Step, step, breathe. Step, step, breathe. Move a little closer to the right. It may be early, the sun’s just rising, but some drivers have a greater urgency to get to their final destination than I do. Unlike them, I am not traveling by plane, train, or car this summer, but rather with my own two feet.
And I’m running.
From Brooklyn, New York to Costa Mesa, California. I know…you must be thinking, “are you crazy”? Well, I’m not. I simply wanted to see America in a different way than most people have. I wanted an adventure.
I started in the busiest of places - New York City. I crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge and into downtown Manhattan. I made my way through Greenwich Village, running under the Washington Square Arch and then heading up 5th Avenue into Central Park. Once I was out of the park, I ventured into Harlem and made my way onto the George Washington Bridge. This would take me out of NY and into NJ, or in other words out of my home and onto the road for this journey. I had a brief but powerful thought: This is my last chance to turn back, go home and forego this plan. But of course… I didn’t.
Once in New Jersey, the landscape changed drastically. I was now surrounded by pristine suburban neighborhoods. Trees had replaced skyscrapers; an ease and gentle calmness consumed the air, very different than NYC’s frenetic pace. Each neighborhood had it’s own rhythm and no two were the same. I made my way quickly through Jersey and entered the hilly terrain of Pennsylvania.
The hills came as a shocker. I didn’t expect this from Pennsylvania at all. I’m not trying to knock down PA, I just wished it would’ve been smoother on my knees. Yet, these rolling hills opened my world to Amish country, the Appalachians, and a breathtaking view from Outlook Mountain in the Alleghenies. Its many bridges made it possible for me to reach Pittsburg before trekking into West Virginia. Somehow, West Virginia started and ended before I could even blink, and I found myself immediately welcomed by the big Ohio state sign.
I had never been to Ohio and was mesmerized by it’s natural beauty. Large, forested landscapes led the way to the National Road. The National Road would be my gateway through most of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. This legendary road carried me through historic landmarks, metropolitan cities, state capitals, and intriguing little towns you’ve probably never heard of. It provided a tiny glimpse into our nation’s past and left me at the footsteps of St. Louis' Gateway Arch. I ran through the Gateway to the West on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Missouri provided a huge change of scenery. After a brief journey through the metropolis of St. Louis, I was venturing once again into mountains, lakes, rivers and hills. As I was pushing my will and body through the majestic Ozarks, I kept wondering why nature’s beauty had to also be such a challenge. I guess it’s the price you must pay to really experience it. I’m sure driving through these landscapes are enjoyable. But the slow pace and quiet steps of a man alone doesn’t disturb the inherent tranquility of this incredible place. Though it may have brought a few tears and many aches, it was completely worth it to run through this beautiful piece of our country.
Another reason why Missouri left such a great impression in my mind was the free night stays provided by Holiday Inn that helped make our journey happen. You have no idea how comforting a warm bath can be after a 45-mile run, or a hot breakfast to fuel me and my team up before starting another long day on the road.
Kansas would be my next stop, and all the locals kept telling me it would be flat. “Just a whole lot of flat” they would say. Flat meant boring to them. To me, it meant relief. My knees are thankful.
My trip is not over. It doesn’t even feel like it’s close, even as our journey nears its end. But every morning I wake up knowing its one day closer to the day I can wake up and say, “Wow. I ran across America.”
By: Carlos Ibarra
Carlos and his team are still travelling across America. They’re documenting the journey and the people they meet along the way. You can learn more about Carlos and watch the first few episodes of the docu-series about this incredible journey at www.runcarlosrun.org.