Wednesday, May 29, 2024

60 Hours to Run Across Indiana at Age 60 for a Total of 150 Miles

Well, here it goes. I'm officially setting a fitness goal for one year from now. During May 2025 -- at the age of 60 -- I will aim to run 150 miles across Indiana in 60 hours. The run will begin at the Illinois/Indiana border and end at the Indiana/Ohio border.

I'll take the same roads that I did in 2006 when I ran across Indiana at the age of 41 during my run across America. Just like that run, the run across Indiana will be solo and self-supported. I'll used the same "BOB" (Beast of Burden) stroller that I pushed on all of my adventure runs across the United States, Germany, Alaska, Montana, and the Mojave Desert.

This Indiana run will be the "60 at 60" challenge... 60 hours at age 60. In order to complete the 150 miles across the state within that amount of time, I'll have to average 50 miles per day -- or nearly two marathons daily. Since 60 hours is only 2 1/2 days, I'll have to maintain a consistent pace and keep moving forward. Yes, I will sleep!

The purpose of the 60 hours at age 60 is simply for a personal fitness challenge, and to keep using one of my God-given abilities. It has been 13 years since my last ultra-endurance run, that being the 506 miles I ran alone across the Mojave Desert in 17 days. I've kept myself pretty fit since then, but I am getting older. I want to be as healthy and fit as I can be for the autumn years of my life... and to eventually enjoy retirement with my lovely wife. I feel that I need to set goals in order to stay on target for keeping fit.

For those who have followed my social media accounts over the past several months, I want to thank you for your patience. I've tossed around various ideas for future fitness goals... everything from cycling to running to even hurdling (yep, I was a hurdler over 40 years ago). However, as my wife tells me, this goal to run across Indiana in 60 hours at age 60 is more along the lines of what I do. In her words, "it just seems to make more sense." I agree with her.

So, preparation now begins. Training will consist of primarily running, walking and cycling. I'll do some strength and flexibility training as well. Even though it has been 13 years since I've pushed my body to where it can cover up to 50 miles per day, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to regain the physical and mental strength to push all of my gear, food and water nearly two marathon distances daily for multiple days on various roadways and in changing weather. Overall, I'll be aiming to complete nearly 6 marathons in a mere 2 1/2 days.

If you want to follow along with my progress as I prepare between now and May 2025, you can do so at my Facebook account (www.facebook.com/runnerstaso) and/or at my Instagram account (www.instagram.com/paulstaso).

Gotta Run,

Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

After a 4-week Run, the Beard Experiment Comes to an End

My four-week beard experiment officially came to an end yesterday. I hadn't had a beard since age 26 -- which was 33 years ago -- and thought I'd see what it would look like. As you can see from the progression photos, there certainly was white coming in on my chin. However, the rest of my hair is remaining brown. A beard certainly made me look older. However, there were some negatives to it. I didn't like how little crumbs of food would be on my whiskers, and I didn't care for the feel of the beard against my pillow at night. I can't grow a big, bushy beard, but even a thinner beard takes maintenance. Frankly, it's easier to just shave each day. Maybe I'll try it in another 33 years. Let's see... at that point I'll be 92 years of age.

Gotta Run,

Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Thursday, January 11, 2024

How Well Are You Aging? Do You Know Your 'Fitness' Age?

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an article titled How Well Are You Aging? How to Discover Your 'Fitness' Age. According to the article, fitness age is a well-studied scientific concept that uses simple health measures to estimate whether your body is biologically older — or younger — than your chronological age. Studies show that if you’re 50 based on calendar years, you conceivably could have a fitness age of anywhere from about 25 to as old as 75. It all depends on what shape you’re in.

If your fitness age is higher than your chronological age, your chances of dying young from a host of diseases rises substantially, according to a growing body of research. The good news is you can find your fitness age easily using an online tool. And, if it exceeds your calendar age, you can start lowering it today by exercising right. To learn your fitness age, you’ll need to know your height in centimeters, weight in kilograms, and resting heart rate (which you can easily determine using a smartwatch or 15 second pulse test). You’ll also need an honest estimate of how hard and often you exercise.

Since 2019, studies using the calculator’s algorithm have shown that a relatively low fitness age is linked to substantially less long-term risk of heart attack, depression, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, brain shrinkage and dementia in middle-aged and older men and women. Just as important, if you develop a chronic disease, your symptoms are likely to progress more slowly if your fitness age is low.

The current fitness age calculator is free and maintained by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. First posted in 2013, its been updated and simplified several times and used by about 80 million people around the globe. The calculator is available at https://hvemereldst.no/en/. I'll be 59 years of age in just a couple of months, am active, take no medications, and took the test today. I've taken the test in the past as well. My results today show that I have a 'fitness age' of 48 -- eleven years younger than my chronological age. That's good news!

Wish your own fitness age were years lower than your calendar age? It can be. Just make sure you’re moving often and sometimes vigorously. Up-tempo exercise, the kind that increases your breathing and heart rate enough that you can barely carry on a conversation, strengthens your aerobic system over time and improves your VO2max, altering your fitness age. This type of exercise, though challenging, doesn’t need to be unpleasant. Instead, it can be brief, informal and even fun. Here are a few easy ways to start turning back your fitness clock:

  • If you like to walk, look for a hill and stride to the top as quickly as you can. Return to the base and summit another time or two.
  • If you have access to a treadmill or stationary bike, try 4 x 4 intervals. Ride or run at a relatively difficult pace for 4 minutes, rest by walking or pedaling lightly for 3 minutes and repeat that sequence four times in total.
  • Jump, lunge and bop though a short body weight workout once in a while.

