Thursday, December 1, 2016

12,000 Miles... 22 Million Strides... Over 100,000 School Children!

A few days ago I announced that I'm officially retired from running across states and countries. The feedback from friends and family has been very supportive. I've spent a little time thinking about all that was accomplished during my adventure running years through "PACE" (Promoting Active Children Everywhere). I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about the road I traveled.

My adventures through PACE involved over 100,000 school children worldwide who ran with me 'virtually' at their school playgrounds and gymnasiums. Their teachers had registered them to participate in my state/country running adventures. Those kids were from such countries as Germany, Malaysia, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Canada, and from all 50 U.S. states -- as well as other locations on the globe.

The total mileage of my solo runs across the United States, Montana, Germany, Alaska, and the Mojave Desert is 5,386 miles -- the equivalent of 206 marathons. All totaled, I spent 184 days (six months) on the road to accomplish all of those state/country adventures -- which is an average of 30 miles per day. Of course, there was also all of the training miles! The total mileage (including training) that I logged between 2005 and 2011 in order to accomplish all of the ultra-running adventures that I did is approximately 12,000 miles (458 marathons in 6 years)... or about 22 million strides!

It's said that the average person, having an average stride length -- and living until the age of 80 -- will cover approximately 110,000 miles in his or her lifetime (which is about 4 1/2 laps of the earth). Just in my running career I've logged over 40,000 miles, which is closing in on two laps of the planet -- and I'm nearly 30 years away from being 80! I guess I'm ahead of the 'average' for miles. Based on my 'pace' for the past 51 years, it's safe to say that when my finish line of life finally arrives I'll have logged at least one-third of my life's miles by running.

Between 2006 and 2011 I did school assemblies in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. I spoke to tens of thousands of school children and have many fond memories of those moments.

As the miles unfolded, I stayed with many different families who were kind enough to take in a weary runner for the night. All of those people were an encouragement to me and helped me to get through the endless miles. Along the way, I slept in just about every accommodation imaginable!

I had a great run with "PACE" and will always look back with great appreciation for all that I was able to achieve. Now, it's time to step down life's path with my soon-to-be bride, Kelley, by my side! Life is wonderful and is always an "adventure."

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I'm Officially Retired From Running Across States and Countries

One of my adult children recently asked me if I would ever do another solo run across a state or country. It has been over 5 years since I completed my last running adventure -- becoming the first person to run 500 miles solo across the Mojave Desert from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to Badwater Basin, Death Valley. In recent years I've thought about possibly doing another big run. However, today I'm announcing that I am retiring from running across states and countries. It's a decision that I have complete peace with, and one that I know is right.

From 2006 through 2011 I ran thousands of miles to promote youth fitness. It began with a 3,260-mile run across the United States all alone in 108 days. After that I accomplished solo runs across Montana, Germany, Alaska, and the Mojave Desert. With each adventure there were inherent dangers. I jumped out of the path of inattentive drivers; I battled hypothermia; I experienced dehydration; thieves attempted to rob me; and, I could have been attacked by wolves, grizzly bears, and other wildlife. I had automatic weapons pointed at me in Germany and was near frostbite in Montana. The stories seem endless and the experiences are incredibly vivid in my memory.

Today, I am 51 years of age and am engaged to the most beautiful and wonderful woman I have ever known. I have four amazing children and a rewarding job. In short, I am greatly blessed... and I know it. I'm aiming to retire from my job in 15 years and the time between now and then will be spent happily married to Kelley and focusing on making the most of each day. I will not risk losing that prematurely by putting my life on the edge of a highway with a stroller full of gear.

My runs across states and countries have had many purposes. Clearly, I had a desire to encourage children to be more active and to take care of themselves. As I always said, "If you take care of your body it can take you on some wonderful adventures!" I've experienced that and along the way my legs carried me to some amazing locations, and I met so many top-notch people. At times my running across states and countries was about running toward something, but too often it was also about running away from something. Regardless, I managed to conquer mass amounts of distance all alone... enduring severe heat, incredible cold, torrential rains, relentless winds, painful hail, blinding snow, life-threatening lightning, tornado scares, and more. I captured so many moments in pictures and video, aiming to give others a window into my experiences via online postings. I wrote daily blogs, spoke at countless school assemblies, and had many roadside encounters with curious people.

As many of you know, as I did my adventure runs across states and countries there would be K-12 school children who would run with me virtually -- tracking my progress via an online classroom that I updated from the road. Over 100,000 school children from countries worldwide participated by running around their school gymnasiums and playgrounds. I received so many thoughtful notes from students and teachers. I did newspaper, radio and television interviews as those opportunities were presented. I paid for most of the endeavors out of my own pocket and never made a dime on any adventure run I did. Companies just didn't seem interested in sponsoring what I was doing, so I had to pay out in order to get the runs to the finish line. There were some who handed me money along the edge of the road just to support my purpose in running, and some school assembly fees also contributed. In all, the running adventures I did cost over $20,000.

I still have "BOB" (short for 'Beast of Burden') -- the stroller I pushed for each adventure. It now is a reminder to me of all that I endured. That stroller was with me every step of the way, and without it I would have never been able to accomplish the things that I did.

It's now time to focus on my life with Kelley and the children that we have. I will never again risk my life on the edge of a highway in an attempt to conquer all of the mileposts from one border to another, or from one ocean to another. For me, those days are done -- and I have peace with that. I view my life as a daily blessing... one not to be risked foolishly. I have accomplished everything I wanted to in long-distance running. In fact, I've accomplished more than most runners will ever experience. I've come out the other side of my endurance feats with a body that is healthy and not limited with injuries or issues. I am blessed... truly blessed.

I will write my books and do some speaking engagements as opportunities allow. Running will always be a part of my life, but will not be as it was when I would run endlessly for the horizon. Instead of my hand being on a stroller, it will be holding Kelley's hand. She and I will step side by side on life's path... into our future and all that it holds.

I want to thank each and every person who helped to make my solo running adventures a success. There are so many people who contributed to each endeavor and I am forever grateful.

Life is indeed short and one to be appreciated daily with loved ones by your side. I was blessed to be able to accomplish some extreme running challenges, but I'm more blessed to be marrying my best friend and forever partner, Kelley, and to have children who are a joy in my life.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What I Am Most Thankful For...

It's Thanksgiving Day, a holiday commemorating a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. Traditionally, this day in America is for enjoying time with loved ones and for eating delicious food. However, this is also a day to give thanks for all that we're grateful for. The list of what I am thankful for is quite long, but I want to take a moment to share with you those that rank at the top:

  • I am thankful for Kelley... my fiancé, best friend, partner, and the most beautiful person -- inside and out -- that I've ever known in my entire life.
  • I am thankful for my four wonderful children: Jenna, Ashlin, Kyler and Brian.
  • I am thankful for Kelley's lovely children: Rachel, Nathan, Hannah and Kyndal.
  • I am thankful for my parents and their constant love and encouragement.
  • I am thankful for my siblings and pray they have a wonderful day with their families.
  • I am thankful for my friends and co-workers.
  • I am thankful for my job and the benefits I receive from it.
  • I am thankful for my health and fitness.
  • I am thankful for my faith in God and the many blessings He has given me.

This day of giving thanks was initially started with a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the lost of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.

Nearly 400 years later, families and friends still come together for an annual day of thanksgiving. May each of us approach every day of the year with thankful hearts for all that we've been blessed with in life.

