Posted at 8:39 PM on May 18, 2009
by Chris Dall
Step by step, mile by mile, Katie Visco is getting a little closer to her dream.
Visco, a 2007 graduate of Carleton College, is currently in Pennsylvania, more than 400 miles into a journey that will take her from Boston to San Diego, a distance of 3,200 miles. When she finishes the journey sometime in December, she will be the youngest woman ever to run across the United States.
That's right. She's running across the United States. And while most of us have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, Katie Visco wakes up every morning and can't wait for the next 17 miles. "All I want to do is make a difference and inspire people," she says.
Visco is running to raise money for the organization Girls on the Run, a nonprofit prevention program for preteen girls that teaches self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running. She hopes to raise $32,000--$10 for every mile she runs.
"The reason why I want to support this organization is because they are helping these girls grow into themselves through the sport of running, which is exactly what the sport gave to me," Visco says.
But Katie's goals go beyond raising money. She's running, she says, "to show people that it's possible to do what you love to do, to pursue your dreams and goals, and to make them a reality."
Katie says the idea hatched when she was in middle school, which was also right around the time she fell in love with running. She knew she loved running, but she also knew that she wanted to do something big and bold and to make a difference. And then after talking with some friends and her mom, it came to her. "It was so weird, it just came to me one day, like, 'hey mom, I'm going to run across the United States of America.'"
The plan took a back seat to her education, but the idea never went away. After Katie graduated from college she went to work for City Year, an Americorps program that brings together young people for a year of full-time service. That year of service convinced her to pursue her dream. "This was a huge inspiration of me in terms of what I wanted this run to achieve. It changed my life and inspired me to do this run."
The next step was to plan the trip. So Katie did a lot of online research, but she also spoke with and collected information from the small community of runners who had made the journey. Over a period of seven months, she focused on planning the journey, raising funds, and "creating a community around this idea and message."
And then she started to run. Katie puts in about 17 miles a day, while her friend Ellen drives a support van. Katie and Ellen stay with friends, members or running clubs who are supporting the journey, and people who have connected with her through her Web site, Pave Your Lane. While Katie has the overall route in her head, for the day-to-day routes she gets tips from runners and spends a lot of time with Google maps.
When she's not running, Katie visits elementary schools and local chapters of Girls on the Run. But a lot of the trip is unplanned, and that's the way Katie wants it. "That's the cool thing, the journey is so open ended, it's supposed to be unplanned so that people can join in."
When I ask her if she has any days where she wonders what she's doing, Katie says she doesn't. "I'm so excited every morning to get out there and cover the miles, but also, I'm doing this for the people I've met along the way, they are the ones who tell my body mind and spirit that I've got to keep going."
After she finishes the journey, Katie plans to write a book about the experience and to make Pave Your Lane a nonprofit organization that will help people follow their passions and pursue their goals.
But she might have another journey left in her. "I want to run across the world," she says. "Australia might be next."