Becoming the first woman to complete an unsupported transcontinental run is an accomplishment in its own right, but simultaneously raising more than $13,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America is quite another.
To honor Zoe Romano for her accomplishments, Mayor Nicholas Mavodones of Portland, Me., has declared June 3 as Zoe Goes Running Day. He will join her in a celebratory run to the downtown Boys and Girls Club where she'll receive a key to the city. http://portland.wcsh6.com/news/news/portland-high-grad-gets-key-city/66734
"Not only is the physical accomplishment of Zoe's coast to coast run amazing, but her commitment to the Boys and Girls Clubs is an inspiration," says Mayor Movodones. "It's only fitting that we join her for one final leg in her hometown. I just hope I can keep up."
Romano's journey began January 8 in Huntington Beach Ca., and for each of the following 119 days, she ran between 25 and 30 miles while pushing a 60-pound stroller filled with essentials. Unlike most cross-country runs, there was no car trailing behind carrying emergency equipment; no devoted fans flocking to run alongside this twenty-first century "Forrestina" Gump. Only occasionally would a lone runner join her for a single leg of her journey.
The recent University of Richmond graduate's appreciation for the Boys and Girls Club is not based on personal experience, but on her father's. He felt the club's mentors had helped him through some tough times while growing up. "He is a dedicated foosball player which he learned at the Boys and Girls Clubs, and he taught all of us to love it too," she says.
"By running across country, I want to show kids that by taking their first step, they can achieve their dreams, and have the adventure of a lifetime," Romano says.
Preparing for the trip took nearly six months. Her plan was to fly to Huntington Beach, Ca., dip her toes in the Pacific Ocean, then begin running toward home. She located destinations where she could find supplies and food, talked to other runners, and considered things like altitude that might make running difficult. Next, she contacted Boys and Girls Clubs she planned to visit along the way. By emailing friends, friends-of-friends and posting on www.couchsurfers.com, she secured lodging for 50 percent of the journey before she ever left Maine.
"My planning was made infinitely easier by the donation of a DeLorme hand-held GPS and satellite communicator," she says. "It held more maps then I could ever need, showed elevations, topographical information, weather and more. It also sent automatic messages to my parents' cell phones every hour to assure them I was all right, and would have sent an SOS if I had needed help."
Every state line she crossed became a milestone. New friends she met along the way, like Laurie Newberry from Haskell, Texas, were like icing on the cake. "She's like me," says Romano. "Once she gets an idea in her head, she's not going to stop. She ran a 30-mile stretch with me, even though she had never run that far before."
Roman's favorite part of her incredible journey was seeing the reactions of the B&G Club kids when she told them what she was doing. "At first, I could tell they didn't understand, so I would ask them to imagine that instead of getting up and going to school every day, they would get up and run. Their eyes would open wide, and I could tell they got it."
The Inside Track
Some clubs videoed her visits; almost all logged onto her blog (http://zoegoesrunning.wordpress.com). Students at Lyseth Elementary where she attended were avid readers too. "Teachers used my blog to teach math or geography based on my run," she says. She likely had some loyal fans at Portland, High School, her alma mater too.
Footraces with club members only added to the fun. So did the questions about what she had in her stroller (a sleeping bag, clean clothes, tent, extra sneakers, a journal, a collection of quotes from Outward Bound, and a book on a walk across America that she didn't read). "Everyone's run is personal," she says. "Every trip is unique. I didn't want to preconceive any experiences."
The Highs and the Lows
Since Romano has always been romanced by the silence of the road, she rarely had bouts of loneliness or was bored. She took in the scenery and listened to pod casts, particularly National Public Radio's Car Talk. "I hated that program when I was a kid," she admits, "but it makes me laugh now."
She was also assisted from afar by her parents and siblings who faxed ahead to police precincts, churches and Club personnel to look out for her. High points included her 80 host families - many of whom have become friends. "I visited a Texas vineyard where a family showed me how to harvest grapes, and I watched a calf being born. Another family shared their telescope and we spent the night looking at the stars."
There were also a few low points like pushing the fully-loaded stroller up a 9,000 foot peak and hanging on to it for dear life when she descended. Another came when all four tires on the stroller went flat as she crossed the desert. "Once someone showed me how to put on thorn guard, I had no problems," she says. Cities, too, were often hazardous due to traffic and uneven sidewalks. Her one injury was a pulled hamstring, the result of her 30-mile run followed by a soccer game with Club members.
Instead of a sitting in an easy chair with her feet up, Romano continues to run. She recently completed a 50-mile ultra-marathon, two hours faster than she anticipated and she wants to write a book about her adventures. "I'd like to inspire other kids to take that first step," she says. A portion of the proceeds will go to her favorite organization -- the Boys and Girls Clubs.