Day 1 (May 1, 2000):
The “Journey Begins” – 53.3 Miles
I woke up at my typical 5:30 AM time after a night of restless sleep. There were so many conflicting thoughts. My state-of-mind was going back-and-forth between excitement and a desire to get-it-on, and anxiety and creeping self-doubt about how-in-the-world was I to handle the extensive “unknown” I was about to enter into. For the most part, though I was able to get through the night.
Once awake, I set myself into a mindset where I focused just on what I needed to do in small 1-to-5-minute time frames in order to calm the nearly paralyzing sense of overwhelm. I set about attending to the many tasks at hand. I would not allow myself to “think past” the next task: Get-up and out of bed; go to the bathroom; brush my teeth; take a shower; get dressed. I convinced myself that all I was doing was walking my children Beau and Mackenzie to their morning assembly at the Elementary School around the corner.
Before leaving for the school, I went to my computer an organized the bills that would be due while I was away. After I turned my computer on and checked messages, I decided to send a note out to my friends and family about what was about to happen.
The Journey Across America had four main outcomes:
1) To make a difference in the life of America’s children;
2) To generate funds that would be used to promote health and
3) To do something extraordinary as an adult that would inspire
others to get active, remain active, and “stand” for living an
4) To recruit volunteers along the way.
After sending the email blast out to my contacts, I double-checked to make sure all April bills were paid, and the one’s coming up in over the next few months were clearly organized by their due dates. I wouldn’t leave my family with a stack of unpaid bills. By then, my kids were getting up and my “Crew” started showing up.
Two days prior to the launch, Ray Charron flew in from Hawaii, where he was currently living, to help me organize the logistics of the Journey, and to help me get the crew set up and ready-to-go. Ray was going to be my handler. I had never done anything like this before. I had run in events with race directors, and set courses, with officials and timers. To paraphrase a famous quote by Eckhart Tolle: “The Journey will be an adventure – not a package tour.” If Ray had not agreed to be my handler, I don’t think I would have even taken on this challenge, or could have completed the Journey successfully. Just knowing he was there beside me, left me feeling confident that everything but the running would be taken care of. Ray was an old friend of mine. Whenever something “good” happened in my career, Ray always seemed to be there. He, and his wife Donna, often welcomed me into their home in the Hamptons where I was able to concentrate on my training. We met in the early 1980’s. Ray was a successful ultramarathoner in his own right; a veteran of two transcontinental relay-marathons as a member of a drug awareness organization called DARE. He was responsible for setting in motion the series of events that led to my becoming the first national spokesman for Gatorade™. He encouraged me to train for and compete in the Hawaii Ironman, back in 1983 (where I place 73rd) and eventually Ultraman in 1985 (where I placed 2nd). Ray was the “foundation” of our merry band of journeyers.
The rest of the crew had been sleeping outside in the Motor coach. Don Kaufman, was the designated driver of the 40-foot Motor coach; Monea Wooley the Motor coach crew chief; her friend Laura Jenkins would be responsible for daily posts on the website and transcribing my audio-cassette recordings. It turned out that Larry Wooley – who would later join me on “The Journey” – was key to recruiting the crew. Larry was a friend and fellow microscopist of my wife (at the time) Mary Beth Kauffman, and the entire crew, other than Ray, was related to Larry: Don was his cousin and Monea was his daughter.
We had two vehicles: a 40-foot motor coach with a double bed in the back, a fully operational kitchen, bathroom shower with a tub, some office space, an eating counter, a pullout couch to sleep on, and two swivel captain chairs. We also had a Jeep Cherokee. This unbelievable motor coach and a Jeep Cherokee were provided to us by a wonderful woman and client of mine named Jackie Lyons. The plan was for Don, Monea, and Laura to ride in the Motor Coach and pick a resting place at days end; Ray would “shadow” me in the Jeep; record the mileage for the day; mark the spot on the road where we ended; then drive me to the motor coach at day’s end. Ray would then drive me back to the where we ended the previous day’s run, and the next day of the Journey would begin.
Finally, it was time for me to walk Beau and Mackenzie to the Solana Vista Elementary School. On my way over, I was thinking about the time we spent with the kids there. The questions they asked: Why am I doing this? Where was I going to sleep? For how many hours? How often was I going to eat? What was I going to eat? I did my best to answer their questions and get them involved in the event. Some of the kids really seemed excited about what was happening and thought of me as sort of a hero for running for them.
Greeting us at the school was a 30-foot banner “Journey Across America” on fence right in front of the school assembly, and a huge American flag. A news crew from KUSI TV was there as well; we were very happy about that. One by one, I saw people who were so important in making the Journey a reality. My “Self-Expression and Leadership” coach Mark Shea and his wife Carrie and their son were there. The Journey emerged from my participation in Mark’s program. Mark challenged me to not hold back and reach for the stars; live life fully. He inspired me and encouraged me to go-for-it. And there I was at the culmination of our planning and about to embark on the Journey itself.
Pete Egoscue was there too. Pete is this incredibly gifted man who has been working with me, helping me develop exercises to maintain structural balance. Pete had a world-renowned clinic in Del Mar and took time out of his busy day to come see me launch. I was really happy he was there. So was Sam Georges and his wife Lynn. Sam was the CEO of the Anthony Robbins Corporation at the time, and Sam was the person who convinced me to enroll in the Landmark Forum, which eventually led me to meet Mark and Carrie Shea. Sam and I hugged. Tina Kennedy, Tony Robbins’ personal assistant was there too. I also gave her a big hug and thanked her for coming. I saw so many neighbors and friends; these were wonderful moments before the assembly began.
