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.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

Visit my YouTube channel --

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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!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

Visit my YouTube channel --

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

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.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

Visit my YouTube channel --

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

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.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

Visit my YouTube channel --

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

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 on 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.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

Visit my YouTube channel --

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

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.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

Visit my YouTube channel --

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Words Over 3,200 Miles In The Making

Ten years ago this evening I was sitting in a hotel room only 17 miles from finishing my 3,260-mile solo run across America. So much has happened in my life during the past 10 years. I've found my mind and heart looking back this week on the road I've traveled. In many ways, it has been far more difficult than pounding out over 6 million steps from one ocean to another.

On this day I'm looking back to what my heart was feeling ten years ago as I sat in that hotel room... literally hours from completing my biggest goal in running and fulfilling a promise I had made to a group of elementary school children.

I took a moment today to read again what I wrote on the evening of October 19, 2006 as tears of gratitude and relief ran down my face. I want to share those words with you:

"Before this run ends tomorrow, I want to express my deepest appreciation to each and every person who reached out a hand of assistance to me across this great nation. There were people of all ages, lifestyles, and beliefs who opened their hearts and homes to this adventure and made me feel very welcomed. Without their support, kind words, good meals, nice beds, and sometimes transporting me to and from my stop/start points, I would have never made it across America. I've seen the heart of this country in a unique and powerful way and have been deeply touched by so many people along my route.

I know that we turn on our televisions each day, or open the daily newspaper, and learn of sad and unfortunate events that occur in our world every hour, minute and second. However, I want to say that there are many good people in this country who put the "heart" into "heartland". I've been blessed to have encounter these people, learn from them, and be energized by their positive attitude. So, thank you to each and every one of you who have helped me get across America by welcoming me into your homes, lodges, hotels, and much more. All of you are a part of this successful journey, and each of you helped to fuel my heart and spirit.

Tomorrow I reach the beach! During the initial two-thirds of the run I would not let myself think about the finish. It was too far out and was something that I could not allow my mind to dwell on. It was crucial to focus on the day at hand, or the following day. During the last one-third of the trek I began to allow myself to think about the finish... what it would be like, how I would feel, what I would recall from the trek. Tomorrow it all comes together and I'm excited for the day to unfold. I have truly given this run all that I have.

My father signed the guestbook recently and stated that my journal entries have not completely shared the difficulties of this trek. Yes... I have made a physical and emotional sacrifice to do this. There has been pain, tears, blood, and a lot of sweat. I will need some healing time when I get home. I've tried to shield my children from learning about all of the tough things that their Dad had to endure on the road, and that's why my journal entries did not get into all of the painful details. However, I can assure you that this run required a tremendous effort.

Pushing an 80 pound jogging stroller of gear over the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, and through all the terrain in between has been demanding. There has been tendinitis along the way, muscle strains, plenty of blisters, loss of toenails, incredible fatigue, and so much more. I have pushed my body to the limit many times throughout this run, which was required to average 30 miles per day. I covered the 3,260 miles in approximately 108 running days since June 23, 2006. I took a total of 12 days off the road here and there during the journey, but in the final 1/4th of the run I ran about 900 miles through demanding terrain without taking one day off. This truly tested my strength and endurance, and I'm pleased with how I was able to persevere. Yes... this has been a very difficult solo trek across the United States. I don't share that to try and gain admirers or to appear arrogant. I share that as a basic fact of my journey. Take the information for just that... facts about this coast to coast experience.

Tomorrow I fulfill my promise to last year's 4th and 5th grade students at Russell Elementary School. It was a promise I made to encourage them toward success in their own virtual journey across America. They succeeded and put me onto America's highways. I'm so glad that I will succeed also and soon I'll be able to share details about this journey with them. They inspired me and as a result I was able to run across America and hopefully inspire others. I spoke to many children as I crossed the continent, as well as adults, and I hope that my steps made a difference in the lives of those who came in contact with this run. I look forward to sharing with you tomorrow's happenings. It will certainly be a day I'll never forget.

Too often in life we let our dreams drift away from us. Sometimes we stop pursuing the goals we have and give in to the words of those around us who may be saying, "You can't do it"... "You'll never make it"... "It's not possible." For 20 years I've dreamed of running across the United States. Tomorrow my dream will become a reality, and the voices that have tried to hold me back will be silenced. Never give up on your dreams. Use the abilities you have and run with them. Make a positive impact in this world... an impact that may have a ripple effect that will touch lives far beyond your reach. I've learned about the power of dreams, of endurance, of desire, of commitment, and about the kindness that people can extend when they want to see something succeed. My heart has changed since it was on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and I have gained more from this experience than I ever imagined. God is good and has seen me through."

