LOOK FOR THIS Zoe Romano will be running with her gear in a stroller.
On January 8, Portland native Zoe Romano will set off for a morning run in Huntington Beach, California. Make no mistake: this isn't a begrudging follow-through on a New Year's resolution, or a jog around the block. Try more than 140 not-quite-marathons, back-to-back.
Over the next five and a half months, 23-year-old Romano plans to run from California to South Carolina — about 23-25 miles a day, six days a week. Oh yeah, and she's pushing all of her gear (such as camping equipment, extra clothing, and water) in front of her, in a stroller. About 60 pounds of it.
Why would anyone do anything this insane? To raise money for a cause that's inspired her — the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine. "Almost every adult that's had a positive influence on me" — coaches, teachers, her dad — "has a positive story to tell me about the Boys and Girls Club," says Romano, who never attended the clubs.
How do you feel about those New Year's resolutions now?
Romano, who attended Portland High School (where she played sports but did not enjoy running) and then graduated from the University of Richmond, in Virginia, has spent the last several months training, increasing her mileage incrementally, taking better care of her legs. She admits that "it felt crazy when I started, but now it's just take one mile at a time."
Her father, Rick Romano, has the same Zen-like attitude toward his daughter's pending feat.
"Yes, I am anxious to see Zoe through safely and I am concerned about the toll on her body," he tells the Phoenix in an e-mail sent just hours after seeing Zoe off at the airport, "but I am also excited about hearing of her adventure, the people she'll meet along the way, the descriptions of our country's beautiful landscape, and the challenges of pushing her body to run the 25 miles a day needed to get coast to coast. However . . . I am happy to know there is someone special like Zoe who is willing to give of herself to make the lives of others better. The Run is really secondary . . . helping those in need will be Zoe's greatest achievement."
"Obviously there are going to be challenges," Romano says on the phone in the waning days of 2010, "but I know that my fitness is where it needs to be. I'm just really anxious to get out there and start running. Every now and then I start to think about the big picture, the enormity of what I'm doing . . . I give myself three minutes to think about that, and then...after I have three minutes of 'Oh-my-god-this-is-insane,' I go back to, 'It's really simple — I'm just running every day.'"
She has about 65 percent of her accommodations — a combination of couch surfing, friends, and family — set for the trip, which will take her through the Southern part of the country (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina). An RV, alternately manned by her brother, a friend, and her parents, will shadow her through particularly deserted sections of Arizona and New Mexico, where it might be difficult to even find a hotel. Other than that, she's on her own.