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Brian Stark: USA Transcontinental Trail Runner

22 07 2009

As I mentioned in my previous posts, I’ve been reading the book, “Getting To The Point: In A Dozen Pairs of Shoes” by Brian Stark who did his 5,000-mile solo trail run for 238 days from March to November 2008 along the newly designed American Discovery Trail from Cape Henlopen, Delaware to Point Reyes, California.

Since the activity was a solo run, he did not have any support crew or pacer during the run. He just carried with him a 10-pound pack which included his water hydration system, making sure to run along the trails across America.

What I admire with this guy was that he really prepared for the said run. It took him one year to coordinate with the organizations that maintain the American Discovery Trail; compile at least 500 maps; arranged for logistics drop-off point in selected Post Offices of towns & cities along the way; created his personal website for the event; and saved $ 10,000 cash to finance his trip. He even arranged for his shoe sponsor making sure that a brand-new shoes as replacement would be picked-up in a pre-designated Post Office along the way. Even media outlets (newspapers, radio and TV) were coordinated and informed about his running event.

Brian Stark, in his daily runs along the trails, would be able to finish at least 30-40 miles and then look for a decent place to stay if a trail is located near a town or city at the end of the day. Sometimes, he would sleep in parks, Fire Stations, churches, schools, and in the homes of strangers who are willing to offer dinner & breakfast, bed and shower.

To update his website and reply to messages in his e-mail address, he would go to Public Libraries along the way to use their computer. The following excerpts was taken from a post from the Internet describing the feats of Brian Stark:

After driving back from the Boston Marathon, where his dad had run, Brian Stark, then 7, got out to use the bathroom during a stop for gas somewhere in Pennsylvania. No one took note, not even when Stark ran up and banged on the family van as it pulled away. “When my parents stopped for breakfast 300 miles away, they noticed I was missing,” he says. These days, Stark could have just kept running until he caught up with them. In 1998, he ran 4,800 miles across the country on the American Discovery Trail, which runs along America’s trails and back roads. It began in a sleet storm in Delaware and ended 238 days later at the Golden Gate Bridge — followed by a drive to L.A. and an appearance on “The Price Is Right.” “I won eight stuffed teddy bears and two trips, one to Hawaii, one to Canada,” says Stark, 36, who frequently pulls experiences from his trek while teaching gifted language arts at Corona Foothills Middle School in the Vail School District. And yes, he sometimes jogs to school, all 35 miles. “I have to get up at 1:30 a.m.,” says Stark, who is married and a father to two little girls, ages 2 and 3. He kept a journal while on his run and afterward wrote a book about the experience, “Getting to the Point: In a Dozen Pairs of Shoes.” “I picked out 12 pairs of running shoes and mailed them to 12 post offices 400 miles apart,” says Stark. When he arrived at each post office — each about three weeks apart — a new pair of shoes would be there to replace his worn-out ones. Along the way, local newspapers and TV stations chronicled his trek through their towns and CBS “Sunday Morning” broadcast a brief telephone interview. Sometimes he slept in motels. Other times he slept under bridges, in barns, even in outhouses. More than once, he’d just knock on a door. More often than not, he’d be invited in for a meal, and maybe a bed. Not once, he says, did anyone slam a door in his face. “No one ever threw anything at me, or tried to run me off the road.” Eight policemen, however, did inquire as to what he was doing, the first in Kansas. “I was sitting on a guardrail looking at a map and he pulled up in his squad car. He asked me what I was doing in the middle of Kansas without a car. I said, ‘I’m running to California.’ ” Even though he handed the cop a card explaining his circumstances, “He still checked me out.” Born in Indiana, Stark ran cross-country in middle school, continuing through high school and then at Hanover College in southern Indiana. After graduating in 1995, he rewarded himself with a five-month, 2,000-mile hike from Maine to Georgia along the Appalachian Trail. In Massachusetts, he met a man who hiked nude every Tuesday. Naturally, it was a Tuesday. Even so, Stark continued on. For the next three years, he lived as a caretaker in a primitive cabin in southern Indiana. “There was no running water and the only heat came from a fireplace,” he says. “After that, I thought I needed a break.” The “break,” of course, would be running across the country. “I’d never been west,” he says. A brother dropped him off at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the morning of March 8, 1998. It was 43 degrees and sleeting. Stark was carrying a 10-pound backpack filled with a sleeping bag, jacket, water bottle, cheese crackers, credit card, maps and “one Band-Aid, just in case.” As his brother rolled away, he cracked the window and told him to call if he wanted to quit. Stark never did, aiming to get to the Rocky Mountains after most of the snow had melted. He mostly ran and sometimes walked about 10 hours a day, trying to space it about 25 to 35 miles between towns. That proved impossible in Nevada, where the towns were more than 100 miles apart and he had 37 mountain ranges to cross.

In 2001, Stark did the Arizona Trail between Mexico and Utah in 39 days. In 2004, he ran across Iowa.

While reading this book, the following thoughts came to my mind:

1) Did Cesar Guarin of BOTAK come up with a book or a written account of his Run Across America in the 80s? I knew that he is one of the consultants of Joy Rojas and Mat Macabe during their planning preparation for the Takbong Pangarap Run Across America. A running experience as big as Running the Continental USA is worth to be printed in a book.