Exerting yourself vigorously for even a few minutes several times a week should soon improve your fitness age. Of course, outside of science fiction, none of us can actually rewind time. A low fitness age doesn’t make us truly younger or guarantee extra decades of life. Multiple factors besides fitness affect how long and well we live, including our genetics, nutrition, income and good or regrettable fortune. Fitness age only gives us a glimpse into whether our bodies seem to be functioning better or worse than those of other people our same calendar age. However, we can use that knowledge to inspire and maybe congratulate ourselves.

Gotta Run,

Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Monday, January 1, 2024

Born in 1965 and Still Running Forward in 2024

Here we are... the year 2024. This is a leap year and I'll be leaping into the final year of my 50s. As a father of adult children and a grandfather of four, I'm looking back on my life since 1965 and realizing that I'm as old as such things as the Super Bowl; the Days of Our Lives soap opera; and, the Sound of Music movie. I'm also the same age as Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. I'm also as old as Medicare and Medicaid -- both of which started in 1965. The year I was born, the Gemini Space Program continued to lay the groundwork for an eventual manned mission to the moon, which happened in 1969 when I was four years of age. And, I recently learned that I'm as old as the 630-foot-tall parabolic steel Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri (The St. Louis Arch).

Most of the people I work with in ministry are younger than I am, and the high school teens I lead in my parish youth group are over 40 years younger than I am. In the next decade I'll retire to enjoy more time with my wife, adult children, and grandchildren. However, before then I'm going to do my very best in my role as Director of Faith Formation at the Catholic parish I am at, as well as appreciate every moment with my family, including holidays, birthdays, vacations, celebrations, and the day-to-day blessings that come with being a Dad, Stepdad and Grandad.

Being born on a Sunday in 1965, I am in the first year of Generation X. Recently, Indeed.com reported that those of Generation X "grew up with minimal adult supervision, quickly learning the value of independence and work-life balance. They also appreciate informality, are technologically adept, flexible and highly educated. Gen X tends to be natural problem-solvers, often finding creative solutions to problems. Their resourceful work style makes them excellent leaders, supervisors and team members. Gen Xers are self-sufficient, resourceful and individualistic... they value freedom and responsibility and try to overcome challenges on their own."

Having run solo and self-supported across states and countries -- often having to independently solve issues as they arise -- I see some real truth in the definition of Generation X that Indeed.com reports. I believe that my work ethic and problem-solving skills have truly assisted me in many areas of my life. I know that each generation has its own strengths, but I'm glad to have grown up in the 1960s and 1970s. The world was a far different place back then and although there are those of younger generations who don't believe that "Boomers" or "Generation Xers" have wisdom worth hearing, I do believe that my generation certainly is one to learn from.

Today, we've started 2024 and I'm going to make the most of this final year of my 50s. I'm in good shape, have no health concerns, require no medications, and am blessed to still be able to run and cycle in many ways as strong as I did in my 30s and 40s.  I hope that all of you reading this have a fantastic new year. Keep reaching for your goals and dreams!

Gotta Run,

Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Running into 2024 and Celebrating 50 Years as a Runner

For the most part, this blog has sat dormant for the past few years. During that time, I underwent a career change and became a grandfather four times. My focus since 2020 has been on my family and my job. During 2022, I had made it a goal to run and/or bike every day of the year. I made it about 260 days before life changed and I left the field of law and became Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic church in Indiana. Since then, I've been focused on my ministry with young people and spending time with my family. I'm three months away from turning 59 and can't deny the white hair I see in my beard. Yes, just in the past week I've started to grow out my whiskers -- something I've not done since I shaved my beard off 33 years ago. As the white hairs appear more each day in my beard, I can't help but to admit that I am indeed getting older. I'm entering the final year of my 50's and seeing my children starting to have children of their own definitely tells me that time is moving forward. That's not a bad thing at all. In fact, I'm embracing it. It's wonderful to see how life changes as the years go by. There may be a few more wrinkles and white hairs as I look in the mirror, but it's all good. God has been very good to me.

With that said, I do believe that I need to become more active again. For the past 18 months, my running shoes have sat under my bed and my bike has been on a hook in my garage. Some know that I had kicked around an idea for another adventure run, something I've not done since age 46 in 2011 when I ran solo across the Mojave Desert. However, I discerned that God didn't want me to embark on an ultra-endurance journey at this particular time in my life. For those of you familiar with my running background, the 2006 BOB support stroller that I use on all of my solo runs across states and countries has been rebuilt and is in my garage. Yes, "BOB" (Beast of Burden) could definitely do another adventure. The fact is, I'm not sure what the future holds for another mega-mileage run. Somewhere down in my heart, I believe there is still a stirring... that there may indeed be something that God has planned for me in running. Honestly, I'm not really pondering it that much. I'm simply loving my life... my wife... my family... my ministry... and this season of wrapping up my 50s.

Running caught my eye at the age of 9. It was 1974 and I was in the 4th grade when my elementary school participated in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. You had to be at least age 10 to take the test and try to get The Presidential Physical Fitness Award -- the highest award given for performance on the AAHPER (American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation) Youth Fitness Test. I watched the 5th and 6th grade students take the test, which included running, and I knew that I wanted to do well on it when I was in the fifth grade. Running became my sport in the mid-1970s and it has been my primary sport for the past 50 years. The year 2024 will take me into the end of my 50s and will mark 40 years since I first began running distances beyond the marathon (26.2 miles). Back then, I was sponsored by such companies as New Balance, Gatorade, Timex, and a newly-formed eyewear company called Oakley. Today, I'm not sponsored by any companies.