From my heart to yours... Happy Thanksgiving.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Over 50: Fit as a Fiddle, or Fit as Fiddle Faddle?

Eleven years ago I was talking to a friend, who was a surgeon, and he was around 12 years older than I. At the time he was in his early 50's and I was 40 years of age... training for my 2006 solo run across America. I sat in his office and couldn't help but to notice pictures he had of himself hanging on the walls. Approximately 25 years earlier he had been a weightlifting enthusiast, getting to the level of competing in some regional competitions. The framed pictures he had were of himself in competition, flexing his muscles and looking much different than the slightly hunched over man sitting across the desk from me.

He had put on weight and blamed his participation in a recreational hockey league in his 30's and early 40's as why he has orthopedic issues. He pointed to one of the pictures and said: "That's the former me. Enjoy your fitness level now, Paul, because after you turn 50 it all goes downhill." I was looking at a doctor who had conceded to being "old" (as he put it) and believed that once the calendar turned to his 50th birthday his fitness was destined to dramatically decline. Sadly, I believe there are too many people who think that way.

I'll be 52 years old next spring and just had a complete physical exam. I'm pleased to say that from a physical standpoint, I am several years younger than my numeric age. My cholesterol levels are right where they should be, my triglycerides are right on target, my blood pressure is low, my weight is at a healthy level, and I don't need any medications. The doctor who performed my annual exam told me that he wished all 50+ year old guys that walked into his office were as fit as I am.

There are those who give in to age and those who view age as nothing more than a number. I don't think about my age. I go about life with a perspective that it is to be lived, and I'm living it with all of my heart.

I was in a grocery store a couple of weeks ago and an elderly woman behind me was purchasing a birthday cake for her husband. On the top of the cake was written the words "Happy 78th Birthday Paul." I smiled at her and told her that my name is Paul too, and she said that the cake was for her husband's birthday. I replied, "Maybe I'll have a cake like that in 27 years!" She looked a little puzzled, as did the woman at the cash register. The woman purchasing the cake asked, "You're 51?" I nodded and she said that I didn't look anywhere near that age. The cashier said that she would have guessed I was 36. So, I guess I'm doing pretty good at this point. I have no orthopedic issues, no white hairs, no physical limitations, no medications, and I'm enjoying life with my beautiful loving partner Kelley.

Life is to be lived... to be pursued. Those who believe that turning 50 means having to give in to a number or give up on certain activities are incredibly wrong. There are countless elderly people who have proven that life can be just as abundant in experiences at 50+ as it was before reaching the five decade mark. Everyone over 50 years of age needs to make a decision. You're either going to be as fit as a fiddle, or fit as Fiddle Faddle. The choice is yours.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Monday, November 14, 2016


I am so sick of reading about schools banning certain activities on playgrounds! In the past couple of years there have been news reports in both the USA and England about schools implementing bans against running on playgrounds; playing tag on playgrounds; having Yo-yos on playgrounds (because kids may hurt themselves!); skipping on playgrounds; doing cartwheels on playgrounds; and, some schools have completely banned the use of balls at recess!

Hundreds of over-zealous schools are preventing students from playing games enjoyed by generations of children amid fears they will be sued if something goes wrong. I work in the field of law and understand that insurance companies are dealing with an ever-increasing mountain of lawsuits. However, we have to let kids be kids. We can't roll them up in bubble wrap and send them off to school. There will always be bumps, bruises and scrapes. That's part of being a kid.

If you don't think that playgrounds are under attack, think again! In 2011, a New York mother sued her child's preschool because she said that they allow too much play and she was concerned that all of the play would ruin her child's chances of getting into an Ivy League college. At one elementary, a child jumped off of a swing set and broke his arm. His parents sued, prompting a plan to remove all swing sets from the county's schools. There are countless other lawsuit stories, and unfortunately many such legal cases result in paranoia of school administrators and the banning of certain playground activities.

I'm 51 years old and recall enjoying time on the playground in the 1970's. I'm not quite sure how in the world I survived since I played many playground games that are now banned by some schools, including dodgeball, red rover, tag, and kickball.

If you think that school bans apply only to playgrounds, think again! You may not believe it, but there are schools in America that have banned various items and activities -- usually due to one isolated incident that causes unreasonable concern with teachers and/or administrators. Things that have been banned in some schools include: bake sales; Ugg boots; Silly Bandz; Hugs; bicycling to school; Christmas trees; and, the use of the colors red and green during the Christmas season.

Relax a little school teachers and administrators! LET KIDS BE KIDS!

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Do You Get Enough Sleep?

We've all experienced the effects that come from a lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can make you grumpy and foggy. However, there are some very serious effects of sleep loss. Sleep deprivation has been identified as a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island; the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska; and, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the United States. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk.

Lack of sleep hinders thinking and learning in many ways. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. It also makes it more difficult to learn efficiently. Research shows that if you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.

Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can also put you at risk for heart disease; heart attack; heart failure; irregular heartbeat; high blood pressure; stroke; and, diabetes. British researchers have found that the lack of sleep can double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Lack of sleep and sleep disorders, if not addressed, can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.

Chronic sleep loss can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.

According to research studies, people who sleep less than six hours a day are almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who sleep seven to nine hours. Sleep loss appears to stimulate appetite and it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods.

Lack of sleep can affect our interpretation of events. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely. Sleep-deprived people seem to be especially prone to poor judgment when it comes to assessing what lack of sleep is doing to them.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Crosswalks: Cross Your Heart, Say a Prayer, and Walk (quickly!)

Yesterday morning I was driving to work and stopped at a crosswalk near a school to allow a middle school student to cross a busy street. As I sat there I witnessed a car approaching in the opposite direction... and it was not slowing down. Thankfully, the student saw that the car wasn't going to stop and waited. The car that went right through the crosswalk without hesitation was a police car!

One in five high school students and one in eight middle school students crosses the street while distracted, according to research released by Safe Kids Worldwide.

The report, “Teens and Distraction: an In-Depth Look at Teens’ Walking Behaviors,” presents an observational study that recorded more than 34,000 middle and high school students crossing the street in a school zone. According to the research, 39% of the students who are crossing the street while distracted are typing on a cell phone and 39 % are listening to headphones. The remaining students are talking on the phone (20%) or using another electronic device, such as a tablet or game (2%).

The study also describes findings from discussions with more than 2,400 students. Almost half of the students (49%) say they use a cell phone while walking to school. Four out of 10 say they listen to music while walking.

Kids are distracted these days and it's our responsibility as licensed drivers to pay close attention at crosswalks -- particularly those behind the wheel of a police car!

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cold Conditions Lower a Runner's Heart Rate by 6 Percent

A study by St Mary’s University in London states that winter is actually the best time of year to go jogging – because the cold makes it easier on your body. The study has found that cold conditions bring a runner’s heart rate down by 6 percent as less blood is pumped out to the skin to dissipate heat.

The study put athletes through 40-minute runs at 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. At the hotter temperature, they were under greater cardiovascular strain, leading to impaired performance. This supports previous evidence that the skin needs increased blood flow when it is warm.

The research suggests that the winter conditions could potentially shave two minutes off of your 10k time.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

The Toll of the Presidential Election on Americans' Health

Today American citizens elect a new President. It has been a long, contentious couple of years of debates, town hall meetings, campaign advertisements, and more. It all comes down to this day! However, what has the toll of this election been on the health of Americans?

