Written by KEEN Ambassador Gracie Cole
In 2006, when I rode across the U.S. on a unicycle, it seemed every stranger had a “witty” remark. When they weren’t informing me that I was missing a wheel, sometimes they felt the need to tell me that it’s a whole lot easier to see the country in a car.
It took many miles of pointed thinking for me to find the words to express why seeing the country by car was like apples to my unicycling oranges. The words came to me in Kansas, as I was blown down by the wind, scarred by the fall, watching bored drivers whiz by who were just looking ahead to which hog-hauling semi truck they would have to pass next. You see, I wasn’t out to see the country, I had set out to experience it; I didn’t want to just watch the wind blow the amber fields of grain, I needed to be blown off the road.
And so I found the bliss of full immersion: not warming the bench, but coming to love the means of adventure that requires jumping in the deep end and getting drenched in the raw reality. Thus, when it comes to choosing to experience a geographical region, I find human-powered travel the most appealing. Ever since distance running sprinted to the forefront of my athletic endeavors, it became a natural travel choice to run across Florida as the means to experience that state. Instead of simply viewing the white-sand Gulf beaches from an adjacent road, I will sink in my toes.
Now, my husband, Kevin, and I are on our way, one day into a 21-day Florida experience. So far, so awesome; we are high on the experience itself. A 475-mile journey, it’s of the jump-in-the-deep-end variety that fills all of my senses. The challenge and the tangible reward of each next horizon draws us eastward daily, as we make our way from the state line outside Pensacola to Daytona Beach’s Atlantic water. We aim to reach intangible horizons, as well, challenging ourselves daily, and hoping to inspire others along the way to pursue those heart-felt dreams that seem just beyond reach. We propel ourselves in KEEN shoes (A86 TR, Haven CNX, and Madison CNX), and rely on Panama Jack sun care products to keep our skin protected and promote skin cancer awareness and prevention. As a fair-skinned person, I love being able to feel the warmth of the sun during my run without compromising the health of my skin, in order to relish a full outdoor experience.
In the end, even the biggest challenges can be broken down; the only challenge we must face is that of determining the next bite-size chunk and choosing to go forward. I can’t fully wrap my head around running 475 miles, but I know what it’s like to run a mile, so I choose to start there, then do it again and again, savoring each fully immersed moment of the adventure.
To track my progress over the coming weeks, follow along here.