I'm going to aim to keep this blog more up to date, especially as I become more active by running and cycling through 2024. For those new to this blog, I invite you to explore some of the writings I've placed here. I've shared many stories about my adventure runs, as well as writings pertinent to family and fitness. For those of you who have been here before, thanks for coming back! I do want everyone to know that running will never be the priority in my life. My family will always come first. Always. What's the point of reaching for life's mileposts alone? To me, life's mileposts should be shared with those you love. I am truly blessed to have a loving and supportive family, for which I am very grateful.

Gotta Run,

Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Thursday, March 2, 2023

God Takes No Pleasure in the Runner's Stride

Since I began running in 1976 at age 11, I've logged enough running miles to circle the globe twice -- a little more than 50,000 miles. Throughout all of those miles, I’ve been a Christian. I've been sponsored by corporations, completed multiple solo running adventures across states and countries, and my strides have taken me to the White House in Washington D.C.; the top of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges; to such national parks as Denali, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone; from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic shore; across the Great Plains; and across parts of Europe. I've had the honor of meeting people in various political offices, being hosted in homes of countless caring families, and have enjoyed the virtual running company of school children around the globe who tracked my progress via online classrooms I created for each of my running endeavors. Years of pounding the pavement made my legs very strong and I've been able to conquer every snowy mountaintop, sandy desert, desolate highway, and lonely valley I've encountered.

Yet, after decades of sculpting my body to perform at such a high degree I now realize that although God is likely pleased that I've used my athletic abilities for good purposes (promoting youth health and fitness and putting a focus on some charitable causes), God has taken no pleasure in this runner's stride. I must admit that there have been moments when I've taken pride in my self-sufficiency as I dominated over large landscapes with my runner's stride. Yet, such self-sufficiency is NOT what pleases God, but rather our ability to acknowledge dependence on Him. As it is written in Psalm 147:10-11...

In four weeks I'll be blowing out the candles on my 58th birthday cake, and I am incredibly grateful to God for the ministry He has given to me as Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic church; as a husband to my lovely wife Kelley; as a father to four amazing adult children, and step-father to three other wonderful adult children and a high school Freshman; grandfather to several grandkids; and, being the youngest of 7 siblings with my parents healthy and well in Alaska at nearly 90 years of age. I've run many different courses in life and God has truly taught me many lessons along the way... even when I've had to backtrack now and then and traverse some rough terrain to finally learn a lesson.

Let's take a closer look at Psalm 147:10-11. What delights the Lord? The verses tell us that He does not delight in the strength of the horse and He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy. We take great interest in the power of God’s creation, whether it is the strength of a horse or the strength in the legs of a man. God created these things, but they are not what fundamentally delights Him. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him -- the reverence and trust of His people. Those who find their hope in His mercy delights God, because they honor Him with their trust. It pleases God when we hope in His loyal love, His loving kindness.

Yes, when it comes to me... God is not impressed with my legs or endurance.

Please understand, taking pleasure in the beauty of the symmetry of a well-formed human leg is not the point here. Most of us are impressed with the weight-lifter whose massive legs and shoulders allow him to dead-lift 1,000 pounds or more, or an Olympic sprinter who can run the 100-meter dash in less than 10 seconds. God is happy to see us use the gifts He gives us. However, God is not impressed by the extremes of human achievement.

The Apostle Paul tells us, "Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:10). With the years I have left in this life, I definitely want to please God. Over many decades of running, it really all comes back to Psalm 147:11 where the Psalmist mentions the two qualities of character as pleasing to God: (1) fearing God; (2) putting hope in His mercy (steadfast love). "Fearing" God sounds pretty negative, but we need to understand it. "Fear" here doesn't mean "terror." Rather it means something like "be in awe of." A God-fearer is one who cares more about offending God than offending people. Some are swayed by the values of their peer group or their culture. However, the one who fears God is swayed by what he or she knows about God -- what pleases Him and what angers Him.

As I continue down life's road, I'll do so humbly and with reverence to God while keeping Romans 12:3 in mind: "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment." Essentially, the Apostle Paul is telling us not to think we're better than we really are, but to be honest in our evaluation of ourselves. That's a good lesson to learn before too many mileposts are in the rearview mirror!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Goodbye 2022 -- A Year That Was Filled with Wonderful Experiences!

Those of you who frequently visit this blog know that I have not posted a writing here since July 1, 2022. It is the longest I've gone without posting since June 2016. Life took some unexpected twists and turns last July that kept me away from this blog. First, I began the year with a goal of running and/or cycling every day of 2022. That goal was going well, until in early August 2022 I experienced a slipped disc in my lower back which kept me out of my running shoes and off of my bike seat (I'm completely healed now!). It just happened to be at this time that I transitioned into a new job -- leaving behind the field of law.

I first began working in law back in 1993, when my first child was born. Over the decades, I worked in various law firms and also operated my own small business. However, what I've always wanted to do since obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion is to work in a church setting -- preferably with youth. Opportunities to do that arose over the decades, but for one reason or another those opportunities didn't fully come to fruition. Now, at the age of 57, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would likely stay in the field of law until retirement. However, earlier this year I felt a calling by God to apply for a Director of Faith Formation position at the Catholic church I attend. Ultimately, I was given the position and I then put in my notice at the law firm during July. I began my new position on August 8, 2022.

For the past five months, I have been very busy settling into my new role and new responsibilities. As Director of Faith Formation I oversee catechists (teachers) in the religious education program for pre-K through 12th grade, as well as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). I also teach the junior high and high school youth groups. In addition, I conduct sacramental preparation for Baptism, First Eucharist, Reconciliation and Confirmation. It has been a wonderful transition and I feel blessed to finally be able to do what I've always wanted to do. I also get to work in the same building as my wife, who is an administrative assistant to three priests in our pastorate. God is so good!