The American Psychological Association reports that 52 percent of U.S. adults say that the 2016 U.S. Presidential election process has been a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

Recent reports tell us our political culture is affecting our health and damaging our relationships. A national survey showed that roughly 60 percent of Americans are sick and tired of the election — and that was back in July!

In recent months, anger and divisiveness between political opponents intensified to a fever pitch. Therapists have been increasingly treating patients for election-related anxiety, and in October the American Psychological Association produced coping tips for the more than half of Americans who are suffering from election stress.

Dr. Robert Glatter — an emergency room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and contributor to Forbes magazine — calls the combination of election and nonstop media attention a “life stressor” with serious physical effects. Dr. Glatter has counseled voters about increased blood pressure, fluttering heartbeats, headaches, nausea and other telltale symptoms of “election-related stress.”

Though voters have remained interested in the election, they are tired of news about the nominees’ personal lives, back-and-forth comments, and ever-changing polls. A recent Gallup poll had the headline “Americans less sure they’ll vote for president.” The survey found that 69 percent of the nation are sure they will vote today, but this is down from 76 percent in 2012 and 80 percent in 2008.

This presidential election has certainly taken a toll on the health of the United States. Will the upcoming months and years see the nation become healthier? Time will tell.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Running Away From Alzheimer's Disease

About 5.2 million Americans age 65 and older have Alzheimer's disease, which causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Also, approximately 200,000 people under age 65 suffer from younger-onset Alzheimer's.

A couple of years ago a research study reported that running more than 15 miles a week may reduce the risk of dying from Alzheimer's disease. However, it's not just running that may reduce risk, but walking may too -- if the amount of energy expended is equivalent to running more than 15 miles weekly, the study found. However, walkers have to walk about 50 percent further, walk briskly, and put in more exercise time.

The study's results indicate that exercise appears to prevent the shrinkage in the brain that occurs with age, and preserving brain volume may be why vigorous exercise helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer's death.

The study included more than 153,000 runners and walkers who had been participating in the National Runners' and Walkers' Health Studies. Men and women were recruited for the studies beginning in the early 1990s. The participants were followed for an average of almost 12 years and the number who died of Alzheimer's disease were tracked. Over the follow-up, there were 175 deaths from Alzheimer's disease.

In the study, those who ran more than 15.3 miles weekly had a 40 percent risk reduction in death from Alzheimer's. Running between 7.7 and 15.3 miles was linked with a 25 percent risk reduction. The amount of running needed to lower risk substantially is about double the current exercise recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC exercise guidelines are equivalent to running 4.6 to 7.7 miles a week.

It should be kept in mind that because the participants in the study were exercisers, they are not representative of the general population -- many of whom don't exercise.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Road Race 'Selfies' Causing Road Rage

There is a growing concern about people in road races causing problems and injuries due to taking 'selfies' during events. Some runners stop abruptly to take a selfie picture with their phone, only to be practically run over by the runner behind them. There have been people running into each other at finish lines due to those who feel they need to stop ON the finish line to take a selfie. Runners are bumping into selfie takers, tripping over them, and actually piling up when an over-zealous selfie taker stops quickly at a mile marker. Some participants have also had bad encounters with selfie photogs who are less than careful with their 'selfie sticks.' All of this road race 'selfie' photography is causing some road rage with those who are actually trying to run the distance and focus on the event.

According to Running USA, a nonprofit group that tracks data and trends on running, 61 percent of runners regularly run with a cellphone, most commonly to play music, track mileage and workouts, map routes and use GPS features. The group found that millennials and Gen Xers are most likely to run with their cellphones, and also most likely to use social media channels to share running-related activities.

In 2014, after a series of much publicized incidents, including one woman who ran the New York City Half Marathon snapping selfies at every mile with a different man in the background of each picture, the New York Road Runners added a section to their code of conduct under the label “Mobile Devices” that says using smartphones for pictures and social media updates during any of their races is “strongly discouraged, as it decreases your awareness of other participants around you.” They have also banned selfie sticks entirely from races.

A few years ago at the Hong Kong marathon a woman stopped to take a selfie just after the starting line and caused a “pile-up that resulted in battered and bruised participants,” according to a Time magazine story. Race officials launched a sort of “awareness” campaign to encourage runners against taking selfies during subsequent Hong Kong races.

There are even race 'bandits' who jump into road races without registering just to take selfies along the course.

A road race, whether it’s a 5K, 10K, a half marathon or a full marathon, is a good accomplishment and the urge to share that accomplishment with friends on social media is understandable. However, try to wait to make your social media 'selfie' post until AFTER you've left the finish line chute. If you must take a mid-race selfie, be aware of the other runners around you and don't obstruct another runner's performance. In a road race, walkers are typically on the right. If you're wanting to take a selfie during a race, move over to where the walkers are so as to not be a hazard to runners on the course.

You must keep in mind that many road races in America consist of tens of thousands of people. For instance, the largest road race in the U.S.A. last year was the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Georgia -- with 54,752 finishers. The largest road race I have ever run in was back in 1991 (age the age of 26) when I placed in the top 5 percent at the Lilac Bloomsday Run in Spokane Washington. That year there were 60,104 participants and at the time it was the largest timed road race in the world. Races of that size are shoulder to shoulder and there is a much greater chance of someone getting hurt if a 'selfie' enthusiast stops in his or her tracks to try and capture that "perfect" mid-race selfie.

If you are a huge road race selfie enthusiast, you may want to consider running a race where the emphasis is on taking selfies. Yep... those races exist! In fact, Chicago has an event called the Selfie Run. Here's how it's described at its registration site:
Selfie Run is a unique Social event focused less on speed and more on the social experience with friends and family. Whether you are an avid runner or just like taking selfies, the 3.1 miles of the Selfie Run course will have your selfies going viral on the Selfiefun App and waiting for the next one! Along the running path you will find Selfie Zones, which are associated with a designated concept, element or featured display. As the runners/walkers reach the Selfie Zones, they are encouraged to take Selfies and post pictures to the Selfiz App. At the end of the race there will be a Selfie Run After Party. Each participant will receive: A Selfie Stick; a Selfie Run T-Shirt; and, a Selfie Run Race Bib.
Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Helga & Clara Estby (Mother & Daughter) Walked Across the USA

Today I want to share with you the first news-reported walk across America, which occurred in 1896 by a mother/ daughter team from Spokane, Washington. The journey was from Mica Creek in Spokane County, Washington state, to New York City. The following article is from (Essay 9847) and was written by Margaret Riddle. Enjoy!

On May 6, 1896, 36-year-old suffragist Helga Estby (1860-1942)  and her 18-year-old daughter Clara (1877-1950) began an unescorted trek from their home in Mica Creek to New York City. Their walk was a publicity wager that they expected would bring them $10,000 and save their family farm from foreclosure. Following the railroad tracks east, they walked between 25 to 35 miles a day on a seven-month trip across 1890s America.

They crossed mountains, battled severe storms, survived bitter cold and heat waves, encountered hobos and highwaymen, a mountain lion, and rattlesnakes.  Along the way they met famous politicians, Native Americans, journalists, and suffragists, collecting autographs of many notables. Helga and Clara kept a trip journal that they hoped to publish. Surviving the trip of 4,600 miles, they reached New York on December 23, 1896, only to find no cash prize at the end of their amazing journey. 

