Crazy About Running: Going The Extra Miles

These runners have pulled off some amazing running feats. Are they superhuman, obsessed or just out of their minds?

Border-to-Border: Brian Stark

A lot of people like to travel around the U.S. and plenty want to check every state off their list. But Brian Stark doesn’t know of anyone else who wants to run across all 50 states. The self-proclaimed “States Runner” most recently traversed number 31—Michigan.

“There’s no rulebook for this kind of thing,” says the 42-year-old teacher from Tucson, Ariz., adding that he plans his state crossings on existing trails as opposed to the shortest route. “Other people run on interstates and it can be much faster.”

Stark started this extreme effort by hiking the Appalachian Trail in 1995, but it wasn’t until he traversed Connecticut (state No. 5) that he pared down what he carries to about 18 pounds—and really started running.

Now that he’s married with two daughters, he usually takes off for two or three weeks in August to cross a state or two. He stays in cheap motels and tries to rely on the hospitality of those he’s passing by to keep costs to about $2 per mile. He mails packages to himself at post offices along his route with more Hammer Nutrition products to keep him fueled during the days. Each night he’ll eat a big dinner and down a gallon of water to help him wake up refreshed.

Surprisingly Stark doesn’t run too much the rest of the year. He’ll do 30 to 60 minutes on the treadmill. Once in a while he’ll run nearby trails with friends.

“The weird thing about me: I don’t have to train to do these 500-mile runs,” he says. “I don’t know how it happens. After a few days, you settle into this acceptance.”

Stark dreams of finishing the 50 states by the time he turns 50. (Follow his progress at statesrunner.com.) He also imagines going out in marathon style—by running across the largest state, Texas, in winter, then flying to Alaska to follow the route of the Iditarod in late winter, before heading to Hawaii to do five islands, finally ending with Rhode Island, the smallest state. This year though, he’s thinking about tiptoeing across Oregon.

Unsurprisingly, Stark is a goal-setter. As he talks about running 40-something miles a day, he adds that he can do 50. Then he says with anticipation, “60 lurks!”

As he reruns the states in his mind, he declares Colorado the most beautiful, West Virginia and Kansas the most friendly, and Iowa the most perplexed by his quest.

What keeps him going? “There’s things that happen out there,” he says. “I wonder what’s around the corner, what’s across the bridge.”

RELATED: How To Get Started In Ultrarunning

More about Brian:

Favorite shoes: Mizuno Wave Ascend on trails and on Hoka One One Mafate on flat surfaces

How many shoes do you go through in a year: “I don’t know. I stopped counting. I would estimate not as many as people would expect. Maybe six.”

Go-to energy fuel: Orange-Vanilla Hammer Perpetuem

Most essential piece of running gear: “I just got an iPhone last year. It’s really handy for looking at maps.”

Personal mantra: “I think, Wouldn’t it be great if…,” as he dreams of a small town where he’ll be invited to sleep one night in an empty jail cell. Or of a family with a swimming pool taking him in for a dip and some barbecue.

—Nicki Miller

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