Thursday, June 23, 2016

10 Years Since My Solo Run Across America

Today marks 10 years since I began my solo 3,260-mile run across the United States. The 108-day journey was done to keep a promise I had made to some elementary students. In some ways, I can't believe that 10 years have already gone by. The memories of that run seem so fresh! I was 41 years old back in 2006 and had four children between the ages of 6 and 13. Now, my children are 16, 18, 21 and 23 -- my eldest being an elementary teacher. Being away from my children during the summer of 2006 as I crossed 15 states was the hardest part of that journey and I know that back then they were too young to truly understand why I was doing the run or the magnitude of the challenge. Why in the world would their Dad run 30 miles per day from Oregon to Delaware? They may still be scratching their heads about that one!

Life has presented me with many twists and turns in the road over the past 10 years. Most of my children are now adults and are blazing their own paths in life. I'm so proud of them. Since I completed the coast-to-coast run I have also run solo across Montana, Alaska, Germany, and the Mojave Desert -- promoting youth health and fitness with each stride. I've spoken to thousands of school children through assemblies, was inducted as the first European PTA Youth Ambassador, and given a special award from the Mayo Clinic for my efforts in combating childhood obesity in America. Unfortunately, along the path I was on the receiving end of divorce papers. That occurred several years ago and resulted in some people distancing themselves from me. I can only hope that in time some bridges will be mended.

Just like a journey run, there are peaks and valleys on life's road. Over the past five years since I completed my last adventure run (the Mojave Desert) I've experienced more 'valleys' than 'peaks.' However, life took a positive upturn last year and I'm experiencing more peaks than valleys these days. I have a challenging yet rewarding job and for the past year I've been in a positive, fulfilling relationship with someone that I love unconditionally and who genuinely returns love the same way. I've held onto my non-profit organization, The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, even though it has been sitting dormant since the Mojave Desert run in 2011. I've encouraged a few people who have reached out to me for advice with their own transcontinental running attempts and have done presentations as time and opportunities allow.

As this ten year anniversary of my run across America has been approaching, I've been reflecting back on my running career -- which began in 1975 when I was 10 years old. My running has taken me places that I never imagined my feet would carry me when I was a 5th grader running my first timed mile. I remember a day back then when I ran to the edge of our neighborhood and stopped (because my Mom told me that was the boundary). I looked down the road and imagined what it would be like to just keep going... and possibly run all the way across town. Well, that wide-eyed elementary student who was growing up during the "running boom" of the 70's got to run a lot farther than just across town!

At the age of 19 I wanted to run a marathon. I logged a lot of training miles, but was too broke to get to any marathon races. So, I jumped into my old VW Bug and drove 13.1 miles out from my college campus. I made a chalk line on the road, placed a bottle of water in the bushes, and drove back to campus. Then, I ran out to that chalk line and back again. I had completed my first "marathon." In 1986 I made my first attempt to run across America (sponsored by New Balance, Timex, Gatorade, and a company that was relatively new called "Oakley, Inc."), but I got injured early on and had to stop the run. That was 8 years before Forrest Gump ran across America on movie screens. In the past 4+ decades I've run enough miles to circle the globe a couple times. In so many ways, running has been a constant in my life... something to lean on, rely on, and something that would bring out the best in me. I guess you could say that running has been a significant factor in defining who I am.

So, here I am... 51 years old and the most content and focused that I've been since I ran 506 miles across the Mojave Desert in 17 days. I still have "BOB" (my "Beast Of Burden" support stroller) and have been focusing in on what I want to do with my running and with The PACE Fitness Foundation that I started many years ago. I have a pretty clear picture of where I want my footsteps to go and for what reason. For today, I'm content with reflecting back to June 23, 2006 and what a wonderful day that was. I took the first of what would be 6.2 million steps across America while pushing a stroller weighing over 60 pounds. Starting in front of "Haystack Rock" (a monolith) at Cannon Beach, Oregon was perfect. Friends and family were there to wish me well, and my four children ran the first 1/4 mile with me down the beach. Yes, the memories are still so vivid that it is hard to believe a decade has already passed.

Life is indeed a journey of twists and turns, valleys and peaks. I'm standing on the highest peak I've experienced in the past five years and the view is great. It's time to not only look to the horizon beyond the neighborhood, but to also run there. I hope you'll follow along via my writings and pictures in this blog. It's going to be quite 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.