Tough Times...
In 1892, Norwegian immigrants Helga and Ole Estby (1848-1913) purchased 160 acres of farm land in the town of Mica Creek, 25 miles southeast of Spokane, an enclave referred to as "Little Norway" (Columbia, p. 35).  A farm would hopefully provide for their large and growing family of 10. By 35 years of age, Helga had given birth to 10 children.  Eight were still living.

But by April 1893, a national credit shortage triggered a deep economic depression.  Banks closed, thousands of businesses went bankrupt, railroads failed and unemployment was high. No government relief funds existed and it would take at least five years before the U.S. economy improved. Due to a back injury, Ole was temporarily limited in his ability to do physical labor and, as the economy worsened, he borrowed against the property, a loan he could not repay. By 1896 the Estby family was in danger of losing their farm.

The hard times called for unusual courage. Helga's own health had been in delicate balance as well, but she decided something extraordinary needed to be done and devised a plan.

The Wager...
Helga was an outspoken supporter of woman suffrage. She believed that women were capable of doing anything men could do, and thought of a way to raise a large sum of cash and, at the same time, draw nationwide attention to the suffrage cause. She was inspired by  journalist Nellie Bly (1864-1922), who traveled around the world and wrote about it. Helga arranged with a party (or parties) in New York that she would walk from Spokane to New York City in seven months, a distance of more than 4,000 miles. Although it was not part of the contract and wager, Helga also began to dream of publishing a book, based on the journals she would keep of their trip.

Announcement of this plan must have startled her family and neighbors. While attitudes toward women were certainly changing, it was commonly held at the time that physical exercise was damaging to women's health, particularly those of childbearing age. A woman's place was still believed to be in the home, with her family. But Helga was a highly determined person on a crusade. The trip would show the nation that women could make the trip.

Helga chose her shy and level-headed 18-year-old daughter Clara to accompany her, which may have partially relieved family worries. At least Helga would not be traveling alone and Clara was dependable. Helga and the sponsor in New York agreed to a contract stipulating that if Helga and Clara reached their destination in time, they would receive $10,000 -- a huge sum in 1896.

Preparing to Walk...
In signing the contract, Helga agreed to walk unescorted and not beg along the way but instead to work for food, lodging, and clothing. It is unclear who the sponsoring party was, but Helga several times spoke of a connection made through the help of an East Coast acquaintance. Helga expertly staged the event herself, wisely assuming that public awareness would increase as she and Clara spoke with reporters in major cities along the way.

Helga and Clara officially kicked off their departure with a stop at the Spokesman Review in Spokane to announce their planned journey and then returned home to spend one last night with their family before leaving the following morning. That day, May 5, the Spokesman Review announced their departure and Spokane Mayor H. N. Belt (b. 1841) wrote a letter of introduction, which was also signed by the state treasurer and stamped with the state seal.

Traveling Light...
The two traveled light. In their satchels they carried a compass, a map, a revolver, a pepper gun and powder to thwart possible attackers, a knife, a notebook and pen, and Helga's curling iron. Helga and Clara had a mother-daughter studio portrait taken in Spokane that was made into carte de visite prints that they planned to sell as souvenirs. They also carried calling cards that read: "H. Estby and daughter. Pedestrians, Spokane to New York." That, and $5.00 cash.

On departure day, Helga and Clara wore long gray dresses and high boots. They would change clothes in Salt Lake City and for the remainder of the trip, wear a new short skirt designed for the new craze, bicycle riding. Before trip's end, they would wear out 32 pairs of shoes.

Along the Way...
By the 1890s the railroads ran from coast to coast and portions of the track were still fairly new. To keep from getting lost, the Estbys walked rail lines, first the Northern Pacific to the Union Pacific, then the Rock Island line to the Burlington and Reading, giving them access to some railroad section houses. More often, citizens gave them overnight lodging. Such was the code of hospitality in 1896 America and surprisingly Helga and Clara spent only nine nights without shelter. To pay for a stay, they cooked, cleaned, and sewed. Most days they walked 25 to 35 miles and when they arrived in a city or town, they first headed to the local newspaper office to talk with reporters. They sent occasional progress reports to the New York sponsor.

Helga and Clara had to battle extreme weather: snow in the mountains, heat in the plains, flash floods, and washed out bridges. An encounter with a persistent tramp near La Grande, Oregon, led Clara to shoot him in the leg, a story Helga relayed to a reporter at the Minneapolis Tribune. This incident gave rise to their press image as tough women of the Wild West. However, although basic facts often varied in newspaper accounts, each described mother and daughter as articulate, well-educated, intelligent women who expected to be given $10,000 if they reached New York by a specified date.

By the time they arrived in Pennsylvania, they were greeted as celebrities. Citizens were amazed that they had come so far.  Helga and Clara collected the autographs of many notables along their way including governors and mayors in Utah, Colorado, Iowa, Chicago, and Pennsylvania, populist General Jacob Coxey (1854-1951), and presidential candidate William McKinley (1843-1901). They also visited the wife of McKinley's opponent, William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925). Bryan himself was away at the time, campaigning.

Clara sprained an ankle in Pennsylvania and Helga wrote to their sponsor requesting a few days' extension of time so that Clara could heal.

Winning and Losing...
Helga and Clara arrived in New York City on Wednesday, December 23, 1896. They were then shocked to learn that they would not get the $10,000. Possibly the sponsor had not expected them to succeed and did not have the money to pay them. The facts are not known.

The trip had expanded their own worlds and had certainly proven the great endurance of women. And although Clara frequently told reporters she was weary of the trip, in the end, the experience gave her, as she expressed it, a rare and excellent education. They had proven their own capabilities, achieving something even most men would never have tried. Yet they failed to save the farm.

Many questions remain. It is possible that the sponsor had no money to offer them, but it is difficult to understand why he or she did not provide them with the money to get home safely. To make matters even worse, Helga's written journals disappeared in New York, either misplaced or stolen.

Then Helga and Clara received tragic news from home. Diphtheria had taken the lives of two of the Estby children. Ole and the family had had to cope with the tragedy without them. To most 1890s Americans, Helga's trip was reckless family abandonment and folly.

Now, destitute in New York, two days before Christmas, Helga and Clara had to figure out how to get home. This time they would not walk. They approached both the city of Brooklyn and local charities for help, but were rejected. Clara then approached railroad titan Chauncey Depew (1834-1928 ). Depew gave them rail passes to travel from New York to Minneapolis.

Upon arrival in Minneapolis, Helga and Clara met with reporters and Helga stated that she had arranged with her New York sponsor to publish a book based on their journey. Then they would received the $10,000. The women stayed several days in Minneapolis and then headed home, most likely by rail.

Uff Da!...
With the travel journals gone, Helga and Clara's story had to be written from memory and Helga began her trip memoirs. But the Estby family was unsupportive and upon Helga's death, a family member burned her writings.

In recent years, younger family members have been caretakers of the remnants of the story. Encouraged by his family, eighth-grader Doug Bahr entered the Washington State History Day Contest in 1984 with his essay "Grandma Walks from Coast to Coast."  One of the contest judges that year was author and scholar Linda Lawrence Hunt who was inspired to research more. This led to her writing "A Victorian Odyssey," published in the summer 1995 issue of Columbia Magazine, which she then developed into the book Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America, published by Anchor Books in 2005.

