After close to four months of running, starting out on July 4th from California and the Pacific Ocean, ultramarathon runner John Radich has reached Ohio, the Buckeye State—nicknamed as such because of the many buckeye trees that once covered its hills and plains. The name itself can be traced to Native Americans, who called it “hetuck,” or “buckeye,” due to the markings on the tree’s nut that resemble the eye of a buck.
Crossing the town of Van Wert, Ohio, just east of the Indiana state line–a small Americana town even Andy Griffith would be proud of, John picked up America’s oldest and longest highway, Lincoln Highway 30. Conceived in 1912 and formally dedicated October 31, 1913, Lincoln Highway was America’s first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, predating the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., by nine years. As the first automobile road across America, Lincoln Highway brought great prosperity to the hundreds of cities, towns and villages along the way. Lincoln Highway became affectionately known as the “Main Street Across America.”
John added, “Each state that I have run through has its own geographic personality. And this highway is no exception. Now I am seeing long lonely farm roads stretching for miles, dotted with beautiful red barns–all symbolic of the Ohio landscape.”
Continuing his run on Halloween, John encountered kids in their costumes, trick-or-treating with their families as darkness approached. He was offered candy, hot chocolate, cider and homemade pizza, a veritable feast that he graciously accepted, not wanting to miss out on these festivities.
Farmers were working late to plow their fields for next year’s crops, and John was amazed at how big their farm machinery was and how well they managed this equipment. The farmers reminded him of artists, only in this case using their fields as their canvas.
Running these lonely stretches offers a peaceful respite from city life and traffic but also has its dangers. Dogs’ reputation as man’s best friend is all well and true, but as any mailman, meter reader, runner and cyclist will tell you, they can be a runner’s worst nightmare. Unsecured they can pose a danger—dog bites can ruin a runner’s day and even cause serious harm.
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John has had several close calls with dogs during the run, but no bites so far—“knock on wood.” He has been chased and charged at numerous times, forcing him to use his water bottle to squirt harmless but effective cold water, which has caused the oncoming dogs to pause and then retreat. Rocks will also check their “charge.” As a more drastic measure, while running in a very rural section of Oklahoma, John resorted to carrying a rake pole that he was told by the locals to keep handy because of ornery, unchained dogs purporting to want a taste of runners’ flesh. But the rake pole was soon discarded a state or two back and was never used.
Ohio became hillier as John entered into West Virginia and crossed over the Ohio River. John felt elated as he explained: “It’s always a great feeling crossing into a new state. We received some very positive press in Ohio, which carried over into West Virginia. People quickly recognized us and told us that they enjoyed the news articles that have been covering the run and thanked us for running for youth.”
The state of Pennsylvania is next, and the last leg of John’s Trans USA run is about to begin.