Synopsis

The book is based on Nick Baldock’s commitment in 1998 to raise money for the Josie Russell Trust. It is a diary-based first hand account of what it is like to run across America: a foot-slogging feat achieved by very few people.

Running across America is a story of endurance, pain, glory and joy. Though offering the reader insights into the many places visited, it is primarily an account of how three people, previously unknown to each other, existed for over four months in a confined environment under intense stress.

As the project moved, agonizingly slowly, across small town America, in one of the hottest summers the country had experienced in the 20th Century, Nick recorded the emotional tensions that served as a backdrop to the immense physical effort of running across a continent.

But this is not just an account of one man’s determination to complete the awesome challenge he had set himself. Because it was a run for Josie, this is also a great human interest story. Everything that was endured was done so for Josie Russell.

Josie’s plight is well documented, and etched into the hearts of people in Britain and throughout the world. Running across America reflects the decision of a small team to support her after her mother and sister were murdered in front of her.


Nick Baldock

Nick Baldock was 43 years old when he decided to do the run. He emphasizes that he is ‘Joe Average’ and, although an experienced road runner, is certainly no serious athlete. With a daughter the same age as Josie, the tragedy that had descended on her and Shaun, her father, inspired him to accomplish something that had long been a deep-seated desire.

Having made contact with Shaun in early 1998 and received his blessing, Nick revealed to astonished friends and family that he was determined to run across America: and set about the gargantuan task of making the necessary preparations.

Nick runs his own management training consultancy and spends many nights away from home. The early part of the book therefore focuses on the difficulties of fitting into a hectic work schedule the demands of organizing a motor home, drivers, fuel, food, visas, publicity, support etc. A full time job in itself!

The few months leading up to the run were a whirlwind of activity. Only three weeks before he was due to depart he had no drivers. With only one week to go, he had no visas.

The book centres on three principal areas:

What it is like to see America on foot: something that very few ever get to see.

The physical demand on the body, and how a 43-year-old coped with the relentless repetition of daily mileage and searing heat.

How three strangers, who had met only three weeks before travelling to America, got on for four months in a very small motor home. The arguments and emotional dramas.

The West

The real journey begins on a windy Californian beach at 4.45 p.m. on 1st May 1999.  Nick is struck by sheer terror on that beach, contemplating the enormity of the task ahead and the fact that so many others have failed before him.

For the first few days, much of the time is spent by the team getting to know each other and establishing a routine. The air is one of excitement as their route takes in the Napa Valley, Sacramento and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

When the team reaches Reno and the outskirts of the desert, Nick writes about the immense tiredness felt after running so far in a short period. It is in these early days that the realization sets in that, although hundreds of miles are behind him, there are still thousands of miles to go.

It is difficult for all of them. By the time the team surfaces from a 300-mile stretch of barren desert, huge cracks have appeared in their relationship with each other.

One driver leaves the project to go home to England, getting away to raise more money.  He rejoins the team at Salt Lake City, and they set off to cover 450 miles over the Rockies.

Daily life becomes a grind. The team fight and spit. Running becomes harder as huge blisters, on both feet, require lancing each day. And these dramas somehow seem more vivid because they’re acted out against a backdrop of barren desert, rocky plateaus and picture postcard snow-capped mountains.

The Mid-West

By the mid-west, the project has run into one of the hottest summers of the century, with temperatures spiralling to over 110 degrees. Heat advisories on TV are warning people not to go out or do any exercise.

Faced with a new problem of the project running out of money fast, Nick has no choice but to run 30 miles each day: many days suffering badly. By now, he is in despair at the sheer hopelessness of running when no progress seems to be made. No matter how far he runs, he never seems to be getting anywhere.

There is serious talk of giving up, driven by the growing belief that Nick will never get to New York. It simply doesn’t seem possible. And he’s even beginning to think that he’ll never see England, his home and daughter, again. These are dark days indeed.

The driver who left has returned and left again - to relieve the tensions in the RV. This not only makes the atmosphere better, it also improved the finances.

At one point, the project is down to its last tank of fuel and $5 in the kitty. However, through the persistence of the project coordinator back in the UK, further funds are secured and the run continues.

For over 1,000 miles, in sultry, oppressive heat, Nick runs through cornfield after cornfield. The scenery now is one of small farms, cattle and enormous grain silos. After 100 days, the team struggles into Chicago.

The East

By now, the team has become hardened to life on the road and being together. Individual foibles are ‘tolerated’, and the three men learn to suffer each other.

But four months is a long time, and the air is tense. They all long to leave the RV, that seems to choke their natural selves.

Nick has lost a tremendous amount of weight and is deep brown from spending so many hours in the sun each day. In August, Shaun and Josie Russell visit them in Ohio, and this brings the team together.





  




Running across America
They spend a fun-filled day in the RV, and it is a timely reminder to all of them that they are going through this ordeal for a good reason.
With days getting cooler and shorter, they realize that the fall is on the way. By September, they are getting ready for the finish. The journey takes a dramatic route through Pennsylvania before hitting the New Jersey border. Increasingly, thoughts are now of home and loved ones.
What started out as a thrilling adventure has turned into a dreary and monotonous routine that all three are longing to see come to an end.
The mood changes, and excitement returns, when they reach New York. The joy is enormous as Nick runs over the George Washington Bridge and sees the Manhattan skyline for the very first time.
Then, after a surreal run through Harlem, he eventually reaches the end of his quest: the welcoming embrace of New York’s Central Park and the warmth of Josie’s smile.
Book