April 2011 saw the release of two young adult novels. The Year We Were Famous intended for readers 12 and up, was written by Helga's great granddaughter and retired Everett Public Library librarian Carole Estby Dagg and published by Clarion Books. Following a day later was a Waterbrook Press book, The Daughter's Walk, authored by Jane Kirkpatrick. All three books are well researched and well written. Dagg is beginning a sequel that will cover Helga and Clara's year of 1897.

The Estbys eventually lost their farm, but it was not the tragedy they had expected. The family moved to Spokane where Ole and sons profited as carpenters. It is a great loss that Helga's book was never published. It would have been a unique piece of travel writing, giving a priceless feminine perspective on the United States in 1896.

Across the years, their story continues to intrigue.

Here's a video summarizing the adventure of Helga and Clara:

Sources: Linda Lawrence Hunt, Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America (New York: Anchor Books, 2005); Linda Lawrence Hunt, "A Victorian Odyssey," Columbia, Summer 1995, pp. 33-40; Carole Estby Dagg, The Year We Were Famous (New York: Clarion Books, 2011); "Walk to New York: Mrs. H. Estby and Daughter Will Begin That Undertaking Today," Spokesman Review, May 5, 1896, p. 5;  "Are Walking for Wages," The Walla Walla Union, May 17, 1896, p. 4; "On a Long Walk," Idaho Daily Statesman, June 5, 1896, p. 3; "Walking to Win $10,000," Des Moines Register, October 17, 1896, p. 2; "Globe Trotters: Two Women in that Role Reach Canton and call on Major McKinley," The Evening Repository, Canton, Ohio, November 30, 1896, p. 1; "Came From Spokane Afoot," The New York Times, December 24, 1896, p. 9; "Panic of 1893," The website accessed May 25, 2011 (

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Getting Heavy 'Down Under'

The Daily Telegraph in Australia reports that a government research report partly blames childhood obesity in that country on schools refusing to teach sport seriously. The report also reveals that 80 percent of Australia's elementary physical education teachers are not adequately skilled to teach PE classes, and nearly half of high school sports classes are too easy.

Just one in three students across primary and secondary schools were in the right “muscular fitness zone”. The research report recommends schools try harder to “employ specialist physical education teachers.” Lead researcher, Dr. Louise Harding, said the survey results are shocking and emphasize the urgent need for change. An Education Department spokesman said it is “working closely” with the Ministry of Health to reduce childhood obesity.

Australia has the fifth highest rate of obesity for people age 15 years and over.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Clinton Foundation -- Wanting Something For Nothing

Ten years ago, in November 2006 (just one month after I completed my solo run across America) I received an unsolicited letter from the Clinton Foundation -- yes, the foundation of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The letter congratulated me on my coast-to-coast run to keep a promise to a group of elementary children in Montana, as well as my efforts to promote youth fitness via a virtual run/walk across America curriculum I had created for Russell Elementary School.

Accompanying the letter from the Clinton Foundation was an Agreement, a very legal document asking me to please 'donate' the educational curriculum to the Clinton Foundation so that it could be further developed and used on a national scale. I had an attorney specializing in contracts look over the Agreement... and he just shook his head in disgust. The letter and agreement sought for me to give the foundation my curriculum out of the goodness of my heart and without any compensation whatsoever. As the letter indicated, the fact that the Clinton Foundation could get the curriculum spread across the U.S. should be satisfaction enough for me.

Suffice it to say, I rejected the Agreement and did not reply.

You see, in August 2006 -- when I was halfway through my run across America -- The Alliance for a Healthier Generation (a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association) announced the first grantees of its "Healthy Schools Program." It was an effort to address the root causes of childhood obesity and 202 schools from twelve states received hands-on assistance in assessing their current health environment, developing appropriate action plans, and implementing changes designed to make their environments healthier. The Clinton Foundation was focused on improving fitness levels in schools through various strategies.

So, where did my virtual run/walk across America curriculum come into play? The Clinton Foundation believed my curriculum could be a way to get children running and learning simultaneously -- which is precisely why I developed the curriculum. As the Russell Elementary students used my curriculum during the 2005-2006 school year, they learned about the 15 states they virtually ran across. Classroom teachers used elements of the run to devise math problems, enhance history lessons, and more. The Clinton Foundation wanted to obtain the curriculum for free, enhance it, wrap it up, and sell it to schools nationwide -- taking ownership and credit for it while telling me that I should be content with knowing my initial efforts were elaborated upon and applied to a much larger school audience. I just could not do that. Had they offered to pay me (even minimally) for the curriculum and invite me to be a part of the advisory board for the project, then perhaps I would have. However, that is not how I was approached.

In the 2006 Annual Report of the Clinton Foundation it shows that the total revenue for 2006 was over $132 Million. Yet, the Clinton Foundation wanted me to simply donate the curriculum I had worked so hard to develop, and which ultimately is what put into motion my solo run across America to keep a promise, to promote youth fitness, and to share the curriculum with teachers. It's not an exaggeration to say that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the curriculum I developed (not to mention miles!), but I was expected to simply donate it to the Clinton Foundation.

The curriculum remains with me and some schools that I have shared it with have successfully implemented it. In 2009 I created The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation and perhaps I will eventually work on getting the virtual run/walk across America curriculum out to a wider audience. However, I certainly was not going to donate it to the Clinton Foundation.

On the Clinton Foundation website it lists the following as one of the foundation's guiding principles: "There is always a way to be faster, leaner, and better." I think they forgot to include the words "and cheap."

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween In America... By The Numbers

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the TV classic It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I can't believe that I've been alive longer than Linus has been sitting in a pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin!

Today is Halloween and statisticians say that more than 171 million Americans will celebrate it this year, with 7 out of 10 consumers planning to hand out candy. Total U.S. Halloween spending in 2016 will reach $8.4 billion, with the average consumer planning to spend $82.93 on decorations, candy, costumes and more. It's projected that more than $2 Billion will be spent on Halloween candy this year in the United States.

The estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters (children age 5 to 14) across America is over 41 million. Of course, many other children -- older than 14 and younger than 5 -- also go trick-or-treating. A recent survey of over 40,000 Americans reveals the following as the most popular Halloween candy:

  • #1: Candy Corn
  • #2: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
  • #3: KitKat Bars
  • #4: Nestle Butterfinger

Most parents, 82 percent, use a variety of strategies to keep kids from going overboard on the Halloween treats. Many parents say that after letting kids indulge in some treats right after trick-or-treating, they limit their kids to a certain number of pieces each day or put the candy stash out of reach and out of sight. Then kids have to ask for it -- that is, if they remember that it's there!

Just 15% of parents say that they offer trick-or-treaters healthy non-candy alternatives, ranging from bags of pretzels to small toys like yo-yos. About 37% say that they offer toys and candy. Nearly half of all parents just give out candy. Whatever your plans are for Halloween, be safe out there! Research by the Safe Kids organization shows that on average, twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year. Also, only 18% of parents use reflective tape on their children's Halloween costumes.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Running From The Law

Seems like nearly every day you can open a newspaper or scan an online news feed to read about someone running from the law. However, have you heard about lawyers running from the law?