In October, my stepdaughter, Rachel, got married and that was a beautiful day and one that Kelley and I will always cherish. We've also been doing the rounds on visiting college campuses because Hannah graduates in 2023 and will be heading off to a university. We're certainly experiencing a lot of life changes in our family! In just a matter of months, we'll be down to only one child left under our roof. Kyndal will be a Sophomore in 2023 and in a short three years will be off to college -- leaving Kelley and I officially empty nesters. I also recently learned that my eldest daughter, Jenna, is expecting a baby next summer. Yes... I'm a grandfather at 57! What a blessing!

I do hope that those reading this have had a fantastic 2022 and that your 2023 is one filled with many blessings.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Friday, July 1, 2022

How Much is Modern Life Dimming The Spirit of Adventure?

I recently read an article that had this question as its headline: How much has modern life dimmed the spirit of adventure? It was written by Sarah Barker, a freelance writer from St. Paul, Minnesota. As I read that article, I began to reflect on my childhood and how I would dream of going on adventures... across my town, across the country, or out into Space. I was born in 1965, so most of my childhood adventure daydreaming occurred in the 1970's -- right after man first walked on the moon. I've certainly had some wonderful adventures during my adult life. Running solo across states and countries has given me an opportunity to learn what I'm truly made of, and to encounter the world in a unique and unforgettable way. In the article, Ms. Barker writes:

Measurable features of the 1960s and ’70s — largely unscheduled childhoods with kid-led activities; life that was to a much greater degree hands-on, face-to-face, manual, analog; minimal student debt, and plentiful living-wage jobs — made the ideal environment for fostering adventure. Whether lifelong or short-term, modest or grand, lots of people undertook adventures. That world is gone. None of those conditions that made adventure widely possible exist anymore. Has the general sense of adventure disappeared, too?

She writes that those who grew up having great swaths of unscheduled, grownup-free time as children, grew into adults who were comfortable without structure. They were used to solving problems. They were used to being independent and assessing risk. Generally, they made it up as they went along. Ms. Barker notes, "Childhoods like that produced, well, yes — flesh wounds — but also adventurers." The author writes that in sharp contrast, today’s children follow institutional schedules and rules almost from birth. Free time, the birthplace of ideas, is nearly nonexistent. Sports and outdoor activities are typically organized and led by adults. She states that two parents working means there are more scheduled activities that are supervised and seen as safe. Kids who are not outside much by themselves are less comfortable doing that as adults.

Boston College research psychologist Peter Gray compared childhoods of 50 or 60 years ago with today’s: “Adventures that used to be normal for 6-year-olds are now not allowed even for many teenagers.” It’s clear that a protected, directed and pressured childhood is not the recipe for an adventurous adult.

The creation of the Internet and advances in communication technology have profoundly affected every aspect of life, including our sense of adventure. Some positively, and some not so much. GPS has made navigation easier and more accurate, and social media has made it possible for people to share their adventures and inspire others. However, the "unknown" of going on an adventure has certainly declined since I was a child and young adult. Back in the 1970's, we didn't have computers in our homes or cell phones in our pockets. The Internet didn't exist and when you ventured down a road you'd never been on before you didn't know what was around the next bend. Now, you can go to Google Earth and drop the little gold guy anywhere onto a road and see a 360-degree view from street level -- even moving the little traveler a few feet at a time in either direction on the road. When I ran across America in 2006, that technology didn't exist. I was not able to "preview" the route before I went and ran the 3,260 miles from coast-to-coast. There's adventure in that!

The country roads that I now run and cycle on in Indiana have not been captured by Google Earth's street-level cameras. I'm happy about that. When I go running and cycling in Indiana where I live, I'm seeing sights that you can only see if you are actually there. If I were to ever run and/or cycle across America in the future, I certainly wouldn't be crawling every mile of my planned course on Google Earth. Where's the "adventure" in doing that?

I believe that adventure is alive and well for those determined enough to make it happen. My advice to those seeking real adventure is to not dilute it with technology.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Getting Through COVID-19 While Reading My Parents' Book

After dodging it for 2 1/2 years, in mid-May 2022 I finally managed to contract Covid-19. I was attending a trial for the law firm I work at when I -- along with others in attendance -- got Covid from a testifying witness. I was away from the office for 10 days in May as a result, and thankfully my family did not catch it from me! I was fortunate to get through it without too much difficulty. My main symptoms were sore throat with cough; headache; chills; lack of appetite; and, decreased energy. I managed to continue cycling each day throughout my time with Covid, but stayed away from running because I didn't want to aggravate my lungs. It has now been 14 days since I was exposed to Covid in the courtroom and I'm pleased to say that I am feeling well, I'm back to the office and I've tested negative for Covid at this time.

During my many days at home in May, I took time to read a book that my parents had written. It's a collection of their life's stories and is truly a wonderful gift. I learned a lot about both of my parents, many things that I didn't previously know. They shared stories about their upbringing; courtship; marriage; travels; accomplishments; and more. Each day, they are edging closer to 90 and have been married for 68 years. They've certainly seen a lot in their lifetime, most of it side by side! I will always treasure the book that they've written -- which was only given to their children. It was a project that they wanted to accomplish so that their stories would be known not only by their children, but also by their grandchildren... and generations to come.

After a year of writing and editing, they completed the book. My Dad said, "Creating this book was a daunting project... we faced it just like we have faced everything through life, together and with the single purpose of finishing what we started." My parents have certainly faced every challenge by each other's side. This book is yet another result of their commitment.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Chasing a Promise: My Solo Running Adventure Across the U.S.A.

