights of his journey. Those are very kind words! You may recall that on May 16, 2018, I wrote aboutmeeting Björn along the road after I had gotten off from working at the office. I also wrote a couple of other follow-up blog posts... one regarding his comparing my laugh to that of John Denver, and another about Björn drinking Coke.
When I saw Björn on his 30th day of running during this year's coast-to-coast adventure, he was quite surprised. This is what he wrote in his blog about it: "I’m running on a road with little traffic between Peru and Logansport in Indiana. I see a man get out of his car holding a camera. Is it the local press that is out on a job? I think. But suddenly I recognize the person who says: 'Hi Björn, nice to see you!' Oh My God, it is Paul Staso, the old coast to coast runner! Paul as well as our own Rune Larsson is the person who has inspired me the most when it comes to running across the USA. I met Paul in 2010 when he lived in Missoula, Montana. It was 2006 and he was running across the USA. I took in all that he wrote in his blog and was fascinated by his video clips." Back in 2006 when I was contacted by a long-distance runner in Sweden I had no idea that 12 years later I would watch online as he completed his sixth crossing from one ocean to another!
It's time for Björn to fly back to Sweden after running 3,300 miles in 100 consecutive days from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. His first coast-to-coast run across the USA occurred in 2007, the year following my crossing. Björn had tracked my progress via my website and told me in late 2006 that he would be attempting a solo crossing of America in 2007. Well, it is many years later and this tough Swedish endurance runner has now logged six solo crossings of the United States -- a world record. Absolutely amazing! Well run and well done Björn. Safe travels back to your homeland. I look forward to your next running adventure!
On May 3rd I wrote a blog post titled "I Have Arrived... Finally." In that writing I shared that I have purchased a new home, one that will be filled with love and laughter. As my wedding day approaches, I want to do some interior painting and other projects prior to the wedding. I work a full-time job at a law firm and over the next few months I won't have time to do as much reading outside of the office or writing in this blog. With that said, I'm going to be taking a break from posting writings here. It was two years ago that I started writing this blog, and in that time I've made 281 posts. You can use the blog's archive to read through any of those writings. Have a great summer!
In the past 10 years, social media has become a huge part of our world. There are so many options: Facebook; Instagram; Twitter; Pinterest; Snapchat; and others. I didn't use any of these tools during my big adventure running days between 2006 and 2011. However, many adventurers are using these social media platforms to share details about their endeavors. I know that social media has contributed to the increase in interest of running or walking across America -- with more people taking on the challenge each year.
However, there is a negative effect of providing a social media window into adventures. For instance, Trolltunga is a cliff above Lake Ringedalsvatnet in Norway. The photo accompanying this post is a stock image, but apparently there is a long line of hikers waiting their turn for this iconic 'alone in the wilderness' image. National Geographic published an article about how Instagram is changing travel and in it is written, "Between 2009 and 2014, visitors to Trolltunga increased from 500 to 40,000 in what many consider a wave of social media-fueled tourism." The location has become so popular due to social media that being "alone" there is nearly impossible.
True adventurers have criticized those who post photos on social media of "adventures" that are not actually being done. As an example, a person may post a picture of climbing a mountain just so that others can see them on a mountainside, but did they actually make it to the top? Were they on the side of the mountain for a selfie opportunity or because they were truly engaged in an adventure? Social media is filled with 'posers.'
Unfortunately, it is well documented that there have been many adventurers killed as a result of trying to get an outrageous photo. In 2014, Clif Bar stopped sponsoring five rock climbers known for climbing without ropes or safety gear. Sadly, ordinary people have been enticed by risky adventurous images to try stunts they don’t have the skills for, and have died as a result.
Perhaps the most outrageous part of this is that not everything you see of adventures via social media are true. Case in point -- the "Amanda Smith" Instagram account, which has been discontinued. Marketing agency Mediakix did a test to see if anyone can fake an adventurous Instagram account and build followers to the point of attracting sponsorship dollars. The agency created a fictitious Instagram account for "Amanda Smith" (wanderingggirl). The entire feed was composed of free stock photos of random places across the world and blonde girls, always posing facing away from the camera.
After setting up the fake personality and generating content, the agency started purchasing followers (yes, apparently you can do that). They started with buying 1,000 followers per day and ultimately jumped to purchasing 15,000 followers at a time. The cost? Between $3-$8 per 1,000. Essentially, if the followers don’t like or comment on posts, they’re kind of worthless. So the next step was for the agency to purchase fake engagement -- buying likes and comments. Mediakix paid about 12 cents per comment, and between $4-9 per 1,000 likes. For each photo, they purchased 500 to 2,500 likes and 10 to 50 comments. The entire experiment ended up costing Mediakix about $300 for the "wanderingggirl" Instagram account. After the account reached 10,000 followers (the threshold amount for signing up on most influencer marketing platforms), Mediakix started applying for sponsorship deals -- securing two paid brand deals for the wanderingggirl account. Before the account was closed it had over 64,000 followers... and it was completely fake!
So, don't believe everything you see about "adventurers" on social media. Unfortunately, sometimes they're posers or are not real at all.
This month marks 12 years since I took that first step away from the Pacific Ocean to embark on a 108-day solo journey of 3,260 miles to the Atlantic Ocean -- simply to keep a promise I had made to a group of elementary students. The children shown in the photos accompanying this blog post met a challenge I posed to them of running 3,200 miles as a team during a single school year. I had promised that if they could do it, I would run their virtual coast-to-coast route across the U.S. for real, which I did. Those children are now around the age of 23 and are striding through life on various paths that they've chosen. I do hope that they remember their 2006 running and walking accomplishment, since they became the first recorded students in the United States to virtually run/walk coast to coast within one 9-month school year -- each participating child logging the equivalent of 3 marathons. I am still inspired every time I think about what they achieved!
Yes, I ran 3,260 miles all alone across America through the second hottest summer ever recorded just to keep a promise. Many thought I was nuts for doing so. However, it meant a lot to me to do all that I could to keep my word to those children, to try and show them promise keeping and integrity in action, and to let them know that their running/walking efforts were not in vain.
A few years ago, Psychology Today magazine published an article titled Why We Can't Keep Our Promises. The article states, "There are a number of commonly understood reasons promises are broken, including that our feelings, capacity, or circumstances have changed over time. The fading of romantic love for one’s partner is emblematic of this -- what once was is no more. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the birth of a child, falling in love, and developing illness, to list but a few, are all events that can shift our feelings and consequent behavior -- often monumentally. We may no longer have the capability or willingness to keep a specific promise, or it may no longer benefit those concerned to do so."
The article goes on to say,
"Should We Ever Promise? Trying as best one can to keep promises is crucial. These interpersonal contracts facilitate trust and love. But since so much is out of our awareness, are we all doomed to keep making promises we cannot keep? Well, yes. People will always struggle against themselves. We disregard human complexity when we harshly criticize others -- and ourselves -- for "failing" to feel and behave exactly as promised. But we can make a concerted effort to know ourselves better, to attend to that which we might prefer to ignore. Then, when we make a promise, we can be alert to the possibility of having contradictory feelings."
I know, that probably sounds like a bunch of psychological mumbo jumbo. However, the article is accurate in that sometimes people make promises that they are not able to keep -- either due to a change in circumstances, a change in feelings, a change in awareness, or due to situations beyond control. There were many things that could have happened during the 3,260 mileposts I reached for across America that could have prevented my finishing that endeavor. Fortunately, I was able to keep my promise... although it required absolutely every ounce of strength and perseverance I had. To me, it was worth it and I hope the students who put me on the road during the summer of 2006 will always remember our efforts that year.