Matt Flaherty, Adam Campbell and Mike Wolfe -- ranging in age from 27 to 36 -- are all attorneys who quit law firms to pursue their passion of running ultramarathons. Each of them had a degree of success in running before quitting, enough to persuade them to train and race full time. That was back in 2012. By 2014, they had found that ultra-running wasn't the glamorous life they'd imagined.

Injuries, over-training, lack of reaching goals quickly, and more brought them into the reality of their decisions. They made ends meet through a combination of coaching, writing, consulting, sponsorships and prize money from races. A routine paycheck wasn't part of the ultra-running world. At least one of the attorneys admitted feeling self-imposed pressure to perform as a runner after quitting his law job.

Two of the three attorneys returned to law work, finding balance between the office and running. One let his credentials lapse and must now take the bar exam again if he wants to practice law. All three rolled the dice on leaving professional careers to try and become world-class ultra-marathon runners. None of the three reached the world class level.

A recent survey about the highest level of stress among professional industries in the United States and Canada found that legal professionals are the most stressed. Those in the legal industry are more stressed than those in technology, finance, marketing, human resources, accounting, administrative and financial services. The study states, "the research shows that for those in the legal profession, stress levels can be very high. In their roles, attorneys and legal support staff may not feel the same levels of freedom or creativity that professionals in other fields report."

However, that doesn't mean legal professionals are without positive moments in their daily work. The legal industry was ranked second in the interest employees had in their work. And, the legal profession was the third highest for "level of happiness." When it comes to happiness, those in the legal industry reported that feeling appreciated was most important to them, followed by pride in their organization and being treated with fairness and respect.

By the way, I work in the legal profession -- having been employed by law firms and the U.S. Federal Government. I have no plans to be running from the law!

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Extreme Athletes: Is Life Truly Worth Risking?

I'll admit that I have an adventurous spirit. Between 2006 and 2011 I ran thousands of miles across states and countries all alone, having nothing more than an 80-pound stroller of gear, food, water, and shelter in the form of a tent. During those years I endured such natural elements as painful hail storms; a 60mph sand storm; torrential flooding rains; sub-zero blizzard conditions causing hypothermia; and, 100+ degree relentless heat searing me to the pavement -- just to name a few.

In Germany, I jumped and hung from a guardrail 30 feet above trees in Bavaria to avoid being hit by a car on a snowy mountainside. In eastern Washington state I jumped from the shoulder of the road to keep from being struck by an inattentive driver traveling at 55mph. In the middle of the Mojave Desert I had only 12 ounces of water left to get me 40 miles to where I could replenish my water supply. And, there were many other life-threatening situations.

I would cover as much as 50 miles in a single day while having to push over half of my body weight. My ultra-endurance adventures caused intense blisters, toenail loss, tendinitis, two herniated disks in my back, dehydration, and more. I willingly planned and executed these solo journeys and documented them with pictures, videos, audios, and writings. Many have said that my ultra-running endeavors across America, Germany, Alaska, the Mojave Desert, and elsewhere were "extreme" and "risky." I agree with them.

So, the question that is commonly asked is: WHY?

Since I was a boy I've dreamed of doing adventurous things. When I was in elementary school I dreamed of being an astronaut. I was born during the decade of the "space race" (the 1960's) and during my elementary years in the 1970's astronauts were the most adventurous people around. As my abilities in running began to unfold in the mid-to-late 1970's, my mind began to wander to potential adventures as a runner. In the late 1970's runners were in the news for crossing America. In 1980, a young man by the name of Terry Fox was attempting a run across Canada... with his right leg being a prosthesis. It was that same year that Frank Giannino set the speed record for running across the United States, and I was only 15 years old. So, adventurous men and women were in the news and I was intrigued with their endeavors.

What makes someone want to take on an extreme undertaking, like running solo coast to coast across America? Over the years I've done some reading on the topic and have come to some conclusions.

There are people that have a strong need for achievement. In an article on the topic, Christopher Bergland wrote this in Psychology Today: "The need for achievement personality trait is characterized by an enduring and consistent concern with setting and meeting high standards of achievement. This need is influenced by internal drive for action (intrinsic motivation), and the pressure exerted by the expectations of others (extrinsic motivation)." I would agree with that, to a degree. I don't agree with his statement that it is an "enduring and consistent concern." I'm 51 years old and have accomplished many extreme running adventures. However, it has been over 5 years since I completed my solo run across the Mojave Desert and I don't feel a pressing need to plan and execute another extreme running challenge. Therefore, I do believe that extreme athletes can reach a point of satisfaction with their accomplishments and not have to endlessly seek extreme undertakings in order to try and fill some bottomless need for achievement.

There are those who take on extreme challenges to achieve a personal best, while there are others who are driven by a lust for fame and glory. My ultra-endurance endeavors have always been aimed at promoting youth health and fitness while consistently aiming to do my very best at ultra running. Fame and glory never came about, so it's a good thing I wasn't hoping for that. Pushing the mind and body to the absolute human limit is a rush for many extreme athletes and doing that can be like a drug. Some become addicted and can't wisely discern how far is too far. As a result, some pay the ultimate price -- dying while doing their extreme sport.

There are certainly those who have moments of experiencing the edge of death while 'pushing the edge of the envelope' in extreme sports. I believe that those who have mental flashes of family and friends during those edge-of-death moments need to truly re-evaluate why they are risking their life to go farther, higher or faster. What's a story of an extreme challenge if the adventurer isn't around to tell it? It's "history," not "his story." Having a lifetime of reaching for mileposts along the edge of a road can be endless and lonely. However, I've learned that reaching for memories with loved ones is far more satisfying than any expanse of land to be conquered on foot.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts (with friends and family by your side)!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CAUTION: Slow Children -- Especially American Kids!

A recent research study indicates that if all the children of the world competed in a race, the typical American child would finish next to dead last. Grant Tomkinson, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of North Dakota and an international researcher, says average American children rank as some of the least aerobically fit in the world.

His study, examining physical fitness among youth ages 9 to 17 in 50 countries, was published in September's British Journal of Sports Medicine. Tomkinson said the study defined aerobic fitness as the ability to engage in prolonged, exhaustive exercise, which he says is the best indicator of physical health.

Mr. Tomkinson says:
"Your fitness level is an important indicator of how healthy you are now and will be in the future. If you are generally unfit now then you are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life. While you can be fit in different ways, not all types of fitness relate well to health. The most important type of fitness for good health is aerobic fitness, which is your ability to exercise vigorously for a long time. I have long been fascinated by the question of whether today’s young people are fitter than their parents or grandparents were when they were young, and have spent the past decade or so gathering historical fitness data on over 75 million young people from 50 countries dating back to the mid-1800s trying to answer it. Using a systematic review strategy and novel mathematical techniques, my research was the first to conclusively show that young people’s aerobic fitness has declined worldwide since about 1975. Young people today are about 15 percent less aerobically fit than their parents were when they were young. And to make matters worse, it is likely that the largest declines have occurred in young people with low fitness."
Mr. Tomkinson earned a Bachelor of Sports Science degree from the University of New South Wales, and a Bachelor of Applied Science degree and a Doctorate in Human Movement from the University of South Australia. He is Chair of Active Healthy Kids Australia; the Asia-Pacific Lead for the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance; and, the Chief Lead Investigator on Australia’s Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Mr. Tomkinson joined the University of North Dakota in 2015 as a kinesiology professor.
Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Social Media & Online Tools Used By Today's Trans-Con Runners

I'm intrigued to see the increase in interest of taking on the challenge of running across America. It has been 10 years since I successfully ran solo coast to coast at the age of 41 and I was the only person during the summer of 2006 to attempt a solo crossing (and only one other person ran across the USA that year, using a support team -- Christian McEvoy, age 24). However, nowadays there can be a couple dozen or more people trying to run and/or walk across America each year, with several solo attempts and a few aiming to establish a new record for "fastest crossing on foot."