In December 2006 -- just two months after completing my solo run across America -- a popular running magazine published an article online about my adventure (which I shared in this blog several years ago). The article was titled "Chasing a Promise." Recently, I've been contacted by a few individuals who are thinking about taking on the coast-to-coast challenge. I don't offer coaching for such endeavors, but will occasionally keep an eye on a runner's progress. Its been 16 years since I stood on the edge of the Pacific Ocean looking down the road at 3,260 miles in front of me. Now, at age 57, that seems like a very long time ago. Even after 16 years, I still cannot find the words to fully describe the feelings I had at the start, at the finish, or for the 108 days between the two oceans. I recently read once again that old magazine article and thought I'd share it with you this month.

Chasing a Promise

Promoting Active Children From Coast to Coast

by Katie Aerni -- December 10, 2006

It's a picture perfect late fall day in Central West Virginia and a lone runner pushing a jogging stroller makes his way along the shoulder of US Route 50. Just after he passes a yellow advisory speed limit sign that reads "15 MPH" the shoulder disappears and he pulls the stroller off the road and crouches, tucked into the 2 feet between the sheer rock wall and the winding highway as an overloaded logging truck barrels past him down the 9% grade. He waits until his pounding heart is the only sound he can hear before he jumps back onto the road and pushes his loaded luggage around the blind turn as fast as he can. "It's the ultimate fartlek workout," he says, "pushing 65 pounds of jogging stroller up these grades at a full sprint."

The runner was Paul Staso and the jogging stroller was loaded with water, food, clothes, camera, GPS, satellite and cell phones, tent, sleeping bag and other essentials. Between June 23rd and October 20th 2006, Paul ran, alone and unaided, from the Pacific coast in Oregon to the Atlantic shoreline in Delaware -- a total of 3,260 miles. It is easy to define Paul’s journey by the bookends provided by these natural boundaries, but that would be oversimplifying the accomplishment. For Paul, the start and finish of the trip were just two of the 108 days of the journey. The other 106 days, while the rest of us worked, ran tempo workouts and local 5K races, cooked dinner for our families and socialized with friends, Paul was somewhere between those two great oceans, alone, running.

Across the Great Plains, the summer of 2006 was one of the hottest on the record. In the first half of his journey, from Cannon Beach, OR to Appleton, MN, Staso witnessed only 35 minutes of rainfall. While Dakota farmers were losing crops and livestock to the heat and drought, Paul was running in the sun for up to 48 miles/day. His route took him across some of the least populated regions in the country -- western Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota. Drinking fountains are hard to come by in areas where houses are miles apart (never mind how widely spaced the towns are), so he carried 2.5 gallons of water with him as well as food to get him through the day. "Eating and drinking was a constant activity," Paul said. "Out West, I couldn't carry anything cold or chocolate because it would melt... further east I would stop and actually have lunch somewhere."

There was only one day, Paul said, that he would have quit. But at the time quitting wasn't an option. He had run 25 of the scheduled 35 miles for the day when he came to the top of a bluff in the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. From this vantage point he could see clear to the horizon, and he sat down and started to cry. What was it, that brought tears to his sun-scorched eyes? "I saw nothing," he recounted. "No trees, no cars, no houses. And I thought 'Can I really do this?'"

He made a lean-to with his tarp to get out of the direct sun and he sat down and cried. "It was really frustrating," he said. "My emotions just started to break and I couldn't stop. It just hit me like a ton of bricks." Over an hour later, he was finally able to pack up and return to the task before him because another 10 or 11 miles down the road was a place to lay his head and there was no way to get there except on his own two feet. 

He struggled along for a few days after the Standing Rock breakdown, but the curative effects of the accumulating miles started to kick in and he got back into the swing of things. Minnesota, he says, is when it really felt like he was going to make it.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, now why-ever would a grown man, with four kids and a full time job go so far out of his way as to dedicate four months of his life away from said family and job to create such agony as has been previously described? You might be wondering why he took such an odd, difficult and twisting route to get between points A and B (this was the most northerly cross country run and the first to end in Delaware). As Paul will explain to you again and again, "it was all about the kids."

The plan for a cross country run was hatched at bedtime one evening, as he was tucking in his 12-year-old daughter, Ashlin. Paul and Ashlin realized that the kids at her school would be much more likely to run if they had a goal in mind so they started brainstorming places to which the kids could "run". Paul recounted his first attempt to run across the country in 1986 (which unfortunately failed). They did some calculations and determined that if each member of Ashlin's 5th grade class were to run 2 miles/week, they could complete a virtual cross country run in the course of the school year.

Paul challenged the 4th and 5th grades at Russell Elementary School in Missoula, MT. If either one of the classes could complete the virtual cross country run over a school year, he would run their actual cross country route that summer. Ashlin chose the route to go through parts of the country that she was interested in and as she and her classmates ticked off the miles at school, they traced their progress along the way, learning about the cities and states that they were passing through. By the end of the school year, both classes had completed the route and each student had run the equivalent of three marathons.

Was it ever in doubt that the classes would reach their goal? "Oh yes, yes," Paul said. But one day near Christmas, he came by the school -- it was zero degrees and snowing -- and saw the 5th graders out there, circling the track. He knew then they were going to make it. 

In that same frigid Montana winter weather, Paul started picking up his training as well. He had a promise to keep to 97 grade school kids, and he needed to be in shape to run across the country come summer.

