TransCon Recap: Week 9

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States: Indiana & Ohio

Days: 56 - 62

Start: Groveland, IN

End: Sixteen Valley, Kirkwood Township, OH
Cumulative miles: 2,661.8

Day 56 (Friday)

I transitioned from a rural area to a metropolitan area in Indianapolis and spent most of the day running through the third biggest city of my run (after LA and NYC). It was a nice change of pace to be around the energy of a city.

After about 10 miles two runners came running up and found me on my route. Derek and Joe were vegan runners themselves and Derek had even offered up his driveway for us to park our rig at if we needed a place to call home. Unfortunately, we had a long way to travel yet and we usually don’t detour off my route more than 5 miles for the stop/start point. As we rolled in to the next rest stop, Elliott and a runner Jerry joined me. Jerry came all the way from Louisville, KY to run 5 miles with me! That is a 3-hour drive ONE WAY! I was so humbled and it was fun to have a crew of 5 running together to start my day off in Indy. Joe reached his personal distance record of 24 miles (previous to a half marathon) and Jerry said he was feeling inspired to start running again (he had left if for a little while).

After the guys left I met up with a woman Gwen who ran a fast 5 miles with us. I couldn’t decide if I should tell her to slow down or just go with it and I was feeling so strong I decided “what the heck?!” and picked up my pace to hang on with her. It was kind of fun to run at a quicker clip for a little while, but it did tire me out a little.

After Gwen a really nice guy Daniel showed up and ran 5 miles with Jackie and I on a road that did not have a shoulder. We mostly ran single file, but it was fun to talk restaurant with him as he and his wife just recently opened a restaurant in their hometown of Peru, IN. After he decided to be vegan he changed a lot of the items on the menu to be vegan without advertising the meals as “vegan”, but ultimately decided running an omni restaurant didn’t feel right for him so he is selling the restaurant now. They may open a vegan spot in Indianapolis soon.

At the next stop Shirley and Gene found us and ran with me until my end point for the day. They were a super nice couple who have been supporting me online for a while and had offered to help out with an airport run for some of my previous crew members. Their enthusiasm and pure joy was nice to be around.

I felt SO much support in having so many people come out to run and be a part of this plant powered mission. Indianapolis and the vegan community came out strong. I just loved all the great conversation with the people I got to share the road with. It really brought back to center for me of how important the vegan message is and how much I appreciate other people’s interactions with the project. I’m really thankful that so many people came out to support me.

I ended my day exhausted. The stimulus of the city's energy, the socializing all day long, and the anticipation that media might show up at any point (though they never did) wore me out. I loved it, but I crashed so hard.

Day 57 (Saturday)

I got a little anxious mid morning when I got word that a guy on a bicycle was meeting up with me. The road had no shoulder at all and it worried me to have a cyclist out there with no space. I was also feeling like I needed to recover from all the socializing the day before in Indy, so I met up with Nathan who was out for a long ride at one of my rest stops and chatted with him. He was such a nice guy, but agreed that the shoulder situation wasn’t ideal and said that he wasn’t going to ride next to me. He asked a lot of interesting questions from the crew about my nutrition and the logistics of everything. Thanks so much for coming out to support me!

Jackie went to Indianapolis to pick up her sister Jamie who took the week off of work to come out and help crew. They also brought back take out from Three Carrots (a vegan spot in Indy) and I thoroughly enjoyed my beet burger and mac and cheese sides for dinner.

The days are beginning to pass a bit faster. Psychologically knowing that there are less than twenty days left in this journey has begun to lighten the load.

It’s crazy to say, but the miles are getting easier. My fitness level is much higher than it was on day one. I’m much more in tune with when to push and when to lay off, and my mind is stronger.

Now the battle is between anxiously awaiting the finish line and cherishing every moment knowing that it will soon come to an end.

For 14 months there has been a clear and defined objective: running across the country to reach NYC. Once that finish line is crossed the objective will be much less clear. This realization leaves me terrified, but I know with the lessons I’ve learned along the way I’ll be prepared for the unknown

Day 58 (Sunday)

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This morning Jackie and Jamie decided to treat Clara out for Mother’s Day, so Elliott and Chris crewed me for most of the day as they went to a vegan friendly coffee house in Richmond Indiana (Roscoe’s).

In the middle of the day I crossed into Ohio. My rule of each state being instantly different than the state before it didn’t apply this time. For some reason Ohio and Indiana seemed quite similar and I didn’t feel like there was a dramatic change in the topography or landscape or weather.

The day was rainy, but the landscape was quite beautiful as I travel along Historic Highway 40.

Day 59 (Monday)

The morning was drizzly and wet, but it cleared up and warmed up throughout the day. It ended with some light showers. Some runners found me outside of Dayton and I had a nice chat with them at one of my breaks. They were vegetarians and they are working to try and get more healthy food options to be offered in convenience stores.

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Elliott joined me for a bit in the morning and then Jackie ran 10 miles with me through Springfield, OH. This is the third Springfield I’ve run through! Some of the old homes and buildings were absolutely magnificent. That town clearly had a history that piqued my interest.

Near the end of my run I stopped at a convenience store to use the restroom and was approached by a man who told Jackie and I that we picked the perfect time of day to sneak in a little run between rain showers. Jackie kind of laughed and said “well… this isn’t exactly a ‘little run’ he’s running across the whole country!” We then ensued with excellent conversation about my cause of running across the country to promote a plant-based diet. The conversation we had was quite rewarding as he seemed receptive to what I had to say. He had a great spirit about him and it made the day all worth it.