As I've watched the 'boom' in interest of walking and running across America during the past decade I've been truly amazed at how much of a worldwide audience can now be gained for those attempting the challenge. There are so many social media tools available today that were not around when I ran across ten years ago. For instance, here is a list of popular social media and online resources that are at the disposal of transcontinental crossers today that I didn't have the benefit of in 2006 for my 3,260-mile run across the country:
  • Facebook: It wasn't until autumn 2006 that Facebook became "public," allowing anyone 13 years of age or older with a valid e-mail address to sign up for an account. I was running into the Atlantic Ocean by then, completing my run across America.
  • Twitter: It wasn't launched until the latter half of 2006. I already had my eye on the finish line of my 15-state journey by the time Twitter came on the scene.
  • Instagram: It wasn't launched until 2010, 4 years after I finished my U.S. run.
  • Tumblr: It wasn't launched until February 2007, four months after I finished my U.S. crossing.
  • Google+: It wasn't launched until June 2011, five years after I completed my 6+ million steps from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
  • GoFundMe: It wasn't launched until 2010, four years after I completed my 2006 journey.
  • Strava: It wasn't launched until 2009, three years after I crossed America. Strava tracks physical activity (such as cycling and running) using GPS with results available online.
  • SPOT Satellite Messenger: It wasn't launched until 2007, the year after I ran across the country primarily using a flip phone and occasional payphones (for those of you who remember what those were). SPOT allows for online live tracking of individuals on the go.
  • YouTube: It officially launched in December 2005, just months before I began my run in 2006. However, it was a new concept and didn't have the popularity or viewership that it does today.

Many of these online sites and tools are now used by those attempting walks and runs across the United States. By leveraging these resources, crossers can gain a large audience in a relatively short amount of time. It's not necessary to have newspaper articles published or television news interviews broadcast in order to get a trans-con endeavor into the public eye. Now, runners and walkers use online resources in order to promote their crossings, raise money, and post pictures and videos with ease each day in order to provide a worldwide audience with a virtual window to see what is happening. Today, crossers share online posts, which increase viewership and creates even more momentum for spreading the word of a run or walk across the country. All of this came about after I did my run across America in 2006. The only online tool that I had was a website that I built myself to try and get some information online about my run.

Essentially, hardly anyone knows that I ran across America solo to keep a promise. I didn't seek media attention and few newspaper articles and television reports were done about my run. I honestly have no problem with that. In many ways, I liked crossing the country rather quietly. It wasn't about gaining attention, followers, "likes," or raising money. I didn't need all of the online resources that many crossers use today. I ran across America to keep a promise I had made to some elementary children, and to fulfill a life-long dream/goal I had in ultra-running. Ultimately, I succeeded and am quite satisfied with my 2006 run, even though the "world" doesn't know about it.

Ten years ago we didn't have the iPhones that are all around us today. When I ran across America in 2006 I had a flip phone, which didn't do much more than dial phone numbers. The iPhone wasn't introduced until the year after my USA run. Back then, in order to get pictures onto my website I would take photos and low-quality videos with my digital camera and then I would burn them to a CD using a portable CD burner I carried on my support stroller across America. I would then mail the CD to a friend and he would format the pictures and videos and put them onto the website. Nowadays, crossers can snap a picture or a video on their phone and post it online immediately to websites and social media for the world to see. Yes, there has been a lot of changes in ten years!

In recent years I've put many of my ultra-running videos onto YouTube so that people can view those, and of course I now have this blog (which I didn't have in 2006). So, there is information about my solo runs across states and countries online. However, when I ran across America during the summer of 2006 I didn't have all of the social media tools and other online resources that today's trans-con runners and walkers have at their disposal. Perhaps that is what is feeding this increased interest in crossing the country... more people are seeing crossers posting writings, pictures and videos online of their coast-to-coast endeavors. Whatever it is, I believe that interest in running and walking across America will continue to increase.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It Has Been 10 Years Since I Ran Into The Atlantic Ocean

Ten years ago today I completed the most challenging and demanding ultra-endurance run that I've ever done. On October 20, 2006 -- at the age of 41 -- I finished a 3,260-mile, 15-state, 108-day, 30-miles-per-day solo run across America while pushing an 80-pound jogging stroller of food, water and gear through the second hottest summer ever recorded in the United States.

I was apart from my four children (ages 6 to 13) for that entire summer and now my youngest child is only two months away from turning 17. He, and my three adult children, make me realize just how much has changed in the past 10 years. I did that coast-to-coast run to keep a promise I had made to some elementary children in Montana, and now my eldest daughter is an elementary teacher. Yes, a lot has changed since I ran into the Atlantic Ocean 10 years ago today.

Here are some of the words that I wrote the day that I finished my run across America on October 20, 2006:

Upon arriving at the ocean shore I was struck by a wave of various emotions all at once. There was relief for being done... pride in my accomplishment... praise to God for seeing me through... satisfaction of keeping my promise... joy for having loved ones there with me... and so much more. I dipped BOB's front wheel in the waves and then went into the water up to my knees, enjoying the moment of finally reaching this ocean I had aimed toward since June 23rd. There were people who had gathered to see my finish and I appreciate each and every one of them for coming out to see me and to say hello. There were many hugs, some tears of happiness, and a few shouts of joy. I've done it. I've conquered the entire United States.

What many thought was impossible for me to achieve has now been completed. This run across America is an accomplishment that I will always have. It is the pinnacle of my running career and was done for a positive reason -- to promote youth fitness through a promise I made to some fantastic students at Russell Elementary in Missoula, Montana. While the waves crashed over my legs today I felt waves of satisfaction flowing through me. I can't truly describe everything I'm feeling right now, but I can tell you that I have a tremendous sense of joy within me.

A couple of weeks after completing my run across America in 2006, I wrote the following words -- which sum up my feelings about that run between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean:

When my daughter, Ashlin, and I created the virtual Run/Walk Across America during the summer 2005 that the 4th and 5th graders successfully did at Russell Elementary School last year, I had no idea to what extent this project would impact my life... and the lives of others. When you embark on something of this magnitude, there is no way that you can come out on the other side of it without a change in your heart, outlook on life, and appreciation for the little things. My trek across America required over 6 million steps to get from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Crossing 15 states during the second hottest summer on record was certainly a demanding task, particularly when pushing a 80-pound stroller an average of 30 miles per day. I had to dig deep within myself to uncover strength and perseverance that I didn't know I had.

I went into the trek truly believing that I could accomplish it. I don't think that you can take on something like this unless you are fully committed to it and actually believe that you can complete it. Since my failed attempt to run across the country 20 years ago (in 1986), I've had to endure comments such as "You're crazy!"; "You'll never make it!"; "That's impossible!", and similar reactions. Even while on the trek this summer I was regularly hit with such comments, as well as having to endure occasional actions -- such as being forced off the road purposefully by drivers; having things thrown at me; and, being spit upon. Many people would not take a moment out of their day to try and understand what I was aiming to accomplish and why I was putting myself through this incredibly difficult task.

