Journey Begin Again
The “Journey” is About to Begin – Again
20 years ago, today, on May 1, 2000, was the launch day of Journey Across America – my run from San Diego California to New York City, intended to inspire action to support the health and vitality of America’s children. This 3200-mile run across the United States started with a modest (for me) initial goal of averaging between 40 and 50 miles per day. As an accomplished ultra-distance runner, I had for the past 20 years run between 20 and 30 miles-a-day, so this target seemed reasonable. The journey would take my crew and me through eleven states over a period of 75 – 90 days. Little did I know how much these initial targets would change and the all the challenges we were about to face.
Over the next – what ended up being 57 days – I spoke into a cassette recorder, creating an audio diary of the Journey, that was transcribed for me at the Journey’s end. Now, 20-years later, I want to share with you the day-by-day Journey my crew and I experienced. There were many lessons learned and insights to share – and frankly – it has taken me these 20 years to create the necessary distance and perspective to go back and relive this experience. I just wasn’t sure that given the challenges that most of us face these days, that my story would be of interest or importance. Yet, I needed to tell it – and maybe there will be moments that many of you can related to in these uncertain times.
Life was quite different then. We were one year away from the horrors of 911; nearly a decade before the impact of Climate Change and 500-year storms became annual events; and two decades away from a viral pandemic that threatens to now shut down the global economy, forever transforming day-to-day life. Back in 2000, my main concerns were much more mundane:
1) Did I have enough funds to complete the Journey;
2) Could I get through Tornado Alley safely;
3) Would my body hold up;
4) Would my 8-year old son, Beau, and my 6-year old daughter,
Mackenzie even understand why their daddy would be gone for up
to 3 months, and
5) How exactly would I get from my home in Solana Beach, CA to the
designated Finish Line in New York City’s Central Park.
On Sunday, April 30, 2000, as I went to bed that night, there were so many unanswered questions swirling around in my mind. Frankly, I didn’t have a high degree of certainly that I could even finish the Journey. For the previous three weeks, I had significant knee pain, that was a result of a stupid decision. I had done most of my training on a treadmill – which would cause a significant issue later on down-the-road. I did so because I needed to be by my computer and phone in order to coordinate this supposed two-to-three-month event. There were sponsors and a crew to recruit! Back in 2000, there were no iPhones, Androids, and earbuds. So, for weeks and months on-end, I was training 6 – 8 hours-a-day on my treadmill; talking on the phone; and answering emails on my computer, which was conveniently situated on a desk alongside my treadmill. And then, three weeks prior to launch day, my treadmill broke – and I was told by my service provider that the earliest the needed part could get to me would be in approximately one-week. So, I began doing 3-hour rides on an old stationary bike that I had in my garage. Within a couple of days, I aggravated an old left knee injury from a skiing accident I had in 1975, when I tore two ligaments and damaged the cartilage – necessitating “old fashioned” surgical repair. I could not run without significant pain. Not a great state in which to be as the Journey approached.
There was no backing out at that late date! I had to launch and just accept that whatever was supposed to happen, would happen. Sometimes in life, you just have to move forward with absolutely no certainty that your desired goal is achievable; sometimes in life, you just have to have faith that your intentions will generate positive outcomes – some (if not most) of which will be unforeseen.
There were many people in my life, at the time, who were there for me: My Crew, my family, the Anthony Robbins community and my classmates from Landmark’s “Curriculum for Living” Program, all of whom encouraged me to do this Journey. The Journey was a communal endeavor; I could not have done this on my own. You will learn who many of these people were, and come to understand – as I certainly did – that making a difference is most effectively accomplished when you are successful in enrolling others to the cause in which you believe. That is the most profound lesson I learned through this process.
The JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA was actually my graduation project for Landmark’s “Self-Expression and Leadership Course”, in which I participated that year. What initially started as a modest proposal for a one-day Health Fair in the San Diego area became a much more ambitious 2-to-3-month-long fund-raising event for the Anthony Robbins Foundation designed to generate seed funding for a Youth Leadership Program (The Global Youth Leadership Summit) and a Pediatric Cancer Research Program in New York.
I remember the very day, back in 2000, when I finished writing my book SLOW BURN, and turned it over to my editor. I had been living by myself in my co-writer Katherine Callan’s NYC apartment for three weeks doing all I could to finish the book in time for it to be released during the Journey. On my way back to where I was staying, I purchased a USA Today. I was just looking forward to relaxing, and getting caught up with the news of the day. I opened the paper and immediately saw what was called: “Snapshots of American Life”. The question was asked: “What is the fastest growing illness of America’s youth?” The answer was: “Type 2 Diabetes”.
That is the moment that my desire to make a difference grew irresistibly. The evidence was irrefutable: Inactivity and poor nutrition was endangering the life of America’s children. I was determined to set an example for my son and daughter, and was committed to inspiring parents nationwide to encourage their kids to develop healthy lifestyle habits.
We must do all we can to ensure that our children understand the importance of good nutrition and healthy daily activity. I wanted the Journey Across America to resonate with both parents and children and create enthusiasm to be physically active as a family.
I decided to kick off my coast-to-coast run from the Solana Vista Elementary School in Solana Beach, California, where my two children, Mackenzie and Beau, were enrolled in the first and second grade respectively. I wanted my kids and their classmates to feel a part of the Journey. In the weeks leading up to the event, we arranged as many afternoons as possible for the parents and school kids to examine the motor coach in which I was going to be living for the next few months. We met at the school, went for walk/runs together around the school yard, and held small gatherings to talk about and answer questions regarding, the route, the plan, and the goals of the Journey. On the day of the launch, the plan was to meet at the school for the morning assembly and walk/jog to the beach. Once there, standing by the Pacific Ocean, I would say farewells to my family and friends, and the students, parents and teachers of Solana Vista Elementary School, and embark on a route, which would take the crew and me through eleven states, including: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and ending in New York City in July.
Please join me on this 57-Day experience as we revisit my “Journey” together from West Coast to East Coast. You can find my “postings” on my Facebook page, on www.journeyacrossamerica.com, and my soon-to-be operative stumittleman.com website.
I look forward to hearing from you during my journey and encourage you to join with me in making a difference in the lives of our nation’s most precious resource — the children of the America.
Yours for the distance,