Paul attempted the world record for the run across America in 1986 (called
Trans-America '86), he had numerous corporate sponsors and a
support crew which included a pace vehicle, a motor home, and
bicyclists. However, the 2006 attempt (20 years later) was not as complex or logistically stressful.
Paul's 2006 run was a solo, unsupported trek
across the United States – coast to coast. The purpose was to keep a
promise to children... not to establish a world record. He pushed his
required gear in a three-wheel stroller. This was not a new approach to
crossing the continent on foot, but most believe it to be the most
demanding – both physically and emotionally.
Who Went Before Him...
Eight years after Paul's
first attempt to run across America in 1986, Forrest Gump (portrayed by actor Tom Hanks) ran
coast-to-coast across the
U.S.A. on movie screens in 1994. Since then, thoughts about running across America have become more popular
with people both within the U.S.A. and from overseas – even though crossing the continent
on foot dates back to a trek by Edward Payson Weston in 1909 from New York City to
San Francisco, as well as other crossings,
Derby Races" held in 1928 and 1929 between Los Angeles and
New York. Historically, only about a dozen people (including Paul) have
run ocean to ocean across a trans-America route solo without "support" of any
kind (such as
a motor home or bicyclist for assistance). Compare
that to over 450,000 people who ran a marathon (26.2 miles) in the
United States last year, or the roughly 3,000 people who have ever
successfully climbed Mt. Everest. The run across America remains a demanding endeavor
that is still as unique and challenging as when Weston accomplished the
first U.S.A. crossing in 1909.
to Paul's successful solo coast-to-coast crossing, there were four other solo and
unsupported ocean-to-ocean runners across the United States. Those
individuals are: Brian Stark (1998; USA citizen; 20 miles per day; Delaware to California); Rune Larsson
(2004; Sweden citizen; 38 miles per day;
California to New Jersey); John Wallace, III
(2005; USA citizen;
31 miles per day; Washington to Georgia); and, Jonathan Williams
(2005; USA citizen; 26 miles per day; California to Rhode
Island). Although there are others who have done
crossings of multiple states, there is a very small group of individuals
who have actually run from one ocean's edge to the waves of another
ocean all alone. Paul is now a part of that select group.
Paul began his run in June 2006, there were 5 other people who
had planned a run across America for that summer. Each of the other
runners were from different parts of the United States and ranged in age from 25 to 59 (Paul
Paul's endeavor was the only solo, unsupported run
across America during the summer of 2006 and he was the first one to
finish a crossing of the U.S.A. that year. The other runners had organized their
attempts to include support crews,
accompanying vehicles, and/or bicyclists – and several stopped their
long before the finish line for one reason or another. Each runner planning to cross the
continent has his own reason for taking on the challenge. Paul's reason
was to fulfill a
promise to the students. He was fortunate to avoid serious
injury and was able to persevere through the second hottest summer ever
recorded in the United States.
aimed to complete his trek in 108 running days by averaging 30 miles per day
a few days off. This allowed for occasional rest breaks and for him to effectively
document his trek. Paul
became the first person from the state of
Montana to complete a run across America, and he completed the most
northerly route ever taken by a coast-to-coast runner. Also, this site is the most documented solo
U.S.A. run on the Internet.
Man, One Stroller, One Goal...
Paul's stroller of gear contained the essentials, such as a tent, sleeping bag, clothing, shoes, food/water,
and more. The stroller was equipped with a small, waterproof Brunton Solar Panel (10 ounces, 12"x40" open) that has a
maximum output of 9 watts (15.4 volts). It was used to power his few electronic gadgets
(GPS, cell and satellite phones, iPod). Paul's satellite phone and service
was donated by Spirit Wireless in Portland, Oregon. It was a Globalstar GSP-1600
Handheld Tri-Mode Satellite Phone and ensured that he had
communication at all locations along his U.S.A. route.