Rising early to try to beat the heat, ("That never worked!" he said.) he would ease his body into each day's task with three miles of walking, then break into a trot for awhile before he really got to work. He didn't want to be rigid in a schedule so he would let the weather and terrain dictate his pace and rest breaks. Along the way he stopped and talked to groups at several grade schools, YMCAs and sports teams. He sought no media attention but reported back to his friends and family in Missoula as frequently as he could. 

His feat garnered much criticism along the way. Some thought him a fool for trying it alone, or in the middle of the summer, or along the winding route that Ashlin had chosen. Some wondered why he wouldn't contact larger media forces and try to make a bit of profit along the way. He was run into ditches, verbally accosted and spit upon. One straight-speaking old man in North Dakota stopped him asking, "What are you doing?" "I'm running across America," came Paul's reply. "Young man, you've got the brain of a scarecrow."

"But for every person who wants to hinder you," he explained, "there's far more who encourage you and want to help however possible." And then there's that commitment to the kids back home -- they did their part, now he was doing his. One of the girls in the class reported to the school's PTA president that this was "the first time an adult has kept his promise to me." "Now that's a huge impact," Paul insisted, "there's a ripple effect there."

Paul frequently receives emails from kids in the class and elsewhere excitedly reporting that they are still running, or that they are going out for the cross country team this year, and teachers and schools across the country contact him about starting a similar virtual running program at their school. These are the reasons that Paul did the run, these are the stories that kept him going through heat, bugs and storms.

Despite crossing several mountain ranges, logging trucks spraying bark as they pass on narrow Idaho highways and hundreds of miles of open prairie, it was the rolling green cornfields of Iowa that presented the toughest challenge to Staso. "All the shoulders are gravel," he explained, "the stroller stopped tracking straight." 290 miles of running on gravel shoulders left him with missing toenails and bruised feet that made standing painful -- nevermind 44 miles of running in a day, or 16 miles through ankle deep puddles during a flash flood. "It didn't rain many days," Paul said, "but when it rained, it really rained!"

Like any seasoned distance runner has experienced, fresh off his completion of the run, Paul vowed he would never repeat the feat. As more time passes, and for reasons he won't yet reveal to me, he has retracted his statement that he would "never run from coast to coast pushing a jogging stroller again."

This summer, Paul Staso got a chance to see the best and the worst this country has to offer. He was victim of an attempted robbery, recipient of many a plate of lasagna, spare change from strangers and inquisitive questions from kids he met along the way. He ran through hail, thunderstorms, heat waves and perfectly cool, sunny fall days. He saw the spectacular views of the Cascade, Rocky and Appalachian mountain ranges, feasted his eyes on the sparkling expanses of the Susquehanna, Mississippi and Columbia Rivers and couldn't help but notice the continuous trail of trash lining the roads that became his home for those four months.

It's the little things, Paul says: show your commitment, keep your promise and respect your body. This is the message he wants to promote to kids and adults everywhere.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Its Been Nearly 40 Years Since I Graduated From High School in 1983

I graduated from high school in 1983 -- nearly 40 years ago. Now, at age 57, it's hard to believe that almost four decades have gone by since I walked out of the high school gymnasium with my diploma in hand. As I was filling up my car with gas, I began to recall the 'old days' and how less expensive things were. That got me going down memory lane and flashing back to the simpler days of the early 1980's -- long before the Internet, cell phones, and the fast pace of today's world. Here are a few nostalgic items from my high school graduation year:

I wish that my children and stepchildren could have experienced life in the early 1980's. Truly, those were more simple and innocent times. I recall my parents saying the same thing about the early 1950's. Now, they are in their mid to upper 80's in age and I can only imagine how different the world looks to them compared to the early 1950's.

The Internet, cell phones, and computers changed the world forever. In some ways, those advancements in technology have provided many positive results. However, there are certainly ways in which those things have made society pay a significant price -- and I'm not just talking about at the checkout counter. I'm glad that when I graduated from high school in 1983, personal computers were not common and the Internet and cell phones were not yet available. Today, most people walk around with the world in their pocket. They have Internet-driven portable devices that can access any information within a few words typed into Google.

I remember when the Encyclopaedia Britannica was my "Google," when a phone mounted on the wall at home was my only phone, and when the library was my "computer." I remember when having a portable phone meant having a CB in your car, and when getting written words to someone fast meant paying extra for postage at the post office. Back in the early 1980's there wasn't anything "on demand" as there is today. If you missed a TV show on one of the few channels available, then you missed it. There wasn't on demand streaming services. The TV Guide or a local newspaper was the only way to find out what was scheduled to be on television. And, each day at midnight the TV went off -- for everyone! The National Anthem would play before the TV went to static. Back then, it cost too much for TV stations to run for small night audiences. Generally, the TV came back on around 6 a.m. the next day. Yes, that's how it was until I was in my 20's.

Its been almost 40 years since I packed my bags and headed off to the University of Montana, where I earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees after five years on campus. I paid out-of-state tuition (having gone there from Alaska) and my total bill for two degrees was around $25,000 -- and yes, that included tuition, room, board, and books. I was curious what it would cost me today to attend the same university and pay out-of-state tuition. As you can image, the cost has certainly gone up! If I wanted to earn two B.A. degrees now from the University of Montana, I would pay approximately $192,000 for five years of tuition, room, board, and books as an out-of-state resident. That's about $167,000 more than what I paid back in the 1980's.

