Before I get into anything (and I have a lot to write) I want to thank everyone for their encouragement, love and support! I can't begin to express how much it meant to me to know that there were people who cared about what we were doing. There are so many people to thank and I want to list them all but I am terrified of missing someone, which would make me feel terrible, so I will hope that you'll all know that every message, tweet, gesture, phone call, meal, place to stay, or donation (even though 9 times out of 10 we were successful in politely declining them, some people are terribly persistent :) were appreciated beyond words and if there was ever a time while we were out there that I didn't respond appropriately, please forgive me, I was probably really tired :) We never expected anything from anyone on this run, so people's generosity, love and support was humbling and inspiring and has changed me in profound ways.
Now for some stats.
Our journey from CA to NY ended up being 2,904 miles. We started at the HB pier in Huntington Beach and ended in Battery Park, NY at the ferry station. I didn't run around the ferry like I said I would. I figured I had earned a ferry ride and quite frankly, I would have looked stupid :) Besides, we could have taken a ferry from NJ and ended up with less miles, so I figured running the 13 miles through Manhattan more than made up for me getting to put my feet up the last 2 miles. AND I get to put "NY" on my leg.
Total running time 714 hours, 11 minutes.
Average pace was 14:41 minutes per mile (I was hoping for under 15!) with an average heart rate of 136.
Of the 2,904 miles, 2,336 were completed on the first part and 567 on the 2nd part.
We completed the run in 146 days (on the road) of which 125 days were running days for an average of 23.23 miles per running day.
Comparing the first part of the run to the 2nd:
I averaged 23.12 miles a running day the first 2,336
and 23.64 miles the last 567 miles (not bad considering, pushing the 100 pound baby jogger over the hills of Pennsylvania:)
According to my Garmin, I burned 532,509 calories. That's ALOT of beer!
Speaking of my Garmin, I tracked EVERY step with my Garmin Forerunner and when I post a picture like the one below, it feels great to know that the line represents GPS data that was gathered from the watch on my wrist. I could be very anal at times as I wanted to be able to zoom in on that line and see where my feet touched the ground all the way across the country. I am so happy to say that I was able to do that (except on the ferry:) and if anyone is interested, email me and I can send you the .GPX file. It's pretty cool to do a tour in Google Earth :)
So now that it is complete, what did it all mean? Or, as a friend of mine asked, "Why do you do this to yourself?" Good question and thank you for asking. I know that you specifically are asking why I abuse my body as you were commenting on a picture of my "Cankle".
But, it gives me a really good opportunity to talk about "why" I decided to do this in the first place. And through that, I hope to answer why I do this to myself.
I was asked many times on the run, why I was running across the country. It was always a hard question to answer and I always struggled with it. Even on the website I dance around the issue. I know that we could have done a much better job of conveying a more focused "mission statement" or "call to action" but somehow and for some reason, we could never package it in such a way. My hope was that somehow people would understand, by the things that I did say, why I was doing this. I know there were a lot of people who understood, but there were many people who weren't following the whole run and may not know why. I hope this will explain it. Now that I am done, perhaps this is the first time I feel the freedom to be completely honest. So, hopefully it's not too much of a drag to talk about. If it is, skip down a couple of paragraphs, it will get a lot more positive. And please understand, as I tell this, that I in no way think my problem is unique. I know that many people are struggling right now, many are much worse off than me, with this economy, and many are out of jobs or in a mortgage that is under water. Which makes it even more important that I tell it. So here goes.
Debt is not an easy thing to talk about. There is a stigma, or at least there used to be, to having a large debt and the stress of owing someone can be very difficult. That is why, with the exception of a few credit cards when I was young, I stayed out of consumer debt. I paid cash for everything and lived within my means. I've always had an independent spirit and always preferred freedom over security. This usually meant that I would prefer being freelance or "self employed" to working for someone. About 10 years ago, I took a big risk and went into debt to finance gear for a recording studio. I struggled for a couple of years but then through perseverance, spending most of my time honing my craft and lots of faith, I started getting some clients. I set up my studio at a Post facility, they had a good amount of work and my risk started to pay off. I paid my taxes but, due to bills, child support, etc. I wasn't making estimates. So, I would be behind and have make an installment agreement. I never missed a payment. But, still, I owed. It was small the first couple of years and it was manageable. But I had a couple of good years, right about the time that I paid off my gear. NO WRITE OFFS!!!! Uh oh! I still lived within my means, but was able to do a few extra things like rent an apartment and pay for my daughter to be in her dorm. Still, nothing extravagant, and no consumer debt. The first year it happened, it put me over the limit of a simple installment agreement and then the second year it became completely overwhelming and unmanageable. Of course, with a tax debt, you are paying interest and penalties and it can spiral out of control very quickly. Mine has "spiraled" to the tune of about $63,000.
Again, I do not say this to elicit a "Poor me" response. I am far from alone. I am just so analytical and anal that I spent so much time analyzing what went wrong and more importantly what is wrong with our system that it drove me to drastic measures. Why didn't I just "shut up" and pay what I "owe". Well, therein lies the crux of the matter. The income tax is based on what a person produces, not on what he consumes. If a person not only gets taxed more because he produces more, but gets taxed at a higher percentage, how could that NOT be a disincentive to produce? I realize that is a pretty broad argument and may fall apart to some degree when you are talking about people who make millions or perhaps billions of dollars. But, when you are comparing people who make $30,000 compared to $80,000 a year and punish the people who make more with a higher tax rate, to me that is the redistribution of wealth. Plain and simple.