Ironman Sport Utility Stroller (which weighed 20 pounds when empty) was sponsored by Bob Trailers, Inc.
ideal for the trek. Paul did not modify the stroller from its "out-of-the-box"
form. Only essential equipment had been added to it (i.e. GPS, solar
panel, etc.). In times of rain, the stroller had a fitted rain shield
that could be easily attached to keep all items in the stroller dry. It
was outfitted with lights
in the front and back and had small U.S. flags on both sides. Paul called
his stroller "BOB" because the company's original name was "Beast
of Burden Trailers". The company changed its name to "BOB
Trailers, Inc." because BOB was easier to spell and
simple. So, when Paul refers to "BOB"... he's talking about the
had a Magellan Explorist GPS unit
(5 oz.) to assist in guiding him along his
route across America, and he had a NRS duffel
(12"x24", 44 liters) to store his gear (which fit perfectly into the seat of the stroller). A Dura Soft Cooler
which had temperature-reflective Mylar and closed-cell foam insulation
(14"x9"x10", 15 qt.). The stroller also carried two CamelBak UnBottle water reservoirs, with
each one having a capacity of 100 ounces. Each CamelBak was equipped with
a thermal control kit. He also had separate containers for
Gatorade. At maximum, the stroller was equipped to carry 250 ounces of liquid
(or 2 gallons) - which equates to 16 pounds. In many
locations Paul did not need to carry that much water due to its frequent
availability. However, there were some portions of the route where towns
and adequate water sources were unavailable. To make certain that the
water he drank was as pure as possible, a Katadyn Water Filter system (11 oz.,
height = 6½") was used as needed. The amount of food carried on the stroller
was based upon its availability in upcoming towns. He supplemented his diet with vitamin "UltraPaks" from Road
was sought from
family, friends and relatives who lived along the route... as well as friends of
friends and relatives. Teachers, coaches, and
others were asked to provide Paul an
evening roof when possible, and an occasional hotel was scheduled. Paul
never had to use his tent, thanks to the lodging coordination efforts of
Diana Sontag and Stacey Rossmiller. He traveled an average
of 30 miles per day (210 miles per week) and spent an average of
8 to 10 hours each day on the road, depending on the daily distance to
be conquered. Paul covered distances up to 48 miles in a single day. He
burned an average of 5,000 calories daily as he pushed the 80-pound
stroller of gear. The temperatures along the 3,260-mile route ranged
from a high of 105 degrees to as low as 34 degrees at night. Paul
focused on logging most of his mileage during the cooler part of each
day, beginning his day at around 6:00 am. He covered the same
non-interstate, 15-state route that the students did during their
and dodged teeth-baring dogs, inattentive drivers, rattlesnakes, tornadoes,
This Guy Crazy?
was Paul crazy for
Joan Duda, professor of sports psychology at Birmingham
University, commented about the perseverance and focus of those who decide
to run across a continent. She says that there are many reasons
why people choose to take part in such demanding endurance endeavors.
"There is not just one motivation. Folks who do this see it as a demanding
goal – like climbing a mountain – that will test all of their limits,"
she says. "But the training and preparation is a big part of the
fascination, and everything that goes into it." There were many
motivating factors for Paul, but fulfilling his promise to the students and seeing kids take a greater interest in
fitness and personal health/nutrition were certainly of primary
1985, Paul announced his plan to run across the United States during
September and October of 1986. Although that attempt was unfortunately unsuccessful,
he had always considered a coast-to-coast trek as
the ultimate running challenge. For over 20 years he had
received every kind of reaction and comment imaginable to his desire to
run across the United States. Some people looked at the goal with a
skeptical or negative attitude – refusing to let their mind broaden
enough to learn about ultra-marathon running and the persevering ability
of the human body and mind. Others, however, were encouraging and supportive
– allowing their imagination to grab onto the idea and ponder the
possibility of success. Over the 20 years leading up to his 2006 run, Paul had been confronted
with countless discussions (both positive and negative) about his goal.
Ultimately, his run in 2006 was centered around his own personal
running abilities, knowledge of ultra-marathoning, personal faith, and
his determination to begin at one ocean and end at another. He was focused on the task... not to prove a point, but to fulfill
a promise he had made to
the students at Russell Elementary School.
This was indeed a promise run, and a promise can be
a very powerful thing.
"... Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its
supreme lack of utility.
It makes no sense in a world of space ships and
supercomputers to run vast distances on foot.
There is no money in it
and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers.
But as poets,
apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time,
more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this
And they know something else that is lost on the
sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone,
that the doors
to the spirit will swing open with physical effort.
In running such long
and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their
-- a call that asks who they are ..."
- David Blaikie
Former journalist; Athletics Historian and Statistician.
Founding Member of the Association of Road Racing Statisticians.
Former President of the Association of Canadian Ultrarunners.