You can read my Mojave Desert adventure run journal here. The other day I read a May 2, 2011 journal entry I wrote the day after completing my 506-mile solo run across the Mojave Desert. I want to share that writing with you today.
This morning I woke up and realized that I don’t have to run today. As most of you know, P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 was wrapped up yesterday morning at 11:20 a.m. Pacific Time when I ran into Badwater Basin, Death Valley — the finish line. I had pounded my body for 17 days of running across the Mojave Desert, a journey of 506 miles with my 150-pound body (and less now!) pushing a 100-pound BOB stroller full of gear, water and food. I’m pleased with the 30-mile-per-day average I maintained and am actually thrilled that I was able to do 35 to 40 miles per day for several days through the Mojave National Preserve. That was incredibly challenging considering the high winds, sand roads, and overall remoteness.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’ve just made history with this solo, unsupported run across the Mojave Desert. I knew going into it that nobody had attempted a run from the Grand Canyon to Death Valley by going across the Mojave, but I wasn’t focused on becoming the first to do so. This run was very personal — in so many ways. I needed this challenge. Most of you know that I wrote a press release for this journey before starting. I never sent it to any media sources. I didn’t do any interviews and had no speaking engagements. I didn’t do any school assemblies along the way, and did not seek any attention during this run. P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 – Destination: Mojave Desert was not about getting attention. It was about an endurance quest to challenge myself in a way that I had never done before. It was part endurance, and part survival. It made me dig deep within myself to see if I could push myself past the boundaries of physical, mental, emotional and social abilities that I had become accustomed to during previous P.A.C.E. Treks (Alaska, Montana and Germany).
This run made me draw from so many past running experiences, and it had many personal spiritual elements as well. This was not "Man vs. Wild" the running version. This was about a runner trying to go beyond the limits he had grown comfortable with. Every now and then you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You have to look into your heart and determine if there are steps you should take that you've either been hesitant to or that you've been uncertain to because you can't see the outcome beforehand. Too often we live our lives in a zone of familiarity... a zone of comfortable existence. I believe it’s healthy and positive to have moments where you try to stretch yourself beyond what you are sure of in your everyday life. I did that through this P.A.C.E. Trek. I know more about myself and my abilities. I know more about what I want, what I can achieve, and what makes up the core being of Paul Staso.
I’m 46 years old and this wasn’t a journey for "self discovery." I know who I am, but I wanted to know what else I can become. I feel I’ve accomplished that through this run. So, does that mean the process is over? No, it should never be. As I said, I believe it is healthy and positive to have experiences like this in life. You can’t necessarily plan them. Often they come along as a prompting in your heart that you need to do it. That’s how this was for me.
I am always encouraging kids to set goals, run after those goals, and to persevere through to the finish. I hope that this run has been a live example of the words I share. I shared my experience through pictures, videos, audio files, journal writings, and even a live tracking tool so that kids could virtually come along with me... seeing and feeling some of what I was experiencing. I wanted to be very transparent on this P.A.C.E. Trek, yet once I was into it I decided to lean toward the side of less transparency due to the extreme nature of what I was doing. There was so much more that I could have shared through the P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 website. The pain was often intense -- bandaging my feet at the start of a new day; the agony of taking off my shoes at the end of the day and dealing with the latest damage; the tears of frustration, exhaustion and emotional turmoil as I tried to get myself and a 100+ pound stroller across the desert; and so much more.
Had a documentary been done about this particular journey run, it would have been very revealing about what happens when one person takes on such an endeavor. I’ve looked back at my pictures and videos and can see smiles that were not always genuine. I see enthusiasm at times when it was truly lacking in my strides. I see a man who wants to be a positive example to kids and display excitement and/or fun in the images but inside is feeling the total pain of what he’s doing. Yes, in some of the photos I feel as though I’m giving a false image. However, there are certainly many images that reflect my true feelings. There were moments that were incredibly wonderful and rewarding throughout the journey. I did have times of fun and at times felt like a big kid on an adventure. This is such a big, wonderful world we live on and there’s so much adventure right outside the door. I stepped outside and experienced that and I hope that there are some kids that watched and are now thinking about what they might aim for in their own lives.
I’ve had several people say that it would have been easier for me to run west to east (due to the jet stream) and that I would have had less headwinds to battle the entire way. Yes, I could have run from Badwater, Death Valley to the Grand Canyon. However, that was not the goal I set for myself. I created the toughest route I could... in the toughest direction. Of the 506 miles I ran there were only 20 miles of that done on interstate roads (and that was out of necessity). The other 486 miles was done on small secondary roads, like the old Route 66. Those roads often did not have a shoulder and had far less populations and services. It was a rather remote route that I ran, and the terrain was very challenging. I did that on purpose. I wanted a difficult challenge — one that many people told me could not be done, particularly in 17 running days.
Some told me before I began that there was a chance that I could die alone in the desert (heat stroke, rattlesnake bite, or some other terrible incident). I won’t deny that those thoughts crossed my mind. I actually had to arrive at the mental point of knowing that I could die while trying to run across the Mojave Desert alone. I knew that I was going to use all of my experience to avoid that, but there was certainly a chance that something terrible could happen. Yes, I went into the Mojave Desert prepared to die if that would be the result. Talk about stepping outside of your comfort zone! I can’t quite explain all of my thinking and reasoning that went into arriving at the point of deciding to run into the desert without a guarantee of coming out the other side alive. However, I knew well the risk I was taking and was at a point in my life where I needed to do this.
I persevered and accomplished the task. Yes, I became the first in doing so, but that’s not what I was running after. Sure, it’s a great feeling knowing that I just did something that hasn’t been done before by another solo runner, but my running means more to me than accolades or a title as being "the first." It will always be a run that I hold close to my heart and I’m sure that I’ll draw strength from the experience in future moments in my life.
From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso
- United States in 2006 (3,260 miles solo in 108 days at age 41)
- Montana in 2008 (620 miles solo in 20 days at age 43)
- Alaska in 2009 (500 miles solo in 18 days at age 44)
- Germany in 2010 (500 miles solo in 21 days at age 45)
- The Mojave Desert in 2011 (506 miles solo in 17 days at age 46)
- Various Photos From Mileposts Gone By
- Students Worldwide Who Ran With Me Virtually
- Roadside Sights From My Running Adventures
- Some Cycling Moments From The Past