2,800-mile run across America kicks off Feb. 1

Posted on February 1, 2008 by

2,800-mile run across America kicks off Feb. 1

Three former cross-country stars will average a marathon a day
for four straight months as part of “Nation Run 2008”

By Seth Odell
(518) 928-2962, partridgehousepr@gmail.com

Three longtime friends and former college track teammates will embark on the biggest race of their lives Friday, running across the entire length of America. The coast-to-coast journey kicks off at 10 a.m. on Georgia’s Tybee Island.

The runners, all from upstate New York, will average 25 miles a day for an expected 116 days, completing their journey in San Diego, Calif., sometime in May.

Andrew Wahilia, Matthew Durkin and Ken Stannard, all 23 years old, have been planning the eight-state run for more than three years. Originally an idea hatched in their college dorm room, “Nation Run 2008” has finally come to fruition.

“Over the last three years, our plans have altered, the route has evolved and personal reasons for doing such a run have changed,” says Wahilia, of Endicott, N.Y.

But for all the runners, “Nation Run 2008” is about the ultimate challenge, a life-changing adventure and experiencing life one step at a time.

“This has nothing to do with Forrest Gump, getting away from something or saving the world,” says Durkin, of East Greenbush, N.Y. “This is about adventure, friendship and living the dream.”

With no support car following them, the runners will push all their gear in two baby joggers and will carry tents and the food and water they need each day.

“We fully expect and are prepared to be sleeping in our tents each and every night,” says Wahilia. “We welcome this lifestyle and are looking forward to it … to some degree.”

That isn’t to say, however, that a warm meal or bed will be turned down. If you see these four pavement nomads as they make their way across the continent, they want you to know, they say half-jokingly, that they will never refuse food from kind strangers.

The public is even being encouraged to take part. Wahilia, Durkin and Stannard are welcoming everyone, from running clubs and college track teams to casual walkers and skateboarders, to join them, be it for a minute, a mile or a day.

The runners also welcome supporters to make donations to the PFC Philip Diaferio Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund has been set up in honor of Wahilia’s first cousin, who was killed Nov. 24, 2007, in a car accident while home on leave from the U.S. Army. Diaferio was an Iraq War veteran, and the scholarship in his name will be granted to a selected graduating senior from Union-Endicott High School in Endicott, N.Y.

Those interested in tracking the runners’ progress can do so at the trip’s official Web site, http://www.nationrun.com. In addition to daily updates, the site offers a full trip itinerary, an equipment listing and runner biographies.