Ultramarathon Runner Starts Epic Run Across the U.S.

John Radich, ultramarathoner, nine-time Badwater Ultramarathon finisher and three-time Arizona 6 Day Race champion, is making his dream come true. John officially embarked on his epic run across America on Sunday July 4, 2010. From his starting point in Santa Monica, CA, and running along the historic Route 66 into Chicago, John will continue into New York and down to Washington, DC, for a total of 3,700 miles!

John is running the reverse path of the migrants who travelled west along Route 66 during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, of which Steinbeck wrote in his book The Grapes of Wrath.

Route 66 goes through eight states—Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California—and symbolized the renewed spirit of optimism that pervaded the country after the Great Depression and World War II. Also known as “The Main Street of America,” it linked a remote and under-populated region with two vital 20th century cities: Chicago and Los Angeles.

With a good start and with terrific support from his crew and team captain, Judy Maguire, also an ultramarathon runner, John was able to reach San Bernardino, CA on July 6, with 75 miles behind him.

“It will take me two months to reach Chicago and then on to Atlantic City to dip my toes in the ocean as I did at the start of this run in the Pacific. From Atlantic City, it will be on to New York and then, if I still have some juice left in me, I will end up in Washington at the Vietnam Memorial,” John said.

“If everything goes well, it will take three-and-a-half to four months. I expect to average 35 to 40 miles a day,” the ultramarathon runner estimated.

John is running across America to raise awareness for alternative choices to youth violence and gangs. With over 628,200 acts of violence per year in our nation’s schools, John felt he had to do something about this worsening situation. His run will include contacts with youth groups, media coverage, fundraising and sponsorships for needed programs that help young people make better choices in life.

Wed July 7

On Wednesday, John started much earlier than on previous days, as he was meeting a group of runners (called the San Bernardino Pacers), who paced him along a difficult and tricky stretch of highway called the Cajon Pass, which reaches over 3,800 feet in elevation. The leader of this group had already read some press John had received, and five runners came out to support John and his cause. After running about 15 miles, John stopped for breakfast at the Summit Inn, a very classic Route 66 diner-type place, where John met a 92-year-old man named Enrique Barrios, a competitive runner back in the 1930s, who wished John well.

Through the Cajon Pass, John pushed on to Victorville, CA and made approximately 30 miles of progress for the day.

Thursday, July 8

John started the day with an in-person interview with the Victorville Daily Press and was back on the road by 11:15 a.m.—running through scorching heat with a long stretch of desert ahead of him. Throughout the afternoon, temperatures stayed at around 104 degrees, reminding John of his many grueling races through Death Valley. Stocked up on water and ice, Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm Plus Calcium and a long-sleeved white shirt to dissipate the heat, John made it to Barstow, CA by 8:00 p.m. that night, for a total of 34 miles. A graciously donated room at the local Holiday Inn Express by the general manager was a welcome relief from the blistering heat.

Wednesday, July 21

Crossing the Mojave in a car is challenging enough in July, but doing it on foot!?!? “Downright CRAZY!” as a local resident told John and his crew. And that is how John started his crossing of the Mojave Desert. Running in high temps makes Natural Calm Plus Calcium invaluable. It mixes easily in water and provides a highly absorbable, muscle-cramping-prevention remedy that also supports the absorption of potassium and sodium, two additionally vital electrolytes, which, in combination, keep your muscles firing properly and make rehydration possible.

There is no avoiding camping out in the Mojave when you are traveling by foot. John’s first night of camping was a far cry from the room at the Holiday Inn Express in Barstow, but he made do with what appeared to be an abandoned train or bus station. Between the relentless heat and trains going by every hour or two, John didn’t get much sleep and was up and running by 6:00 a.m. After putting in 10 to15 miles, John and his crew stopped at the “Bagdad Café” for a nice breakfast . This is the cafe where the actual movie by the same name was filmed.

By day’s end, John ended up spending the night in the town of Ludlow and its only motel.

John did 36 to 37 miles the next day—and was  determined to make it to the town of  “Amboy or Bust.” He did not want another night of somewhere between “anywhere” and  “nowhere” again, so he pushed on. As John arrived in Amboy, the sheriff of the town greeted him and kindly gave John and his crew a free camping spot since the motel there was being remodeled and wouldn’t be open for another couple of years. Fresh water for a shower was a luxury that the sheriff also provided, since the tap water was completely salinated.

The next day after running on for a bit, John found a “shoe tree, literally, a tree on which many a traveler passing through had hung their old shoes by flinging a pair connected with shoe strings up onto a branch of the tree. Further down the road John spotted a “sock tree,” which just didn’t have the same glamour and romance of the road as an intrepid traveler’s shoe-tree memorial. John put in 30 miles that day and ended up camping at the High Desert Oasis, which it truly was: a small truck stop in the middle of the desert, which had warning signs posted admonishing customers to not complain about their high prices. (They have heard this complaint far too often and have stopped trying to explain the cost of getting petrol suppliers to come out here.)

Back at it the next morning, John’s destination that day was Goffs, a tiny yet historic railroad town near Needles, CA with a population of 12. Arriving there at 2:30 p.m. gave him time to visit a rest stop and take a real shower, hand wash some clothes—and even experience a little bit of A/C in the middle of the Mojave Desert. For a change of pace before hitting the road, John made a quick visit to the Heritage and Cultural Association of Goffs, which turned out to be a veritable outdoor Wild West museum with all sorts antiques, relics and cars, from an age long swept away by the sands and the desert sun.

The next day was a straight shot to Needles, for a total of about 31 miles. Although the run was mostly downhill, the temperature was going purely uphill and peaked at around 120 degrees as John arrived in Needles, just a stone’s throw away from the Arizona state line.

John has made it to Kingman, AZ! After a long climb out of Oatman, with wild burros roaming the town and all shops closed up by 5:00 p.m., Oatman was a surreal place to run through, but the reward was worth it. Beautiful panoramic vistas stretching into Kingman made the run into this much more populated town a wonderful experience.

Thirty miles out of Kingman, John said, “It felt a lot cooler at only 104 degrees today! With high desert elevations ahead, there will be even cooler temperatures to look forward to.” People honk as they drive by John, with their curiosity piqued. They must wonder why he is running and where he is going, which reminds John of another ultrarunner named Norm Haines, who said, “Run long and not hard.” Sooo true with a trans-USA run.

John made it past Peach Springs, AZ today at 4,800 feet, with the long-awaited cooler temps that were more than welcomed! He encountered fantastic open scenery and the huge Hualapai Indian Reservation, which stretches for a hundred miles along the pine-tree ridges of the southern side of the Grand Canyon. The Hualapai are literally, “people of the tall pine,” and Peach Springs is their tribal capital.

John’s shoes are starting to show mileage wear as he leaves the town of Seligman, AZ, elevation 5,000 feet. Soon he will be leaving the solitude of Route 66 and entering the higher-traffic land of I-40 and the rains of the Arizona monsoon season.

Stay tuned for further updates on John’s epic run.