Those are the words I wrote ten years ago this evening. I remember it all just like it was yesterday. My parents sent me messages just before I finished that coast-to-coast run and I've always appreciated their kind and loving words. This is what they wrote in my online guestbook:
Over the past 4 months, many people have referred to you as "Running Man," "Marathon Man," and even "Iron Man!" But I am most fortunate of all. I am proud and honored to call you "Son." As I knew you would -- you have kept your promise to the kids at Russell Elementary. You have been a shining example to them as well. My hope is that other adults in this country will join in, and continue the quest to promote health and physical fitness for children everywhere. They are our future and they need to be strong. May God keep you in his care now, and always. Now... on to the finish, and be sure to savor every minute of it. You will be in my heart, and on my mind, with every step. I love you Paul. ~ Mom 
Well your tremendous journey is almost over. It truly has been a remarkable achievement. Of course neither your Mom nor I had any doubt that you would finish what you started. We knew that the only way you would abort the run would be due to an unexpected injury or someone doing something foolish that would cause problems. Of course, as we read your guestbook entries each day and saw how many people were praying for you we began to feel that you were being watched over all along the way. As a lot of folks have written, your daily journals have been great and a lot of fun to follow; however, as your Mom and I spoke with you every day along the way (that you had phone coverage) we know that this journey was a lot tougher than you let on. It has really been a remarkable achievement. Tomorrow take it easy going the last couple of miles and enjoy every minute of it. Love ya Paul. ~ Dad
I was blessed to be able to run across the United States and pray that my four grown children will always pursue their goals and dreams with every ounce of strength, determination and passion that they can summon. It took me 20 years to finally achieve my dream of running across America. Never put a time limit on a dream! If it burns in your heart like an unquenchable fire, chase it down and don't quit. Trust me... it will be worth the road to be traveled.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Genius of Ultrarunning

David Blaikie is a former journalist; athletics historian and statistician. He is the founding member of the Association of Road Racing Statisticians and former President of the Association of Canadian Ultrarunners. Many years ago he wrote the words which appear below. I've always appreciated his perspective on the sport of ultrarunning and believe there is much wisdom in what he writes.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"Competing With God" -- Training For Ultimate Athletic Success

Some of you who have followed my running adventures over the years know that in 1990 I wrote a book for athletes titled Competing With God. I dedicated two summers to writing it while I was a fifth grade teacher and high school track coach at a private Christian school.

I've used my book while coaching high school athletes and have also applied it to my own athletic performances. For the past 26 years its been unpublished and it has always been my intention to one day have it on bookshelves.

I'm pleased to say that I finally have solid direction on accomplishing my goal and -- similar to a running race -- I see the course that remains to the finish line. This journey toward publishing my book has certainly been an ultra-marathon and not a sprint!

The book is designed to be used by an individual athlete, a small group of athletes, or by an entire team. Its aim is to give athletes biblical principles to apply in their athletic lives so that they can experience the ultimate joy and success that comes from competing with God as their ultimate teammate. Based on my experiences as both an athlete and coach, I believe Competing With God is beneficial for any athlete -- regardless of ability or level of competition. The chapters are titled as follows:

  • A Lifelong Teammate
  • Your Team Counselor
  • Your Greatest Opponent
  • Listening With The Heart
  • Goals, Dreams and Unbelievable Extremes
  • "I Must Be Out Of My Mind!"
  • Chasing After The Wind
  • "Encouragement" -- Helping To Set The Course
  • "God's Your Coach -- I'm Just The Assistant"
  • Caretaker Of The Temple
  • Temple Visitors: Welcomed Guests or Intruders?
  • Breaking The Tape
  • Themes For Thought

At the conclusion of each chapter is a section titled "On Your Mark. Get Set. GO!" This is an extremely important part of the book in that the reader has an opportunity to study God's Word and to put some thought, or discussion, into the material that was presented in the preceding chapter. Here is how the sections are organized:

  • "On Your Mark" -- In this section the reader will get into the Bible. The New International Version (NIV) scripture references chosen correspond with the material read in the chapter. The reader is encouraged to 'mark' his or her Bible by highlighting verses that are noted in Competing With God.
  • "Get Set" -- This section is designed for the reader to think about, discuss and pray through the truths revealed in the chapter so that they can 'get set' to compete with God as their ultimate teammate. Various questions are presented to deepen thought and to help the reader discern how to apply to his or her athletic life the biblical truths presented.
  • "GO!" -- This section is a closing thought of encouragement as the reader goes out to compete with God as his or her ultimate teammate.

