TransCon Recap: Week 10

States: Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland… Pennsylvania again!

Days: 62 – 68

Start: Norwich, OH

End: ~5 miles west of Gettysburg, PA

Cumulative miles: 2,934 miles

Day 62 (Thursday)

The hills. They just keep coming. For a long time I had been sort of looking forward to these hills to change up the muscle groups in my legs. Running flats every single day definitely had its challenges in terms of boredom and impact on my body. But these hills don’t come without their own challenges.

A couple of plant-based athletes tracked me down today. Thank you, Rachel, for finding me around mile 15. Even the shortest interactions with others have the ability to really lift my spirits and carry me onwards. Around mile 20, Joshua found me after driving 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh, PA! We tackled some hills together, and I enjoyed getting to know him a little bit.

The highlight of the last few days has been having Jamie Howard out on the Transcon. She is one of my two sister-in-laws to be. She always brings great energy and a smile to my face. Thanks for taking off a whole week of work to be a part of my run. She helped with the crew, she ran a big mileage week, and she provided endless positivity. It means the world that you came out, Jamie.


Day 63 (Friday)

Today brought a major milestone: I hit the 500 miles left mark! I very vividly remember celebrating my first 500 miles milestone back in Williams, Arizona and yet it feels like a lifetime ago. I reached 500 miles on Day 12 of my run, and now I have 12 days to go before I reach Central Park in NYC.


Today was my last “three states in one day” day. I traveled from Ohio into West Virginia and then into Pennsylvania. With each mile, I was confronted with steeper hills and smaller mountain towns.

Pete and Tara from Six Shooter Coffee (Columbus, OH) joined me for some morning miles. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the presence of and conversations with others make the miles fly by.

I was excited to end the day in Pennsylvania, the last major hurdle as my run across the United States begins to come to an end. I’m doing my best to soak up every last mile, reflect on the road traveled, and look forward to whatever comes ahead.

Day 64 (Saturday)

Ok, settling into a new normal now of HEAT and HILLS. Back when I used to live in Austin, I used to say that running in the heat was my *hills* – but now I have both of them and man are they wearing me out. I thought maybe, just maybe, the last couple weeks of this run might feel like coasting, despite the anticipated hills. It has recently become clear this is not at all the case.

Every day, the mountains become more intense, and the weather more draining. Every now and then I get some rain to cool us off, but in general, the theme of the weather has been just brutally hot. Jackie and Elliott both have put in some hot and rainy miles with me, and I can’t thank them enough for being willing to put themselves through that kind of discomfort just to keep me company and support me.

This morning, I met Eric. His company was super uplifting, and I really found a strong connection with him. It’s great to get to know someone while running, but this guy shares so many of the same ideas that I have about how running and finding a clean diet can lead to so many other benefits. We shared really honest conversations, and I really respect his outlook on life and longevity. His motivation to give back was inspiring and that feeling held me up for the rest of the day.


Day 65 (Sunday)

Today was possible one of the hardest days I’ve had out here yet. It took me ~14 hours to get my miles done. Not only was I battling the relentless hills of the Allegheny Mountains, but the temperature got up to almost 90° F.

My body hurts. My shoulders are tired, my legs are heavy, and I just don’t have a lot of energy period. I know that the days are going to be longer than they’ve been in a long time, and that puts extra strain on me mentally. I expect that the next 10 days will not be without a fight. This is all just a relentless struggle. These mountains are their own beast. They may not look as intimidating as the Rockies, but they’re so much harder to me. They are unforgiving; climb after climb, descent after descent. The grade is so steep that I’m almost slower going downhill than going uphill. I just really hope my legs can hold up.


Ben, Devane, & Shawn all drove so far to find me today and keep me company through some very tough hills and traffic. Thank you so much for coming out and supporting me!

Day 66 (Monday)

I’m so tired today. The long days and elevation profiles have put so much extra stress on my body that no matter how much sleep I get, it’s just not enough. I called Shelley this morning at around mile 15 feeling totally defeated. I know I will get through these days, and that I only have 9 DAYS LEFT, but 9 DAYS is still a LONG TIME!

If anyone were to set out to do a 9-day stage race at 45 miles a day, that would be a BIG effort and an ambitious endeavor. When I put it like that, it’s easy to kind of psych myself into a weird mental headspace. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve already done this for 66 days.

Maryland is absolutely gorgeous. The hills are alive with the sounds of knee and shin pain! It’s taking some conscious adjusting to the longer days. Instead of eating at my breaks, I’m now having to eat while I run again, something that takes some getting used to. I’m also having to modify how I pace myself throughout the day to be able to sustain the hills and my daily mileage.

Today a professor of exercise science at Frostburg State University named Melody joined me and Jackie for some miles. Our conversation and her attitude really helped to lift my spirits out of the pain cave. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it. Thanks for coming out, Melody!


All-in-all today was long, hilly, challenging, and hot. And I think tomorrow is more of the same. But here is where I get to be pretty excited about the number of days remaining being in the single digits.

Day 67 (Tuesday)


There are literally no switchbacks on these roads. It’s just straight up and straight down. Today was one of my hardest days. I ended my run in Maryland and entered back into Pennsylvania. The vistas are incredible, but that means I’m running hills if I’m noticing good views. The hardwoods are so majestic, and the farms and barns are so interesting and beautiful to look at.

I was pretty much consumed by pain today. My legs, joints, everything just hurts. My physical struggle had been on the back burner before I entered the Allegheny Mountains (and now the Appalachians), and I was sort of focused entirely on my mental game and imagining what would come next after this run was finished. But now, I’m forced to be in the moment. In the moment with the pain. And man, that is grueling. I found myself just wishing that I could distract myself with ANYTHING else. Music didn’t do it, my books on tape didn’t do it. Nothing helped dig me out. I was just stuck with it.

Chris saw a black bear in the woods! It’s definitely clear that we are approaching our intersection with the Appalachian Trail.

I wish I had something else positive to say about the day. The weather was pretty good today and I had the gift of cloud coverage. There.

Day 68 (Wednesday)

Over the course of today, I made my way out of the Appalachian Mountains. There were some brutal climbs and descents in the beginning of my day, and one last major climb to the intersection with the Appalachian Trail (AT). About 10 miles into my run I felt like I had expended everything. That’s about 35 miles too early to feel that. I literally didn’t know how I was going to run 35 more miles. Some cold spaghetti with olive oil and salt at mile 20 picked me right back up. In efforts like this one, or just endurance running in general, carbohydrates are so key. So key. People who think they can do endurance stuff without eating the appropriate foods are going to crash and burn at some point. That’s just science.

Jackie and Elliott took some time for a trail run on the AT. I was so happy to see Jackie and Elliott take some time for themselves and do something that they enjoy so much – after all, we’re all trail people at heart. They both give so much of their energy and lives to helping me with this Transcon and keeping me company, and I am so grateful for that. For those of you who don’t know this, Jackie thru-hiked the AT last year, and the trail still lives inside of her in such an obvious way. After her run, she set up a table on the trail and gave out Gatorade and snacks to hikers (this is called “trail magic” in AT lingo). She was so in her element.


The end of today marks the beginning of my LAST WEEK on the Transcon. Seven days left until I reach Central Park in NYC.

Robbie Balenger