Secondly, As anyone who is self employed knows, there is a "Self employment tax" which is the money you pay into Social Security, which is supposed to be for your own retirement. When you are self employed, you pay twice the amount that a person who is employed pays. To add insult to injury, if you owe back taxes, you now must pay interest on your "retirement fund". It is a wonder why anyone still has the stomach to be an entrepreneur in this country. And perhaps that is why so many can't make it. It begins to look awfully appealing to just get a job and be "safe" rather than take any sort of risk. I actually believe that that is what we are seeing in this country. People throwing up their hands and asking why? I believe this is a huge part of our problem. I have thought on occasion that I would be better off getting a low paying service industry job, then to try and pay off what I "owe". Can anyone see the problem with this? It is an unintended consequence of our system.
It's also worth mentioning the problem with "withholding". Most people work for an employer and have their taxes "withheld" from their checks every week. They never see their gross pay so they don't realize that the market will pay whatever they get paid before taxes. They never see that other money, so they never miss it. I have said it for a long time and am now hearing other people say it. If everyone got paid their gross pay and then were required to write a check for their taxes every paycheck, our income tax system would last about 1 week and there would be MANY more people in my situation. Perhaps that is why self employment is discouraged.
The taxes I am talking about is the Federal Income Tax. I want to make it clear that I understand that as a society, we have to pay for things. I want to pay my "fair share" and my belief is that my "fair share" should not be based on what I make. It should be based on what I consume or services that I use. If I go into a store, I am charged for what is in my basket. Can you imagine if your bill were not based on that, but based on your income? That is the income tax.
Our system is broken. Most of us know it. Our country is bankrupt. Even from the time that we started planning this run until now, things have gotten much worse. We are grasping at straws. There is moral hazard everywhere. Our debt has become so large, it almost doesn't mean anything anymore. It is frightening.
There are so many more political points I would like to make but this post would never end. Instead, I will answer the question that I was asked so many times. "Why are you running across the country?"
I originally ran because I was angry at my tax debt for all of the reasons above. I wanted to illustrate a point. If you punish the people who are willing to sacrifice everything, then, as Margaret Thatcher said "You eventually run out of other peoples money". No one will feel the incentive to produce. Everyone will take the "safe job".
That is the reason that I started the run. But as I made my way across the country, many things changed for me. I became less angry (and believe me, I was angry). I looked inside of myself and saw things I liked and things I didn't like. I talked about some of that in my last post. But mostly, I came to realize what really mattered in life. And that I can be angry at our politicians and let it poison me or I can try and change it. If our Government is truly of and by the people, then it is US that need to change.
I saw a beautiful country full of people that have become way too comfortable. We want everything easy. We want to watch other people live their lives on TV rather than go out and live our own. We need to start pushing our lawnmowers instead of sitting on them. We need to start producing more and consuming less. We need to stop looking to the Government to solve all of our problems. We need to take responsibility for ourselves. We all need to strive for something exceptional. We all need to dig down and remember when we had a dream and we need to do something to make it happen. There is nothing special about me. I have only been running for 5 years. I am an average runner at best. Too many people say "I couldn't do that". I am proof that you can do anything that you set your mind to. We need to regain the American spirit that once drove us to be pioneers and hope that we will be rewarded for it.
When I decided to stop in May, it was the most devastating decision I have ever had to make. I don't regret it because I learned more about myself during those 5 months than if I had tried to keep going. Going back out and finishing the run was always the plan but when it came time to do it, I was deathly afraid! I have to thank Chris and my parents from the bottom of my heart because if it hadn't been for them, I am not sure I would have gone back out there. This was the defining moment. And the point is, fear is normal. It is what you do with that fear and whether or not you let it rule you, that determines what you become.
So, what is next for me? Well, I have a bit of a tax debt that I will be working to pay off. Luckily I love what I do, so I will continue to work in sound. I want to start working on some music again and perhaps go out on some auditions for some acting gigs. Also, along the run, I developed a great love for photography. Being on foot gives you a unique perspective and I was able to take pictures in a way that is not practical from a car going 70 MPH down the interstate.
I plan to publish a coffee table book of my favorite shots from the run. I also plan on writing a book about the run that I hope will inspire people. There is so much more I want to say and haven't written about that I believe would be of interest. Like how I dealt with and eventually overcame my panic disorder after facing it head on in Tucumcari, NM. I'll continue to run, but perhaps some nice little short races for awhile :) I would like to do some things for charity. A fellow crosser Ashley Kumlien is planning a cross country relay for MSRuntheUS and another crosser and friend Jim McCord is planning a coast to coast charity relay in 2012. Chris is busy working on the Documentary, So, even though I believe we could have done more while we were out there to have a more coherent message, I pray that we have a shot at making a difference now that we are finished.
So, finally, to my friend that asked me "Why do you do this to yourself?" I say, it is because I always want to push myself. I always want to be the best I can be. I always want to strive for something better and magical! I want to live life to it's fullest! And I know that those things don't come unless you take risks. It may be uncomfortable, it may hurt, you may even fail, perhaps many times. But if you pick yourself back up and learn from your mistakes and keep going, you might actually make it. And it is liberating!