By the way, in recent years the NIV Bible has been the top-selling Bible translation. Although the King James Version (KJV) is arguably the most accurate word-for-word translation, the NIV ranks as the best Bible for balance (between word-for-word and thought-for thought) by using clear, direct modern English which makes it easy to read and understand. All of the verses cited in Competing With God are from the NIV.

The course that I am now on to have the book published will include its registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. I will begin with paperback copies and see how interest in the book goes before considering the addition of a hardcover format. The publishing company will make the book available through as well as the Barnes & Noble online bookstore. It will also be listed in the "Books In Print" database and may be picked up by other resellers via Ingram and Baker & Taylor -- the two leading book wholesalers in the United States. In addition to the paperback format, an e-book of Competing With God will also be available for purchase.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Monday, October 3, 2016

The "Five Second Rule" is a Myth!

We've all heard of the "Five Second Rule." It applies to picking up a piece of food within five seconds of dropping it in order to still be able to eat it without germs. Researchers at Rutgers University now tell us that there's 2,560 reasons to ignore that myth once and for all.

The researchers disproved the five second rule 2,560 times. They dropped different food types onto dirty surfaces. In less than one second, some foods were already covered in enough germs to make you sick. Moist foods were the worst and foods dropped on carpet only fared slightly better than foods dropped on hard surfaces.

The findings appear online in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The researchers tested four surfaces – stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood and carpet – and different foods. They also looked at four different contact times – less than one second, five, 30 and 300 seconds.

The study concluded that the transfer of bacteria from surfaces to food appears to be affected most by moisture. Essentially, the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer. Also, longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food.

So, while research demonstrates that the five-second rule is “real” in the sense that longer contact time results in more bacterial transfer, it also shows other factors, including the nature of the food and the surface it falls on, are of equal or greater importance.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Vision Zero -- Reducing Pedestrian, Bicyclist and Motorist Deaths

In 2012, a 20-year-old college student was struck and killed by a car in Indiana during his attempt to walk across America.

In 2013, a 48-year-old man was struck and killed in Utah by a truck during his attempt to walk across America. He was married and had children.

As I ran across America solo in 2006 (primarily on secondary highways), there were seven instances when I had to jump into a ditch to avoid being hit by an inattentive driver. Had I not been paying attention and been more alert than the driver, I could have easily been killed since all of the instances occurred on roadways where the speed limit was 45mph or greater. After each close call I was incredibly grateful to be alive. My four children were between the ages of 6 and 13 when I did that run. I didn't want them to lose their father. I was always facing traffic (as most local and state laws require of pedestrians), had highly visible colors during the day and lights in darker hours, and was on roadways where pedestrians are allowed.

It's a sad statistic that more than 4,500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year in America, and another 68,000 walkers on average are injured every year by vehicles. According to the World Health Organization, internationally there are more than 270,000 people killed every year while walking.

Campaigns to reduce pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist deaths to zero are now taking shape across America – from Philadelphia to Chicago to Oregon.

This new safety strategy, called Vision Zero, is modeled on successful efforts in Sweden where overall traffic deaths have been cut in half since 2000 – making Swedish streets the safest in the world, according to the New York Times. Pedestrian deaths in Sweden have also plunged 50 percent since 2009.

Reports show that Sweden accomplished all of this by emphasizing safety over speed in road design. Improved crosswalks, lowering urban speed limits, pedestrian zones, barriers separating cars from bikes and pedestrians, and narrowing streets have all contributed to the impressive drop in traffic deaths.

According to the Vision Zero Initiative, Sweden takes a far different approach than conventional transportation planning, where road users are held responsible for their own safety. Swedish policy by contrast believes that to save lives, roads must anticipate driver, bicyclist and walker errors based on the simple fact that we are human and we make mistakes. This is similar to the Netherlands’ policy of "Forgiving Roads," which has reduced traffic fatalities by 75 percent since the 1970s, compared to less than a 20 percent reduction in the United States over the same period.

Three states in America that adopted aggressive measures to cut traffic deaths similar to Vision Zero – Utah, Minnesota and Washington – all have seen traffic fatalities decline by 40 percent or more, 25 percent better than the national average.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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