For many people, it was easier to simply dismiss me as some crazy guy pushing a stroller... perhaps an unemployed stranger without a foothold in reality... or a "Forrest Gump" wannabe. I had a thief try to steal from me, and others who purposefully tried to hinder my path. So many people shot me a look of skepticism, negativism, and sometimes just plain rudeness -- as though I was simply an obstacle or distraction on their way to work, the supermarket, or some other pressing destination. If they would have just taken a moment to listen, they would have learned that I'm a 41-year old father... an educated man with two Bachelor of Arts degrees and who operates a business... a man who truly enjoys encouraging kids and motivating them toward greater fitness... a man who was willing to put his life on hold to keep a promise to some kids... a man who accepted the risks of a solo journey in spite of the odds... a man who believed in his reason for running.

As is always the case, there are two sides to a story. I also met people who were willing to assist a complete stranger in fulfilling a promise... and realizing his dream of crossing the continent. People across America reached out to me with open hearts and open homes. They picked me up off the road at the end of a long day, and provided a place to shower, be fed, and sleep -- returning me to the road the next day. People went out of their way to help me succeed in this journey, and I honestly would not have made it to the Delaware coast without them. With each passing state I got a more clear picture of the heart in America's "heartland". Not everyone who took me in for an evening entirely understood this slim, tanned distance runner from Montana. However, the ones who took the time to help me were not judgmental and truly accommodated me in order to set me up for success. I'm truly in awe of the people I met along the route.

Some people would stop their vehicles because they were curious about my reason for running. Others would simply hand me money and say, "Keep Going!" On more than one occasion I had complete strangers pray for me, and offer exceptional words of encouragement. Somehow, the run seemed to impact more and more lives the further I got. It resonated with many people, and it seemed to inspire and motivate people in their personal lives. I never imagined that would happen. Most often in life it is when we are not looking for blessings that we are hit smack in the face with a blessing beyond measure. That happened to me during the journey. Yes, I've experienced both sides of humanity during the run across America... from the bad to the good. The reactions from people to what I was doing were as wide ranging as the countryside I crossed. I had to endure harsh words that sometimes hit me like needles, similar to the hard rains that I would have to endure on the road. However, I enjoyed the serenity of kindness bestowed upon me by strangers who would quickly become friends, and whose acts of kindness were more beautiful than the most picturesque sunrise I saw during the trek.

Several things came out of the run. First and foremost, I kept my promise to the Russell Elementary students. I also fulfilled a lifetime running dream and pushed myself beyond what I ever imagined I could endure. I grew closer to the Lord and gained a deeper appreciation for loved ones and the life I've been given. It's not possible to genuinely spend time with someone who is homeless beneath a highway overpass and not realize the blessings in your own life. To look into the eyes of a drifter -- who is hitchhiking his way to an unknown destination -- is to know that you're fortunate to have purpose and direction in life. To spend time in homes where unity is nonexistent, and where happiness seems to be as chipped and worn as the leaning picket fence outside, is to know that you can reflect unity and happiness in your own life in hopes of creating a ripple effect in this world. And that's really what this is about... a ripple effect. My 3,260-mile run across America should not be the end. Hopefully, there will be a ripple effect by those who were touched by the journey. That's my hope. Whether it be someone that I met along the way whose heart was positively impacted by my trek, or someone who simply heard about it through a local media story and thought "Perhaps I should do something to make a difference." You just never know what ripple effect your actions will have in this life.

I've received messages from some runners who have been "inspired" by my journey and are now planning on embarking on a trek of their own. It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... but that may be on a case-by-case basis. Nobody will ever be able to duplicate the true purpose and effort it took to make the run a success, and although there was no national news coverage about what the Russell Elementary students achieved, or the promise I kept, those of us who were touched by the run know... and that is what is truly important.

My trek across America was an experience I will always hold close to my heart. To stand under a star-filled sky at 3:00 a.m. in the plains of eastern Montana, miles from the nearest person, is something that is hard to describe. The serenity, silence and beauty truly makes you realize that there is something far greater than yourself. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, you cannot stand in such places as I have and not feel the presence of a greater power. To be completely alone on a road stretching off to the horizon and watch the sun come up as antelope graze nearby is something that is etched in the mind and soul forever. This journey was pounded into my heart and memory with each step I took. It is a part of me forever, and no amount of written words will adequately express all that I experienced and felt during the 108 days of crossing this great country.

I've had many people suggest that I write a book about my experiences, or that I develop and market the virtual Run/Walk Across America curriculum. Time will eventually unfold the post-run activities and undertakings, but for now I am enjoying a bit more 'normality' and am readjusting to a my life in Montana. I received an e-mail today from Scott Sehon, who ran across the U.S.A. with Dave Bronfenbrenner in 2003. Scott wrote,
"I'm 3 years removed from mine, and it all seems like a dream to me now. But if I'm ever having a down day, all I have to do is think about the trip and I'm able to smile. I hope that your run will be able to do the same for you. I realize that your emotions and feelings towards your run must be very, very different than mine were and still are. You were running solo (I can't even imagine that. I'd run across the country twice with someone else before even thinking of going solo - not out of fear for my safety, but out of fear of losing my mind!), and you had kids that you were away from. That must have been very tough... as you said it was on a number of occasions. Dave and I were single guys in our 20's, with nothing pulling on our heartstrings. So, all my blessings to you for keeping your promise to the students and completing your mission. As someone told us when Dave and I finished our run in Oregon, and I will now pass on to you: "Hey, you've run across the country, and no one can ever take that away from you."
I truly appreciate Scott's words... from one trans-con runner to another. The day will come when the vivid details of the run will fade a bit -- one of the pitfalls of time and aging. However, the pictures and videos I have from the trek will always be a reminder to me, and a story for my children and grandchildren to cherish in years to come.

I have become the 5th person to run solo and unsupported ocean to ocean across the United States. That's a distinction that I'm proud of because I know the complete effort it took to realize that goal. Based on the record-breaking heat of the summer, the very northerly mountainous route, and countless other factors, the chance of failure was significant. Heat illness, physical injury, and other barriers could have stopped the trek at any time. However, I was able to persevere and realize my dream. I hope that my run across America will stand as a testament to what can be achieved when a person develops his or her abilities and uses those abilities for a positive reason. I hope that kids will look at my journey with eyes open to imagination, and challenge their inner spirit to be the best that they can be. A body that is fit can take you on amazing adventures. We only have one body to carry us where we want to go, and fitness lessons need to be learned early. As many adults will attest to, fitness gets harder the older you get.

My run across the United States is now in the books. I've accomplished my goal and stayed true to the intent and purpose of the trek. I look back on the path I've traveled with great satisfaction, knowing that my footsteps were placed for a positive (and hopefully influential) reason. I thank all of you who have encouraged me through each step, and who have showed me that the act of a kind word or deed can be an incredible driving force to success. I thank God for blessing me with the vision for this project, and the ability to see it through to completion. To each and everyone of you who helped to bring this adventure from one coast to the other, I extend my sincere and heartfelt appreciation. It has been an incredible journey and one that will forever be a part of me. Thank you for joining me through these 3,260 mileposts. What a run... the run of a lifetime.

My entire journal from the 2006 run across America can be seen here.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.