MARK GILLESPIE/Livingston County News
Transcontinental runner passes through Livingston County
Seth Wolpin passed through Geneseo on a transcontinental run, a journey between Seaside, Oregon and Boston, last Monday, July 9. He pushes a three wheel all-terrain walking buggy (”baby jogger”) for transporting clothing and needed equipment, purchasing his food at convenience and grocery stores along the way.
A native of Potsdam, Wolpin is unmarried, 40 years old, and a clinical assistant professor for health systems at the University of Washington — and a running hobbyist. Last year he climbed Mount Everest.
Wolpin is no stranger to Geneseo, having attended SUNY Geneseo in his final undergraduate year.
Wolpin’s inspiration for undertaking the adventure was largely “the epic journeys of other people and the stories they have told — and just the desire to get out of my comfort zone.” In particular, there was a book in which a woman describes her run across the world, which Wolpin read at his Mount Everest base camp last year.
Wolpin mapped his journey using the Google walking option which, by way of more obscure paths and back trails, can often offer more direct and shorter routings than the driving option. He prefers quieter trail running to road running.
It is only coincidentally that Google took him through Geneseo.
“I wasn’t really planning on running through here, but I’m glad I did,” he added.
Along some paths, Wolpin has regretted not using Google’s somewhat smoother biking option: “The walking has been tough in places because I really should have pavement or very compact dirt,” he states.
Wolpin qualifies that he is not in any way obsessed with researching his route: “But it is what it is,” he says.
Wolpin left April 30 from Seaside, covering an average of 31 miles a day in 8-to-12 hours, “taking a lot of breaks and walking when I needed to.”
The trek “is something that is hard to train for. You just have to jump in and do it.”
“It is no where near the pace I would run in an ultra or marathon,” he advises.
He eats “as much as I can and anything I want,” but has lost about 20 pounds in the coarse of the trip. Nevertheless, he is “in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
The weather has been “crazy” in places: hail and snow in the coastal range, a huge lightning storm in Nebraska, and exceptionally hot weather since Iowa — prompting him to begin running well before sun- up.
At Warsaw on Monday morning Wolpin had tallied mile no. 2,944.
Wolpin plans his specific stopping points only a day, or just a few days, in advance. He mostly camps enroute or stays in motels, but, when the occasion offers, will stay at a friend’s residence. If he leaves the route to stay with a friend, the next morning he has the friend return him to the pick-up point, so as to maintain his continuous trail.
Wolpin’s original point of departure was going to be San Francisco, but the Seaside routing has allowed him to punch through the Rocky Mountains using the Columbia Gorge, avoiding higher and colder elevations and the dry Nevada desert.
When he spoke with us on Monday, Wolpin predicted reaching his Boston destination in 11 more days.
Wolpin had a relatively level route across the midwest. The rolling terrain of western New York has turned out to be “the first serious hills I’ve dealt with since the Rockies.”
On-foot is the very best way to view America, Wolpin suggests: “There are so many details, small towns and it’s a great way to meet people — forests and fields and mountains — it’s been a pleasure. I’ve experienced a lot of generosity and trail magic.”
Wolpin followed Route 20A through Livingston County and was destined for “the top half of the Finger Lakes.”
Wolpin believes himself to be one of about 30 persons who have made a solo run across the continent.
The journey would hardly seem complete without ‘running for a charity’ or two, Wolpin suggests, while at the same time emphasizing that his primary purpose remains the adventure and excitement of the run itself.
Persons following Wolpin’s progress may be interested in contributing to one of two charities,
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston is funding post doctorate researchers overseen by Wolpin’s colleague, Dr. Donna Berry (who incidentally is a native of Geneseo) to determine and evaluate better ways to manage cancer symptoms.
The second cause is for two Sherpa guides in Nepal who assisted Wolpin last year on the Everest climb. It will pay school costs for their daughters. Both options are described at www.sethwolpin.com.
The previous transcontinental walker featured in The County News was Mike Ehredt, who passed through Geneseo in 2010 on his ‘Project America Run,’ a circuitous 4,514 mile route in which each mile symbolized an American military causality of the Iraqi war. Wolpin is familiar with Ehredt, whom, he reports, is presently involved in a north-south run.
By coincidence, Wolpin had just encountered Ehredt’s uncle and cousin when passing through his hometown of Rocks Falls, Illinois. Wolpin also is acquainted with the woman who mapped the Project America Run route.