2) I thought of Joy Rojas and I tried to find out from the Internet if there is any word about the progress of her Takbong Pangarap. Since I could not see any information after she started her run in Eagle Rock, California almost 60 days ago, I posted the question in my Twitter as to where she is right now. Ben Gaetos had the initiative to answer my question by sending an e-mail to Joy Rojas and it led to Mat Macabe’s call to him.

3) Why did Joy Rojas thought of not creating a blog or website on her own instead of relying to the website of www.thepoc.net? After leaving Eagle Rock, California, POC had never updated her running activities. Being a news editor and news writer, she would have known the importance of the Internet in order to “journalize” her daily runs and let her readers know where she is and her daily experiences. In the book, Brian Stark would update his running journal in his website at the end of the day if he had an access to the Internet, if not, he would write his journal in a notebook and later wrote his updates whenever he had an access to the Internet. As compared now and the time when Brian Stark did his run across America’s trails, every town or city has its own public library with a computer, if not, there are so many Internet Cafes in every commercial establishment, even Motels now have Wi-Fi connections in every room with a very minimal additional cost. Access to the Internet right now is very common, cheap, and accessible. I am sure that every house in every big town or city has an Internet connection. Even cellphones nowadays have access to the Internet to include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

4) One of my readers made a comment in my post about Joy Rojas and he/she has doubts about her running adventure to the point that she is suspected to be riding and running along the way. There goes the another “controversy” again! The following is the comment from cutierunner about Joy Rojas’ run from Las Vegas, Nevada to Denver, Colorado:

i too wondered where she was after she reached las vegas on may 23 and then silence until she pops out in denver for the western union shindig on june 23/ is she running or riding part of the way? google maps say that from las vegas to denver is a good 844 miles / from reports she says she takes a break every six days that leaves her with only 25 running days going from the desert to the state with the highest mean elevation in my country/ that’s uphill all the way to Colorado (during a season when flash thunderstorms occur), at 30 miles a day which is more than a marathon a day, she would still be short by 94 miles, so she must do something like 20% more to be statistically in denver by the date/ To set records, it would have been better if she wore one of these tracker gps items available here so that we do not have to rely on the word of her trainer who i hear is her boyfriend anyway and guess whether she is actually running or riding part of the way – also strange is having a crew of one

(Note: In my previous post on the pictures of Joy Rojas, I did not notice if she is wearing a Garmin watch, have you?)

I strongly believe that Joy Rojas could also do ala-Brian Stark running adventure across America if she has the necessary preparations, contacts along the way, and updated information about her daily activities.

5) In one of the Ultrarunning Magazines that Rick Gaston gave me, I read about Dean Karnazes plan to run across America using the American Discovery Trail from San Francisco to the East Coast and it is presently on the “drawing boards”. I guess, this will be fully supported by sponsors, marketing stuffs, and good PR support. What I like about Brian Stark is that he did it on his own without any “gimmicks” or marketing stuffs and even without any crew or support and pacer along the way, most especially while he was running the winding roads and trails of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains reaching an altitude of 12,000 feet above sea level.

6) Brian Stark did not set a deadline for him to finish his run and he did not pressure himself to reach a designated place. He had to take a lot of rest for his body to recover during the early part of his run and as the days and weeks have passed, he became stronger. He would find time to visit museums, tourist attractions, historical places and even enjoy the food distinct to every place he stayed while recovering from his rigorous runs. This a good example of a running adventure where you have enough time to explore the places you are passing through by visiting their tourist attractions, museums, and other historical places. Hence, he was able to write a book with all the pictures and clippings of newspaper accounts on his run.

If you have plans of running a multi-stage/multi-day running adventure, Brian Stark and his book is a good inspiration and source of experiences and a guide to a successful running adventure. I am highly recommending every runner to read this book.

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6 responses

22 07 2009
jonnifer

I guess it is Joy and Mat alone who can answer the query of cutierunner.

In our techie world now, it is not enough to prove that you can run long distances but it is equally important to “document” or “substantiate” a run as long as what is being undertaken by Joy herself now. At any rate, best of luck and good health to Joy. Not too many people will truly understand what she is trying to accomplish now.

23 07 2009
eightdreams

mind boggling amazing feat…
i wonder where it ends?where the limits of one’s passion to achieve great things….

25 07 2009
cutierunner

i agree with baldrunner, if you want to claim a record of being the first of anything you have to be ready to back it up , her record keeping is suspiciously spotty- was she ever sponsored by any credible sports association there or here in my country for this run, i mean a third party would be more objective – because i find it strange that joy is not even posting the map or the route she is taking, is that asking too much or is that too top secret ?

28 07 2009
thepoc

Hi,

We also rely on Joy to provide us with information about the run. We’d set up a Twitter account and several other social networking accounts for her before she left so that she could micro-blog from wherever she was in the US, but she has not had the opportunity to update them. Emails have also been very sporadic. Perhaps there have been problems with access; we are also in the dark.

1 08 2009
jonnifer

At the end of the day, it is all a matter of evidence. However, that does not dilute the magnitude of what she is trying to accomplish. The respect is still there, no doubt. Few of us ultrarunners would probably go to such distance anyway.

9 08 2009
starkapopolis

Dear Jovie,

Thank you so much for your kind words and promotion of my story. Many times during that run and even still today, I feel that I was just a messenger for hundreds of strangers to connect and the message is still being delivered today, thanks to you.

Best Wishes and Many Happy Runs,

Brian Stark

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