The average cost of a U.S. home in 1983 was $75,000. Today, the average cost is $375,000 -- or five times more! Back in 1983, the world population was 4.6 billion people. Today, it is 7.9 billion -- an increase of 58 percent! In the words of Doc Brown... "Great Scott!" (and you would only understand that if you've watched the movie 'Back To The Future' from 1985)There certainly have been a lot of changes that I've seen in the world during my 57 years on this big blue marble, and I'm hoping to live to 100... in the year 2065. What else might I see in the next 43 years? I can only imagine!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Turning 57 and Feeling Healthy, Strong and Fit. What a Blessing!

In just a few days, I'll be 57 years of age. In some ways, it's hard to believe that I'm closing in on 60. My four children are now between 22 and 28 years old, and my stepchildren are 14, 17, 24 and 25. Next year will mark 40 years since I graduated from high school, and it has been 36 years since I made my first attempt to run across America. Now, I'm only 8 years away from Medicare. What in the world?? I just don't feel my age!

I'm running and/or cycling outside every day during 2022. As of now, I'm three months into the routine and am feeling better as a result. Actually, to be turning 57 years of age and to not need any medications whatsoever is a blessing. My blood pressure is low; my cholesterol levels are good; my weight is where it should be; and, my energy is great. Statistics show that 75 percent of those between 50 and 64 need prescription meds. Not me!

My father is 88 years of age and doesn't require any prescription drugs. He is a strong and fit man at nearly 90 and even shovels the snow off of his own roof in Alaska. That's how I want to be 31 years from now! Since I completed my solo run across the Mojave Desert in 2011, I haven't focused much on being physically active. Over the past 11 years my life has been focused on other important areas. Following a separation and ultimate divorce after my Mojave run, I relocated to Indiana; began a new job with a law firm; met Kelley in 2015; became engaged to Kelley in 2017; and then in 2018 I purchased a home and got married. Since then, Kelley and I have been enjoying the journey of parenting two teenagers, making improvements to our home, and even launched our own business. Life was very busy for 11 straight years and the moments were few and far between when I would put on my running shoes or straddle a bicycle seat. That changed on January 1st of this year and my wife is supportive of my goal to get back into a healthier lifestyle. My ultimate goal is to simply stay healthy, strong and prolong my life so that I can have as many days as possible with my wife and to enjoy years of chasing after grandchildren. Will there be another endurance adventure down life's road? In my heart, I feel God prompting me to that and I've had discussions with Kelley about it. Again, she is such a blessing to me, supportive and loving. However, any future 'adventure' would not occur until I'm retired from working in law. For now, I'll just keep talking with God as I'm on the road running or cycling.

I don't believe a person has to feel 'old' at 50-plus. Age is just a number. I believe in goals, dreams, desire, ability, tenacity, conviction and faith. Age, like mileposts along the road, should be glanced at but not distract from the view on the horizon.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Monday, February 28, 2022

It's Time to Say Goodbye to The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation

In 2009, I formed a non-profit organization called The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation -- PACE being Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

The mission of the foundation was to encourage, educate, inspire, and motivate children worldwide to adopt life-long habits toward a healthy lifestyle; to expand their knowledge of the world around them; and, to pursue their goals and dreams with the abilities they possess. While President of The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, I spoke to thousands of school children in the United States and Europe through assemblies with the hope that my message would spur them on toward a healthier lifestyle. Now, 13 years after forming the foundation, I am dissolving it and retiring from actively promoting health and fitness to a national and global audience of children.

I'm about to turn 57 years of age and my focus has now shifted. These days, my running is much more personal and has a stronger spiritual component than in the past. Also, rather than aiming to encourage or inspire young people who are several decades beneath my age, I would like to try and challenge those who are 50+ in age. 

The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation saw participation from nearly 100,000 school children from 12 countries in numerous PACE Trek running/walking challenges across states and countries. Those children logged a total of nearly a half million miles – enough to circle the globe 20 times!

As I lead the foundation I had seven teaching goals:

  • The importance of good health/nutrition, as well as the benefits of frequent and consistent exercise.
  • The benefits that can be experienced from running and/or walking.
  • That if you take care of your body it can take you on some wonderful adventures.
  • Interesting information about the various locations that I ran through completely alone.
  • The importance of setting goals and pursuing dreams, no matter the obstacles in front of you.
  • That a positive attitude and the desire to positively impact the lives of others can be very rewarding.
  • That perseverance can take you places that you never imagined you could go.

The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation also participated in child-focused health and fitness seminars, as well as presentations at schools, conferences, and other settings. Educational curriculums were also developed by the foundation to benefit school children, such curriculums promoting an active and healthy lifestyle.

I am closing the doors on the foundation with great satisfaction in my heart for what was achieved over the years. It will be the only non-profit organization that I will form in my lifetime and to know that it reached children around the globe means a lot to me. Now, it's time to run forward into the next chapter of my running life. For those of you who take time to stop by this blog now and then to read the words of this runner, I thank you.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Year 2022: Running and Cycling for 365 Days Toward Greater Fitness

One of the Christmas gifts I received from my beautiful and loving wife a week ago was a Yeti SideKick waterproof dry bag. I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but I have decided that in 2022 I am going to aim to either run or bike every day... outside... regardless of the weather.

It has been about 10 years since I was actively cycling or running each day. In fact, this April will mark 11 years since I completed my solo run across the Mojave Desert at the age of 46. I'll be turning 57 in just a few months and although I've maintained a good level of health, I know that it's important for me to keep moving forward toward greater fitness. The closer I inch toward 60, the more I understand the importance of adopting the mindset that a healthy fitness level is a lifelong journey.

You can read my Mojave Desert adventure run journal here. The other day I read a May 2, 2011 journal entry I wrote the day after completing my 506-mile solo run across the Mojave Desert. I want to share that writing with you today.

