Today marks the start of Christopher Miller’s five-month trek across the United States. Now, many of you are probably wondering, who the flip is Christopher Miller? Great question! Raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Chris is, in many ways, very similar to you and I. He’s a passionate runner who enjoys spending time outdoors, and he is by no means a professional athlete with years of endurance running experience. However, unlike you and I, Chris has combined his passion and this Forrest Gump-esque feat with a cause that gives additional meaning to the miles.
With a trajectory that runs from Liberty State Park in New York to Venice Beach, California, Chris is not aiming to be the fastest individual to run across the United States. (Pete Kostelnick, who ran from San Francisco’s City Hall to New York’s City hall in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes, has the current record.) Instead, Chris and his support team intend to use the journey to improve the dialogue around, and acceptance for, long-term addiction recovery in the United States. With such a meaningful mission, we asked Chris if he would be willing to take part in a Q&A about him, his goals, and how he intends to achieve them on his cross-continent adventure. And guess what? He said yes!
What initially inspired your decision to run across the United States?
Starting around 10 years old, my dad and I would go cycling on country roads outside my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. We’d ride to Columbia City, Roanoke, Lake Wawasee, Huntington, and other nearby towns. Those were always great adventures, and I learned so much from my dad through those experiences. One of the dreams we’d often discuss on the road was the idea of cycling across the United States. I had always planned on cycling across America in my 20s, but I never did. Instead, I served in the Peace Corps in both Honduras and Colombia and have been living abroad in Madrid for the past several years. Cycling was never really my hobby anyway. It was a chance to spend quality time with my Dad. But running is different. I have always been a runner. Last year I came across an Outside Magazine article from 2013 titled “How to Run Across America.” No joke, I must have read that article 20 times, and it solidified my plan to make this happen. No turning back now. I can’t wait.
What is your history with running?
I’m the youngest of three boys, and there was a rule in my house in which each son had to go out for the cross-country team in sixth grade. I asked my dad why cross country was mandatory, and his response was simply, “runners just understand themselves better.” The rest is history. I’ve been running ever since. Running has always been one thing in life that is consistently positive. When I’m on the road, my mind is clear to think, to cope, to evaluate, to celebrate, and to daydream. There’s nothing better.
With the primary goal of your run being to increase awareness and acceptance for individuals struggling with addiction and recovery, is there a personal reason that you have chosen this goal?
Loved ones in my family history have struggled with addiction, and some are in long-term recovery today. It’s affected my family and my friends tremendously. Addiction has always been this great mystery to me. I have always wondered why people become addicted and how some successfully maintain their recovery. I really just want to connect with people during my journey, inspire them, promote treatment, and learn from everyone along the way.
Are there any specific goals that you have set for the project with regards to awareness and fundraising?
If we inspire one person to make a change, then Chris Cross The Nation is a success. My main objective is to let people know that they are not alone and that I believe in them. I know there are positive stories of new life out there, and those stories should be told. We’re filming everything from NYC to LA, and once our journey is completed we’ll release a documentary piece to promote long-term recovery in America that features the people and places we encounter along the way. If we can show the public hope, not horror, I believe that a shift in cultural perception can save more lives. The thing is, addiction doesn’t just affect the individual that falls ill. It affects so many circles around them. In a way, those people deal with the disease just as much. Maybe Chris Cross The Nation will encourage someone to seek treatment or an individual to encourage a friend in recovery instead of distancing themselves. Or maybe we’ll all just be a bit kinder to each other.
Can you tell us about some of the organizations that you will be promoting?
Throughout the journey, we’re encouraging community members to visit the websites of organizations that are doing positive work in their local communities. One way we will promote these organizations is by activating events in the towns that I pass through to inspire people to get involved. For example, in my hometown of Fort Wayne we are organizing a week of events that open the door for people to learn more about the Parkview Behavioral Health system, have the opportunity to get involved with them, and also hear stories about my life on the road. There are amazing people doing amazing work across the nation, and it deserves to be celebrated. If we can pull back the curtain and showcase them to the community, we believe the community will get involved.
What was the method you used to pick your route? Are there specific locations that you’re excited or motivated to run through?
First I looked at the routes of previous crossers, namely John Wallace III, Aaron Huey, and Paul Stasso. A lot of what influenced my route were the regions of America that I was personally familiar with and the weather. I knew that if I started in the Northeast in July I would need to head towards the Southwest to avoid the winter. I didn’t want to run through a part of the country I knew very little about either. I’m from the Midwest and have spent a lot of time out West and in the Northeast, so I’m running through those regions. I used Map My Run to create the route, and I studied each road with Google Street View. I mainly chose country roads to avoid traffic, and in the event that I had to choose a busy road, I looked for a wide berm. Amazing what you can see from space, right? I also wanted to make sure that my routes took me through towns so I didn’t end up in the middle of nowhere with no people to be found. Taking a page from my time in the Peace Corps, I’ve studied each town that I will pass through to see what kind of amenities are available. Grocery stores, ATMs, post offices, fire department and local small businesses are going to help me cross just as much as my two feet.
How has training been going?
It’s uncharted territory for me to train for a trans-continental run. Normally, with something like a marathon, I follow a tried-and-true, structured plan to increase mileage leading up to my next event. But how do you train to run a marathon every day for 5 months? I’ve been gradually increasing my daily and weekly mileage to simulate a week on the road, and I’ve thrown in some really long runs just to test my limits. My legs feel strong, I’ve been eating well, and I get a lot of sleep. I’ll show up to Liberty State Park feeling healthy.
What shoes do you plan to wear? Will you use multiple types?
I think it’s always a good idea to use multiple types of shoes, alternate them daily, track their mileage, and retire them when their mileage is maxed out. I anticipate running in 10 pairs of shoes during the journey. My arsenal consists of the ASICS Roadhawk FF and Nimbus 19, HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3, and the Brooks Ghost 10.
Is there any gear that you think will be a game-changer out there?
My shoes will be game-changers all the way. I can’t afford to run in unsuitable shoes. I’ve got some ZENSAH compression leg sleeves to help ensure nightly recovery and Body Glide to reduce chafing while running. I also have a solar panel system from Anker to efficiently charge my phone, watch, and GPS tracker from the road. Oh, and baby wipes. So many baby wipes.
What do you foresee as the most challenging aspect of the run?
Maintaining adequate hygiene, diet, and recovery will be huge challenges. I won’t have the luxury of running home where I have everything easily accessible. Life on the road will require a tremendous ability to adapt, be flexible, and have faith that everything will work out. Mentally, it’s about staying positive, motivated, and focused on the mission. I fully anticipate that the people I meet along the way will help with that.
What are some of the ways that you stay positive and keep yourself entertained as you run?
I have always been a bit of an introvert, so I’ll spend a lot of time daydreaming; reminiscing on previous adventures; and thinking about my fiancé, my family, and my friends. I’ll also listen to a lot of music and podcasts. If you’ve got suggestions for my playlist, send them to me on my website, www.ccthenation.com. And definitely come run with me. We’ll have daily updates on my location and route to make it easy for runners across the country to join us on the road and experience America Chris Cross The Nation style.
Make the movement move.
Thank you to Chris and his team for sharing with us! We wish you the best of luck! If you want to follow along with Chris’ run on Facebook and Instagram, check out the handle @ChrisCrossTheNation. You can also show your support for Chris and the cause by posting with #SeeChrisRun.
Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.