Averaging 30 miles a day, Staso trekked along, pushing all of his gear, water and food in an Ironman jogging stroller. His route took him through 15 states, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland (and Washington D.C.) and Delaware.
The purpose of the trek, known as "P.A.C.E. Run 2006," (Promoting Active Children Everywhere) was to encourage youngsters to be more active and healthy. It all began with a determined effort by 97 students at Russell Elementary School in Missoula, where Paul's wife, Vicki, teaches Physical Education. Back in June of 2005, Paul and his 11-year-old daughter came up with the idea to have the 4th and 5th grade students at her school do a virtual trek across America by adding their combined walking and running mileage in P.E. class.
Paul loved the idea of getting the kids enthused about fitness. To further motivate them to reach their goal, Staso promised the students that he would begin his coast-to-coast journey on foot if either class could reach their running/walking goal within one school year.
Paul watched both classes finish the challenge within the year. This was his signal to start running.
On June 23, 2006, the 41-year-old Montanan set out on his adventure. He had trained long and hard for the trans-continental crossing. "While the kids were running in P.E. class, I was preparing through the seasons of Montana," he said. "When I saw the kids running outside in the snow and zero degree weather, I knew that they were truly determined to put me onto America's highways."
Staso began his trek with experience in ultra-endurance running. 1986 was the year he first attempted a run across America, but that journey ended with an injury.
This summer's attempt was much more successful. Through the many obstacles along the way: the grueling leg over the Northern Rocky Mountains, the segment across the steep Appalachian Mountain range and all throughout the second hottest summer ever recorded in U.S. history, Staso kept running with his 65-pound jogging stroller.
The stroller carried a maximum of two and a half gallons of water, food, tent, sleeping bag, solar panel (for charging his GPS, satellite phone, and cell phone) and other essentials. The route was carefully planned before the journey began and some of Staso's friends in Missoula arranged lodging for him. "I stayed in homes, hotels, motorhomes and a variety of places," he said. "In fact, I never had to use my tent at all."
As much practice and support as he had, the run was still quite an experiment for Paul. "By what I understand, my solo run across America followed the most northerly route ever taken by a trans-con runner," Staso said. "With the record-breaking heat and the desolate locations in many areas leading up to Minnesota, it was a huge mental and physical challenge."
But Paul did not lose sight of his purpose on the journey. Through the trek, he wanted to increase awareness in children about the importance of health and fitness, and to encourage schools to implement a virtual run/walk across America curriculum.
So as he crossed the country, he spoke with students, athletes, teachers, running clubs and others about the purpose of his journey and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. "My aim was to show what a promise looks like in action; what it means to be fully committed to something; and, to encourage kids across the nation toward greater health and fitness," Staso said. "If you take care of your body, it can take you on some wonderful adventures."
Paul is soon to run a 610-mile trek across Montana. Learn more about his adventure here.
Paul is available for presentations at schools and other places where a message about his trek and the importance of youth health and fitness is appropriate.
For details, pictures and daily journal entries about Paul's trek, visit www.pacerun.com .
To learn more about the students' virtual trek across America, visit www.seeusrun.com .