Running with…The British Forrest Gump

FullSizeRender 13Thousands of people have climbed Everest, as little as three hundred people have run across America.

For a long time running a marathon was considered the pinnacle of endurance running, a sport populated by wierdoes, hippies and trail blazers. As it became more main stream, populated by clueless muppets like me these lone soles moved on to ultra-marathons, pushing themselves and their bodies further and further. Now finish lines aren’t enough, countries and continents are the new race track. Running across America is still considering one of the ultimate achievements. Everything can and will go against you; the terrain, the distance, your body, your mind, the traffic, the weather. You name it and it will throw up roadblocks.

In June, Paul Wheeler will be attempting this awe inspiring feat which he is aiming to complete in 4-5 months. As an ex-army man, Paul understands the sacrifice that goes into achieving. Since leaving the army has tried to control that urge to live a life unscheduled; he brought a house, got the 9-5 but the call of the unknown never dissipated and he eventually relented and began to plan. Unlike Forest Gump it’s not just a case of simply feeling like running the journey takes planning, training and a lot of motivation. I caught up with Paul as his deadline looms to see what it takes to get from San Francisco to New York on nothing but your feet.

What made you decide to run across America?

My initial idea was to run from Land’s End to John O’Groats but then I thought that if I was going to do something like that then I might as well go bigger and better! I have a friend who is currently in Nepal gearing up for a summit attempt on Everest in May and a few years ago he ran, solo and unsupported, across Australia and he suggested why not run across America? The rest is history.

What sort of support crew do you have with you?

I have no support crew or support vehicle, it is just literally me and the stroller! He has now been officially named as ‘Wheelson’, a spin on Wilson from one of my favourite films ‘Cast Away’. I’m sure that I will form a strange yet close relationship with him!

What will be your day to day running schedule be like?

I envisage my day roughly as follows – wake up, make some coffee and porridge, pack my tent and equipment away and then run! It really is as simple as that! I am hopeful of running 20 to 25 miles a day which I think is do-able, however, I am fully aware that I will have good and bad days, and when those bad days come, I will just take a days rest then carry on the following day. I’m not doing this to break any records, it doesn’t matter if I’m running 12 minute miles, the main thing is to keep going, keeping grinding and get across the country! I will try and find somewhere to have a hot meal in the evening but that all depends on where I end up of an evening, if I’m in the middle of nowhere then I’ll just have to knock up some coffee and noodles!

What are you most looking forward to and on the flip side what are you most worried about?

I can easily say, without doubt, the part that excites me most about this run is running through Utah. For years and years I’ve been fascinated by the landscapes and scenery throughout Utah, in particular Arches National Park. Running there will be a dream come true! In terms of what worries me, not a great deal to be honest but I am slightly worried about being hit by a vehicle when I am running through built up areas and near highways as I know this has happened a few times in the past with people trying this run.

What will keep you running when the road gets tough?

In terms of motivation, I guess I won’t really know until I’m out there and things start to get hard. What I will be aware of though is that although I am doing this as a personal adventure, I am also trying to raise some money for charity and I know that there will be people banking on me to complete it. During my 12 years in the British army I failed a course, I can still feel that pain, the hurt, the embarrassment, it’s a feeling that doesn’t fade or diminish, this run is something that WON’T beat me.

To keep up with Paul while he runs across a continent click here and follow him as I will be, every step of the way.

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