Last, but not least, my longtime friend and chiropractor from NY had flown in – Dr. Greg Werner. I had already come to realize what an amazingly talented and gifted chiropractor and healer he was. Yet, when Greg arrived literally the day before “The Journey” was start, he was able to resolve the BIGGEST concern I had for the past three weeks. After one session with Greg, he was able to diagnose and do an “adjustment” – and miraculously the knee pain and discomfort I had been living with for the past three weeks was gone. Instead of starting off a 3,000-Mile Journey with a very tender and sore left knee, Greg made it disappear! The joy of pain-free movement, bolstered by the knowledge that Greg will be with me for the next 4 days, was all I needed to get off to a grateful and optimistic start. My optimism and confidence were rising exponentially; I really began to believe that everything was going to be okay.
Steve Ludwiczak, the principal of the Solana Vista Elementary School, then announced that the assembly was to begin. He introduced me to the crowd. I was so proud to have my son and daughter standing next to me. Beau led us all in the pledge of allegiance. Mackenzie stood next to me, holding my hand in one of her hands, and the American flag in other.
Then Steve talked about the event and what the Journey hoped to accomplish. He even showed people my new book: Slow Burn. I was surprised and very grateful that he mentioned my book and that it was going to be available at the school for anyone who was interested in reading it. He then asked me to get everyone warmed-up and ready to head off to our next destination: Solana Skyline School, which was located by the beach, a mile-and-a-half away. We all lined-up to do a warm up walk around the schoolyard, which was about half a mile around. Then, with my daughter and son in tow, we soon led a caravan of Kindergarten-to-3rd graders (and parents and friends) that strung out for nearly the entire half mile.
As the procession strung out, I began to run, and my son, a big hockey fan, was wearing a red New Jersey Devils hockey jersey and black athletic pants. It was getting hot; well over 60-degrees. He kept leading and wanting to sprint ahead. I could see he was so happy and proud. I kept calling him to come back and stay with me. My little girl would not leave my side, holding my hand tightly, wanting to stay very close to her daddy as we did the lap around the school.
We waited until the entire student body completed the lap of the school grounds, and returned to the assembly area. There I said my farewells and thanked everyone for being part of the “Launch”. We then gathered up the 20 or 30 moms and dads and school children who were going to accompany me as we walked, jogged and ran from the Solana Vista Elementary School to the Solana Skyline School.
Arriving at the Skyline School, we were greeted by the students there. It was funny to see my son sprint up the driveway to grab some water, pour it on his head, and start laughing heartily. As he joined with his friends, he seemed so happy to be part of this day.
Finally, the moment to say farewell to my kids as they were getting ready to board the school bus that was to take them back to Solana Vista Elementary – along with the parents and teachers who had run with me. I announced that when I return, I would like to invite everybody to a reception at my home and I requested that they all write their names and addresses down so I could get in touch with them. I said goodbye for the final time before I returned to Mackenzie and Beau, slapped them five each and was about to be on my way when Beau said something to me that would motivate me the rest of the Journey. “Dad”, he asked, “You’re doing this for kids, aren’t you?” I nodded my head and said “Yes”. “But what about me? I’m a kid, and you’re going to be gone for 3-months?”
That exchange was where I went whenever things got tough during the Journey. I could see that as proud as Beau was of his dad at that moment, I could see his sadness that I would, for the first time in his life, be away for months-on-end. Yet, I kept saying to myself, it was for the greater good; and I knew that this memory would motivate me to continue moving forward during the bad patches that were sure to come.
After that heartfelt and moving moment, I was off with a small entourage of five to ten people who jogged with me down to the ocean where we were greeted again by the film crew. I took my shoes and socks off and waded shin deep into the ocean and did a toast to the children and all in attendance: “May you all be happy and healthy for the rest of your lives”. I put my shoes back on, said goodbye to Mary Beth, gave her a hug and began heading south with my crew on 101 and off to NY.
During the first 12 and a half miles, Patrick Malloy, a client and friend of mine who had been working with me on this project the past couple months, ran with me. Patrick had gotten me in touch with Colin Powell’s office months ago. We were initially going to raise funds for his not-for-profit: America’s Promise. We actually had reached an agreement, but just before the launch, Colin Powell left America’s Promise to work on George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. When I was directed to the next-in-charge, and he didn’t know anything about the agreement we had, I had to look elsewhere for a recipient of the funds we were determine to raise. As it seemed to happen often during the Journey, it worked out for the best: We offered to contribute the bulk of our fund-raising efforts to the Anthony Robbins’ Foundation (ARF), and they accepted our offer.
Eventually, Patrick and I were joined by Ray and Greg in the Jeep Cherokee. At the 12-and-a-half-mile mark, Patrick got in the car with Ray and Greg, and I was left to run by myself up the San Diego coast to Escondido, towards our first night’s destination: Julian, CA – which was 52.4 miles out.
When we arrived in Julian, Ray and Don tried to get permission to park the Motor Coach in an RV Park, but it was private and they would not let us in. The crew asked me to keep on walking until they decided where they could settle down for the night. Greg took the Jeep into town and saw that the Julian Pie Company had a big parking lot out back. He asked the owner if it would be okay if we parked the motor coach there. The owner said “yes”! Greg came back and informed us we had a place to stay for the night. Ray and I ended that day at the 53.3-mile point. I got in the Jeep with Ray, and he drove me to the pie shop in Julian. We spent our first night of “The Journey” there, in the big parking lot in the back of the Julian Pie Company.