This guy ran across America just like Forrest Gump

He didn’t go to Vietnam, meet the president, or teach Elvis to dance. But he did run across America.
By Evan David

We should clarify: unlike the famous fictional character played by Tom Hanks, Patrick Sweeney is fully and completely sound of mind and body. But while he would never say, "I am not a smart man," we have to question his sanity. The 36-year-old set out on an adventure from Los Angeles to Boston. On foot. Often, without shoes. And on Saturday, May 9 he finished.

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We caught up with the accomplished trail runner a few days before in NYC to hear some of the highlights, which include finding rare jewels and being shot at – yes, with a gun.

Not just any old run...

Ultra-runner Patrick Sweeney with the map of his trans-America running route from Los Angeles to Boston, which he completed in 114 days
One long run © Stan Evans

First things first, are you sick of the Forrest Gump references?
I roll with it. I shaved my beard for a fresh start the same day I started my trip (you should have seen how ridiculous I looked without it), I've stopped for pictures in front of the Washington monument. I get a lot of "Run, Forrest, run!" shouted at me. But I like the movie. It's all good.

Not the actual bench

Cross-America runner Patrick Sweeny relaxes in New York after completing his run across the nation
Not the bench from the movie. © Stan Evans

So was Gump the inspiration?
Ha. Actually, no. I met a girl who walked across America barefoot, and I wanted to do something to raise money for a charity I support, the 100 Mile Club. It's a program that encourages kid to run a total of at least 100 miles during the course of a school year.

Logging city miles

Trans-America runner Patrick Sweeney runs along New York's famous West Side Highway during his epic 3,233 mile run
Patrick on Roosevelt Island © Stan Evans

Which you do in 2.5 days…
Give or take. I started off at about a marathon a day, then pushed up to about 40 miles a day. It's slow – I'm a 2h37m marathoner – but I can do it indefinitely. Today, the legs are feeling pretty good, and I found two bars named Sweeney's, so that was cool.

Trotting through Times Square

Meet the new Forest Gump, American runner Pat Sweeney, who ran across the USA from Los Angeles to Boston in 114 days
Trotting through Times Square. © Stan Evans

Have you found a few cool things along the way?
You find so much garbage along the way, but you find gems, too – literally. I actually found a diamond engagement ring in a jewel box. My theory is the guy got rejected and chucked it out his car window. 

One more state to go...

How did you pick the route?
Google maps, and put it in walk mode. According to Google, it's 3,233 miles, and over 1,000 hours.

Yes. It started at my home in the Los Angeles area, where I do my daily runs on the beach, and the plan was to finish in Boston – where I've run the marathon the last three years. I didn't make it in time for this year's marathon (I knowingly started too late, on January 16, my birthday) but I'll be happy to get to Boston!

See Pat’s 3,233 mile route below

And how do you feel. Would you do this again?
Honestly, the legs feel great, and I'm still stoked. If I did it again, I'd like to start with 40-mile days. I'd also like to support someone else doing the same thing. That would be cool.

Sprinting through Central Park

Distance runner Patrick Sweeney in New York during his 114 day run across the United States
Sprinting under the city skyline. © Stan Evans

Because you didn’t do it totally alone?
I have a great support team – my friend Vanessa and her boyfriend Shacky, both runners. She just released a book on women's distance running called Daughters of Distance.

And is it correct you didn’t always wear shoes?
Ha. Nope. I did occasionally, but I ran a lot in my Luna sandals – they're minimalist footwear, based on what Mexico's famous Tarahumara Indians from the book Born to Run use.

Some beat-up feet...

Trans-America runner Patrick Sweeney shows off his battered feet after his epic 114-day run across the country
The feet that have run across America. © Stan Evans

Where have you been sleeping?
Everywhere. The support team has an RV and after long or tough days, that's a good place for a rest. The weirdest place? A tornado shelter. My support team called the mayor of a small town to ask if I could sleep in a jail cell; he offered us the tornado shelter. Better than being in jail!

The real Forrest Gump!

You can't see it, but there's a crowd behind © Stan Evans

But someone should have been in jail...
Yeah – the guy that shot at me. To be fair, I don't know if it was at me, or a warning shot. I just ran by some yard, heard the shot, looked, and there was a dude with a gun staring me down.

What has been the longest day yet?
52-miles. That was a long one. But the longest streak? 10 days without a shower. I just had one and I was happy, but I'm pretty sure my team was even happier.

And now, you’re finished...
Yeah, I finished in Boston on Saturday, May 9, covering 5,400km in 114 days.

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