This morning I woke up and realized that I don’t have to run today. As most of you know, P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 was wrapped up yesterday morning at 11:20 a.m. Pacific Time when I ran into Badwater Basin, Death Valley — the finish line. I had pounded my body for 17 days of running across the Mojave Desert, a journey of 506 miles with my 150-pound body (and less now!) pushing a 100-pound BOB stroller full of gear, water and food. I’m pleased with the 30-mile-per-day average I maintained and am actually thrilled that I was able to do 35 to 40 miles per day for several days through the Mojave National Preserve. That was incredibly challenging considering the high winds, sand roads, and overall remoteness.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’ve just made history with this solo, unsupported run across the Mojave Desert. I knew going into it that nobody had attempted a run from the Grand Canyon to Death Valley by going across the Mojave, but I wasn’t focused on becoming the first to do so. This run was very personal — in so many ways. I needed this challenge. Most of you know that I wrote a press release for this journey before starting. I never sent it to any media sources. I didn’t do any interviews and had no speaking engagements. I didn’t do any school assemblies along the way, and did not seek any attention during this run. P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 – Destination: Mojave Desert was not about getting attention. It was about an endurance quest to challenge myself in a way that I had never done before. It was part endurance, and part survival. It made me dig deep within myself to see if I could push myself past the boundaries of physical, mental, emotional and social abilities that I had become accustomed to during previous P.A.C.E. Treks (Alaska, Montana and Germany).

This run made me draw from so many past running experiences, and it had many personal spiritual elements as well. This was not "Man vs. Wild" the running version. This was about a runner trying to go beyond the limits he had grown comfortable with. Every now and then you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You have to look into your heart and determine if there are steps you should take that you've either been hesitant to or that you've been uncertain to because you can't see the outcome beforehand. Too often we live our lives in a zone of familiarity... a zone of comfortable existence. I believe it’s healthy and positive to have moments where you try to stretch yourself beyond what you are sure of in your everyday life. I did that through this P.A.C.E. Trek. I know more about myself and my abilities. I know more about what I want, what I can achieve, and what makes up the core being of Paul Staso.

I’m 46 years old and this wasn’t a journey for "self discovery." I know who I am, but I wanted to know what else I can become. I feel I’ve accomplished that through this run. So, does that mean the process is over? No, it should never be. As I said, I believe it is healthy and positive to have experiences like this in life. You can’t necessarily plan them. Often they come along as a prompting in your heart that you need to do it. That’s how this was for me.

I am always encouraging kids to set goals, run after those goals, and to persevere through to the finish. I hope that this run has been a live example of the words I share. I shared my experience through pictures, videos, audio files, journal writings, and even a live tracking tool so that kids could virtually come along with me... seeing and feeling some of what I was experiencing. I wanted to be very transparent on this P.A.C.E. Trek, yet once I was into it I decided to lean toward the side of less transparency due to the extreme nature of what I was doing. There was so much more that I could have shared through the P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 website. The pain was often intense -- bandaging my feet at the start of a new day; the agony of taking off my shoes at the end of the day and dealing with the latest damage; the tears of frustration, exhaustion and emotional turmoil as I tried to get myself and a 100+ pound stroller across the desert; and so much more. 

Had a documentary been done about this particular journey run, it would have been very revealing about what happens when one person takes on such an endeavor. I’ve looked back at my pictures and videos and can see smiles that were not always genuine. I see enthusiasm at times when it was truly lacking in my strides. I see a man who wants to be a positive example to kids and display excitement and/or fun in the images but inside is feeling the total pain of what he’s doing. Yes, in some of the photos I feel as though I’m giving a false image. However, there are certainly many images that reflect my true feelings. There were moments that were incredibly wonderful and rewarding throughout the journey. I did have times of fun and at times felt like a big kid on an adventure. This is such a big, wonderful world we live on and there’s so much adventure right outside the door. I stepped outside and experienced that and I hope that there are some kids that watched and are now thinking about what they might aim for in their own lives.

I’ve had several people say that it would have been easier for me to run west to east (due to the jet stream) and that I would have had less headwinds to battle the entire way. Yes, I could have run from Badwater, Death Valley to the Grand Canyon. However, that was not the goal I set for myself. I created the toughest route I could... in the toughest direction. Of the 506 miles I ran there were only 20 miles of that done on interstate roads (and that was out of necessity). The other 486 miles was done on small secondary roads, like the old Route 66. Those roads often did not have a shoulder and had far less populations and services. It was a rather remote route that I ran, and the terrain was very challenging. I did that on purpose. I wanted a difficult challenge — one that many people told me could not be done, particularly in 17 running days.

Some told me before I began that there was a chance that I could die alone in the desert (heat stroke, rattlesnake bite, or some other terrible incident). I won’t deny that those thoughts crossed my mind. I actually had to arrive at the mental point of knowing that I could die while trying to run across the Mojave Desert alone. I knew that I was going to use all of my experience to avoid that, but there was certainly a chance that something terrible could happen. Yes, I went into the Mojave Desert prepared to die if that would be the result. Talk about stepping outside of your comfort zone! I can’t quite explain all of my thinking and reasoning that went into arriving at the point of deciding to run into the desert without a guarantee of coming out the other side alive. However, I knew well the risk I was taking and was at a point in my life where I needed to do this.

I persevered and accomplished the task. Yes, I became the first in doing so, but that’s not what I was running after. Sure, it’s a great feeling knowing that I just did something that hasn’t been done before by another solo runner, but my running means more to me than accolades or a title as being "the first." It will always be a run that I hold close to my heart and I’m sure that I’ll draw strength from the experience in future moments in my life.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos: