By Lukas Eggen
Ely Times Staff Writer
For Scottish resident Don Lennox, running across America is no big deal. Lennox, who ran across the country in 2011, is also a world-record holding ocean rower after rowing across the Atlantic Ocean…twice.
But it was during Lennox’s first attempting at crossing the country that the seeds to something special were planted. Lisa Gustafson heard about his effort and came to help. It would soon turn into something greater.
“I had an idea to run across America many years ago,” Lennox said. “I tried it in 2011 and was sleeping on the side of the highway all the way across. Lisa heard about it and she and a couple of other people as individuals came and helped, so we’ve been stuck together like glue for the last two years and 6,000 miles apart planning this new one.”
Lennox is running to help raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and its sister program in Scotland, Hope for Heroes in the Transcontinental Challenge. The Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization aimed at horning and empowering wounded warriors.
Now that he had a cause, Lennox jumped at the chance to go from San Francisco to New York.
“I thought I could do it as a means of raising money for charity and continuing some of my adventures,” Lennox said.
Lennox stopped in Ely earlier this week during his journey. As he makes his way, Gustafson is there to drive the U-Haul truck, which houses their beds, clothes, food and more, help treat injuries, clean, cook and keep the groups website and blog updated.
Sharing one truck to sleep in while traveling across the United States may seem like close quarters, but Gustafson said they were ready for the challenge.
“If it’s something that doesn’t sound like fun, then it’s not a good idea,” Gustafson said. “I think if it’s something that you would think about it and it seems like it would be really fun, you can adjust to it on the road.”
As Gustafson and Lennox make their way through their journey, sometimes what can make a big difference in keeping spirits high is doing the smallest thing, even when they don’t want to.
“There are times you do things that maybe you don’t want to do, but on any team effort that’s worth its weight in gold, it’s about self-sacrifice,” Lennox said.
Lennox’s journey will take him through Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
While he’s looking forward to running through the country, there is one section that stands out to him.
“I grew up with a Bruce Springsteen album, Nebraska, and last time I only got to go through the start of the state,” Lennox said. “So it’ll be nice to go through it and see the badlands of Nebraska. But these are the (states) that interest me, definitely. From California to Nebraska because it’s just so iconic, it’s scenery right out of a John Wayne movie.”
Running across America may seem daunting. But, the people they’ve met along the way help to make things a little easier, despite the constant pounding and injuries he has dealt with.
“America is fantastic because you get to meet so many great people along the way and so many people help you out at times,” Lennox said.
It’s those encounters, whether it’s meeting veterans at local VFW’s or talking to people who stop along the highway that can make the difference between a good and a bad day.
“That’s the best part of the expedition,” Gustafson said. “You have days when it’s just the two of us and it’s a hard grind. It’s all about flexibility and letting go of things that are out of your control and all of a sudden you’re surprised by meeting somebody and it totally changes the atmosphere of the whole day.”
Pushing limits is nothing new to Lennox. Whether it’s rowing across the Atlantic or running across the country, pushing his physical and mental boundaries is something Lennox loves to explore.
“I think you learn about yourself when you’re doing stuff like that,” Lennox said. “Because I get a wee bit frustrated by life in general. And when you’re out here living and dealing with blisters and pains and aches, you tend to forget everything else and you survive very much in the moment, which makes you stop being so cynical about the world. It’s about finding new boundaries as well. There are times when you don’t want to get up, but you find something inside yourself to keep you going. I’ve always found that quite intriguing. I haven’t found my breaking point yet.”
And he’s not planning to stop searching any time soon. After finishing his run and finding work as a sports physician back in Scotland, he’ll go right back to training, this time to set some history.
“We are going to try to be the first crew ever to row the entire Northwest Passage,” Lennox said. “We’re going from the Hudson Bay right through to Alaska.”
While rowing and running offer unique challenges, Lennox said running presents more of a physical challenge but “isn’t half as tough mentally” as rowing.
The crew is expected to attempt the journey some time during 2014, Lennox said. And, if the turnout is anything like his sendoff for this cross-country trip, where schools in Scotland are following his progress, he likely will see support from the public once again.
To donate to the Wounded Warrior Project or to find out more information about the run and follow Lennox’s progress, please visit www.ventureintolife.com.
As Lennox continues his current trek to help raise money for a cause he said he believes in, he’s also helping other people in the public get something out of his run. Because no matter how you challenge yourself, pushing yourself to the limit is something Lennox said has served him well and opened his eyes to what the world can really be like.
“You don’t want to get caught up in the rat race and before you know it, you’ve got a job you don’t particularly like, but you stay because you have responsibilities that come with that,” Lennox said. “…This trip has restored my faith in humanity a wee bit. Some of the people in America are fantastic people. It’s been a great experience.”