Preparing for the run was as demanding and time-consuming as the run itself. Well, almost!
A trans-con run is a mighty project because there are so many factors involved. If you're planning such a run, you may like to download a pdf file:USA FACTSHEET. Click on the left to download. If you need Adobe Reader, click here first.
1. Physical Training
How does one train for a run across a continent? I was lucky to have Josh Salzmann to guide me through some of the areas I should focus on.
I tried to ease off a lot of running in my initial training, as I would be doing enough of that once I started! I tried to combine cardiovascular work with strength training. A mixture of cycling, swimming, running and gym exercises. The frequency and amount gradually increased as the run got closer.
What hampered me personally was trying to fit all this in with a heavy workload. To get through it all, I found that I had to be ruthlessly focused.
2. The Route
You may not know the precise route before you go, although you'll need to have a clear idea of the highways you'll head for and the towns you'll be passing through. Of course, the first decision is whether to run from west to east, as I did, or east to west.
3. Support Vehicle
Some people have done it solo (James Shapiro for one), but I elected to have a support vehicle with me. I wasn't used to barren deserts, and felt more assured knowing that there was a small haven a few miles down the road - away from the blistering heat.
I'd recommend a vehicle that's bigger than you really need. Ours, supposedly, was for six people. Even so, although there were only three of us, one had to sit down while the other two moved around. Imagine this for months on end!
So get the biggest vehicle you can afford. You'll appreciate the space. And air conditioning is a must.
4. Support Team
I decided to have two support drivers - Dave Boatman and Simon Clark. Apart from keeping each other company, I felt there would be more security with two.
Nick, Dave Boatman and Simon Clark
5. Food and Fuel
I underestimated the amount of fuel we'd need, not having reckoned on driving backwards and forwards each day looking for campsites and the like.
As far as food is concerned, it's worth buying in bulk if possible (e.g. water and canned foods). However, some things - fresh milk, bread, vegetables, fruit - have to be bought daily. And, in the middle of a 400 mile desert, that's not easy.
6. Route Mapping
On the one hand, the interstate is probably the shortest route. On the other hand, you can't run on interstates. Or, should I say, on most interstates.
It's worth checking with Highway Patrol, as there may well be certain parts of your route where you cannot avoid an interstate (like I-80 in Wyoming). In that instance, I was allowed to run on the interstate - but this was exceptional.
I guess the route you choose will give you a clue about the weather you can expect. Prior research will pay dividends. On a trans-con run the chances are that you will encounter every conceivable type of weather - rain, sun, heat, cold, wind, snow, tornadoes...you name it.
With the wind chill factor, the coldest weather I experienced was in Lake Tahoe. -12 degrees. The hottest was 115 degrees.
In view of the above, you'll need clothing for all weathers. Be prepared for layers too. On the Salt Flats in Utah, we experienced strong winds and driving cold rain. In Nebraska, we found no wind, a clear sky, a blazing sun and a temperature of 100 degrees.
9. What could go wrong
Think about making a "What if..." list. You can hope nothing on the list actually comes to pass, but it's a great confidence booster. And being stuck in the middle of nowhere is no place to wish you'd given more thought to what might happen.
10. Injuries and First Aid
Be prepared for blisters. Lots of them! Harden you feet any way you can before embarking on a run like this. And have a good first aid kit. Buy the best you can, and buy more than you think you'll need.
I chose west to east for two reasons:
(a) It felt like I was going home if I headed eastwards, so it helped keep me motivated.
(b) I reasoned it was better to have the sun on my back in the afternoon, not on my face.
For this kind of run, you really do need first class support and backup. Your team could be called upon to perform a wide range of roles - rescuing you from a flash flood in a violent thunderstorm, helping to plan the daily route in minute detail, being on hand with a desperately needed drink, talking with you, encouraging you to stop whining and "get out there".
Yeah, I’d recommend a support team.