Day 60 (Tuesday)

Yesterday we were blessed with amazing weather as we entered Columbus. After days of dreary drizzly rain, the cloudless sunny day felt incredible.

I had a lot of anxiety, racing heart and shallow breathing in the morning and my mental attitude was just all around low. I had a tough start to the day and felt like I was fighting my bad mood to try and be positive. Eventually I just gave myself permission to not feel positive and let those low feelings prevail. Life is not all about being positive all the time and there are definitely times when I feel upset or low. My psyche is fragile; physically and mentally, I am balancing on a razor’s edge. After a little while the negative feelings subsided and I felt much better by the time I started meeting people.

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Early in the morning the rig was parked at a church and Jackie went in to use the restroom. The crew likes to give push cards explaining my run and cause in the places the rig is parked so she asked if it was ok to be in their parking lot and use their restrooms. After a while, the pastor, a woman, Brittany, came out and was just blown away by the expedition. She was so enthusiastic about learning new vegan recipes to cook for her niece who has to be dairy free. She loves to bake and is always wanting ideas of things she can make that her niece can also enjoy. She took some NadaMoo ice cream with her and was excited to meet me. She said she didn’t know if we were people of faith but that her congregation would be praying for me to travel safely as I make my way to NYC. It really lifts my spirits to interact with different types of people who are all so energized by not only my run, but my plant powered mission as well.

At the next stop in the suburbs of Columbus I was finishing up my break when a woman showed up asking if I was Robbie. She surprised us all and explained that she is Cam’s mom, Gwen. Cam (IG: @peopleobjective) is running across the country about a month behind me on the same route and is raising awareness for mass incarceration. He and I spoke on the phone about footwear early in his transcon and after he made the switch to Hokas he is in much better shape. Anyway, he is from Columbus, OH and his mom brought me the best vegan wrap in town from Two Dollar Radio HQ. She even brought her bike in her car in case she had to hunt me down while I was running! Luckily, she found me while I was stopped during one of my rest breaks. What a fantastic surprise!

I was also blessed with an amazing tour guide of the city, a fellow vegan athlete, Sam. He joined me for 15 miles as we made our way through the heart of the city. I had a great time sharing miles with Sam as he showed me his town and we chatted about veganism, trail running, weight lifting (he’s a weight lifter/cross fit guy), and the psychological and emotional implications of taking on such a huge endeavor. He asked me if I felt that even with doing something as huge and magnificent as running across the country to promote veganism if I still felt I wasn’t doing enough. I definitely feel like this experience has only open my eyes more to how much more I could be doing afterwards. It is kind of amazing that even by doing something life-changing like running 45 miles every single day, I feel like I should/could be doing more. The depths of the human mind know no limits. There is always more.

I’ve said it before, but it’s amazing how you can get to know someone in such a short amount of time while running together. When I met Sam, he was a complete stranger. 15 miles later I felt like I had gained a friend. A big thank you to Sam for taking time out of his life to support me yesterday in my run through Columbus. It was a beautiful city and an amazing experience.

Jackie had arranged with Sam to get a vegan cake from a local vegan bakery (Pattycake Bakery) for Elliott’s 26th birthday. The camper was parked by a nice park for the night with a clean port-a-potty and picnic tables! Jackie picked up take-out from Loving Hut (an Asian vegan chain) and we all had a really nice hassle-free dinner at the picnic table. I ate two dinners and half an appetizer (thai curry, soba noodle stir fry and tofu wings). We then celebrated Elliott’s birthday and I gave him two CDs I found on the side of the road (the camper has a CD player y’all!). It was nice to all sit around a table in perfect weather in a nice park for the evening. There are 6 of us now so sitting in the camper can feel cramped.

Day 61 (Wednesday)

The start to the day was kind of rough. I found that my legs were bothering me (which hadn’t happened for a long time now). I thought that feeling in my legs was in the rearview mirror. At one of my midday breaks I decided to elevate them. The feeling of the blood pumping out of my feet is such a strange one. Sometimes the tingly feeling even hurts. I decided to take my shoes and socks off and wiggle my toes and let my feet breathe. I was tired and lacking in energy and was afraid I was entering a slump again.

I increased my caffeine intake and my afternoon was a whole different story. I felt great! The change in topography with the rolling hills didn’t really bother me too much as I found myself running up hills I normally would have had to walk. I guess just when 45 “flat” miles started to feel easy I am met with more challenging terrain. I feel I am more prepared than ever to run the hills though.

Elliott joined me for about 15 miles of mid afternoon run/walking as I was dragging a bit and he wanted to get in a marathon for his 26th birthday. He got 27 miles, so a little extra! It was nice to have the company out there.

Late afternoon I ran through Zanesville, OH, which felt pretty run down (at least the part I ran through). It had some very big gorgeous churches and county courthouse buildings, but the rest of the town seemed to be in rough shape. There were some hills on the east side of Zanesville that felt more like walls than hills! They were so steep.

I finished the day before 7:00 (6:47 pm) which is always a good feeling. I ate my Outdoor Herbivore Peanutty Matchsticks, took a shower in the camper and was in bed by 8:00.

My itinerary for the next 14 days:

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Robbie Balenger