Monday, November 12, 2018

Running Alone From Alaska to Florida -- A Journey of 5,000 Miles.

Recently, Pete Kostelnick ran solo from Kenai, Alaska to Key West Florida. What's next for him? Yesterday on his Strava account he wrote that he hopes to be "back to 24 hour/6 day/100 mile racing." I, like many others, tracked his Alaska to Florida progress online, and he successfully finished the journey after pushing a jogging stroller of gear for a few months. In the early-1990's, before the dawn of the Internet, I too had the idea of running from Alaska to Florida, and actually spent three months developing a route, exploring financing options, and analyzing how to prepare properly. You see, I grew up in Alaska and in 1992 it had been six years since my failed attempt to run across America in 1986 at the age of 21. My parents had previously spent a winter season in Florida and although I had never gotten to that state it seemed like it would be an incredible journey on foot to run from the Alaska wilderness to the Florida sand. Back then, I was looking for something "epic" to embark upon and I put the wheels in motion to try and become the first person to do the Alaska-to-Florida run.

While planning the adventure, I learned that I would actually be embarking on an even bigger and more rewarding adventure in life. I would become a father during the summer of 1993. The idea to run from Alaska to Florida was permanently shelved, although there would be others who would plan the same run -- such as Florida ultra runner David Kilgore, who in 2015 planned to run from Alaska to Florida. However, his plan didn't come to fruition.

One thing that I've learned over the past 53 years is there are not many new ideas in the world of running. However, not all ideas actually transform into action and completion. Although it has been 26 years since I considered a run from Alaska to Florida, it's good to see that the journey was actually accomplished by someone. I always enjoy seeing something accomplished for the first time. I recall this first happening when I was a child and man walked on the moon.

Generally, from 1985 to 2006 I was told that my goal to run across the United States was crazy, stupid, illogical, senseless, and would never happen. I lived with such critical words for 20 years, until I silenced all of them by actually completing a coast-to-coast run in 2006 completely solo. I can tell you this... it is incredibly difficult to mentally silence such critics every single day while training and to actually accomplish what you've been told for 20 years that you would never be able to do. No, I didn't run from Alaska to Florida. I ran from Oregon to Delaware... and then across the state of Montana... and then accomplished a journey run through Alaska... and then ran across Germany... and capped it all off by doing a run that no one had ever done before -- a solo run across the Mojave Desert from the Grand Canyon to Badwater Basin, Death Valley. I had also considered doing a solo run around Iceland, and yes... someone has since accomplished that idea as well.

I've done school assemblies in America and Europe speaking to tens of thousands of children about the importance of health, nutrition, goal setting, and chasing after your dreams. I had nearly 100,000 school children between the ages of 5 and 18 run with me virtually as I did my adventure runs, those students residing in 25 different countries. I was given an award by the Mayo Clinic for my efforts in reducing childhood obesity in America; was awarded by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for my efforts to promote youth health/fitness; was inducted as the first European PTA Youth Ambassador; and, was a torchbearer for the 2002 Olympic Games -- selected due to my efforts of encouraging kids in fitness. I personally funded 80% of my runs across states and countries and I formed a non-profit organization (The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation) -- through which I gave schools cash awards to fund curriculum items to assist student health. My running was focused on education, inspiration and encouragement.

I don't share that to blow my own horn. It's simply a summary of a portion of my running career... one where most of the mileposts I reached were never seen by anyone.

I'm sure it won't be long before we hear about the next big idea in running. It has been going on for decades -- running a marathon in each U.S. state; running a marathon per day for a year; running the Iditarod Trail in Alaska; running the Tour de France course; running across the Sahara Desert; running around the world; and the list goes on. I don't believe there are many "new" ideas in running. There are, however, ideas that have been dreamed up but not actually brought into reality through time, effort, sweat, strain and determination. To those who pursue the uncommon and unrealized ideas in running, I wish you personal enlightenment as you reach for the mileposts.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso