On this day I'm looking back to what my heart was feeling ten years ago as I sat in that hotel room... literally hours from completing my biggest goal in running and fulfilling a promise I had made to a group of elementary school children.
I took a moment today to read again what I wrote on the evening of October 19, 2006 as tears of gratitude and relief ran down my face. I want to share those words with you:
"Before this run ends tomorrow, I want to express my deepest appreciation to each and every person who reached out a hand of assistance to me across this great nation. There were people of all ages, lifestyles, and beliefs who opened their hearts and homes to this adventure and made me feel very welcomed. Without their support, kind words, good meals, nice beds, and sometimes transporting me to and from my stop/start points, I would have never made it across America. I've seen the heart of this country in a unique and powerful way and have been deeply touched by so many people along my route.
I know that we turn on our televisions each day, or open the daily newspaper, and learn of sad and unfortunate events that occur in our world every hour, minute and second. However, I want to say that there are many good people in this country who put the "heart" into "heartland". I've been blessed to have encounter these people, learn from them, and be energized by their positive attitude. So, thank you to each and every one of you who have helped me get across America by welcoming me into your homes, lodges, hotels, and much more. All of you are a part of this successful journey, and each of you helped to fuel my heart and spirit.
Tomorrow I reach the beach! During the initial two-thirds of the run I would not let myself think about the finish. It was too far out and was something that I could not allow my mind to dwell on. It was crucial to focus on the day at hand, or the following day. During the last one-third of the trek I began to allow myself to think about the finish... what it would be like, how I would feel, what I would recall from the trek. Tomorrow it all comes together and I'm excited for the day to unfold. I have truly given this run all that I have.
My father signed the guestbook recently and stated that my journal entries have not completely shared the difficulties of this trek. Yes... I have made a physical and emotional sacrifice to do this. There has been pain, tears, blood, and a lot of sweat. I will need some healing time when I get home. I've tried to shield my children from learning about all of the tough things that their Dad had to endure on the road, and that's why my journal entries did not get into all of the painful details. However, I can assure you that this run required a tremendous effort.
Pushing an 80 pound jogging stroller of gear over the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, and through all the terrain in between has been demanding. There has been tendinitis along the way, muscle strains, plenty of blisters, loss of toenails, incredible fatigue, and so much more. I have pushed my body to the limit many times throughout this run, which was required to average 30 miles per day. I covered the 3,260 miles in approximately 108 running days since June 23, 2006. I took a total of 12 days off the road here and there during the journey, but in the final 1/4th of the run I ran about 900 miles through demanding terrain without taking one day off. This truly tested my strength and endurance, and I'm pleased with how I was able to persevere. Yes... this has been a very difficult solo trek across the United States. I don't share that to try and gain admirers or to appear arrogant. I share that as a basic fact of my journey. Take the information for just that... facts about this coast to coast experience.
Tomorrow I fulfill my promise to last year's 4th and 5th grade students at Russell Elementary School. It was a promise I made to encourage them toward success in their own virtual journey across America. They succeeded and put me onto America's highways. I'm so glad that I will succeed also and soon I'll be able to share details about this journey with them. They inspired me and as a result I was able to run across America and hopefully inspire others. I spoke to many children as I crossed the continent, as well as adults, and I hope that my steps made a difference in the lives of those who came in contact with this run. I look forward to sharing with you tomorrow's happenings. It will certainly be a day I'll never forget.
Too often in life we let our dreams drift away from us. Sometimes we stop pursuing the goals we have and give in to the words of those around us who may be saying, "You can't do it"... "You'll never make it"... "It's not possible." For 20 years I've dreamed of running across the United States. Tomorrow my dream will become a reality, and the voices that have tried to hold me back will be silenced. Never give up on your dreams. Use the abilities you have and run with them. Make a positive impact in this world... an impact that may have a ripple effect that will touch lives far beyond your reach. I've learned about the power of dreams, of endurance, of desire, of commitment, and about the kindness that people can extend when they want to see something succeed. My heart has changed since it was on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and I have gained more from this experience than I ever imagined. God is good and has seen me through."
Those are the words I wrote ten years ago this evening. I remember it all just like it was yesterday. My parents sent me messages just before I finished that coast-to-coast run and I've always appreciated their kind and loving words. This is what they wrote in my online guestbook:
Over the past 4 months, many people have referred to you as "Running Man," "Marathon Man," and even "Iron Man!" But I am most fortunate of all. I am proud and honored to call you "Son." As I knew you would -- you have kept your promise to the kids at Russell Elementary. You have been a shining example to them as well. My hope is that other adults in this country will join in, and continue the quest to promote health and physical fitness for children everywhere. They are our future and they need to be strong. May God keep you in his care now, and always. Now... on to the finish, and be sure to savor every minute of it. You will be in my heart, and on my mind, with every step. I love you Paul. ~ Mom
Well your tremendous journey is almost over. It truly has been a remarkable achievement. Of course neither your Mom nor I had any doubt that you would finish what you started. We knew that the only way you would abort the run would be due to an unexpected injury or someone doing something foolish that would cause problems. Of course, as we read your guestbook entries each day and saw how many people were praying for you we began to feel that you were being watched over all along the way. As a lot of folks have written, your daily journals have been great and a lot of fun to follow; however, as your Mom and I spoke with you every day along the way (that you had phone coverage) we know that this journey was a lot tougher than you let on. It has really been a remarkable achievement. Tomorrow take it easy going the last couple of miles and enjoy every minute of it. Love ya Paul. ~ DadI was blessed to be able to run across the United States and pray that my four grown children will always pursue their goals and dreams with every ounce of strength, determination and passion that they can summon. It took me 20 years to finally achieve my dream of running across America. Never put a time limit on a dream! If it burns in your heart like an unquenchable fire, chase it down and don't quit. Trust me... it will be worth the road to be traveled.
My entire journal from the 2006 run across America can be seen here.
Keep reaching for life's mileposts!
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.