To me, a marathon seems like an incredibly long way to run. And I’d argue my perspective is aligned with that of most people. So the thought of hitting the road to run all the way across the country, from California to New York City, borders on… well, insanity (but in the best possible sense of the word, of course). It’s incredible really, and 29-year old Anna Judd, an artist by trade, is undertaking the challenge to raise support and awareness for veterans. After hearing about her efforts, I had to learn more. Check out our interview and learn how you can cheer her along as she runs:
Girls Gone Sporty: Running from California to New York is a huge undertaking. What inspired you to take this on?
Anna Judd: I’m an artist by trade. I’ve always found a lot of inspiration in traveling, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people. I’ve also liked pushing my own limitations physically, mentally, and emotionally. I got into long distance running about five years ago and started to get really inspired once I saw how far I could push my body if I took it one step at a time.
I started running marathons, and then ultra-marathons. I saw running across the United States as the perfect marriage between exploring the world and pushing myself to my own limitations. I have found that this run is more of a mental challenge than anything else. I truly believe that most of our limitations are simply in our heads. Once you remove those limitations, it’s amazing what your body and your mind are capable of.
Girls Gone Sporty: You plan to run 40 miles a day, six days a week for 100 days – that’s a lot of running. How have you trained to prepare?
Anna Judd: People assume that most of my training was running, but that’s not the case. Running comprised about half my training. The other half was a combination of yoga, Pilates, swimming and biking. I trained about four hours a day for a year. The hardest part of my training was learning how far I should push my body. The most important part of running this much is learning how to listen to my body, and knowing when I can push harder and when I should ease up.
The biggest danger as I complete this feat is getting injured, so I have to be very in tune with every part of my body. I can’t let my ego get in the way, and I have to pace myself. If another runner passes me on the road, I have to take a deep breath and let them do it. I am constantly reminding myself that the goal is to get to the finish line, and I am only competing against myself
Girls Gone Sporty: Obviously you can’t plan for everything when you’re out on the road, but what type of planning has gone into the trip?
Anna Judd: It literally took one year to plan for this trip. At this point, hundreds of people have been involved at different stages of the planning. A year ago, I was working as a cocktail waitress in a restaurant. I had to learn how to get funding, sponsorships, how to find a charity, how to promote my project, how to build a website and a following, and of course, I had to educate myself about the cause I chose. Because I didn’t have any money in the beginning, most of the work I had to do myself. My best friend, Robot, started working on it with me about eight months before we left. It took working and training about 10 hours a day, every day, for the last six months of the planning.
Girls Gone Sporty: You’re hoping to raise awareness for the challenges veterans face – why is this cause near and dear to your heart?
Anna Judd: I didn’t know very much about what veterans were going through when I was choosing a cause to champion. I felt that the things that were most important to me were compassion, understanding, and community, and I wanted to choose a cause that would promote these virtues. I chose to run for veterans because I feel that they are deeply deserving of our compassion, our understanding, and that in order for them to integrate back into civilian life, we must come together as a community.
Because I didn’t know very much about veterans, I started interviewing them on film with Robot, my photographer/videographer. We volunteered at the VA hospital and homeless shelters, and started reaching out to veterans in our communities. The more veterans we talked to, the more passionate I became about raising awareness about their struggles. I didn’t imagine that the veteran community would embrace me so whole-heartedly. Now, when I’m running across the country, I think about the wounded warriors I have met, and the guys who can run marathons on prosthetic legs, and I am able to find strength I didn’t know I had. It’s true that I am supporting veterans, but I feel like it’s more accurate to say that they are (still) supporting me. My gratitude to them is what fuels me on most days.
Girls Gone Sporty: How can readers support you, your cause, and your progress during the run?
Anna Judd: I’m supporting Team RWB, which is an organization that enriches the lives of America’s veterans by bringing together veterans and civilians for athletic and social events. The “team” is open to anyone, and is kind of like a new family for a lot of veterans. They work really hard to create a caring, supportive community of people that act as a network of support. I’m spreading the word about their organization because I feel physical activity and involvement in one’s community is incredibly helpful when dealing with issues that soldiers face when returning home from battle (PTSD, anxiety, depression). Please make a donation if you can to their organization, by following the link on my website.
If you want to support me, download the app Charity Miles, join my team #runamerica, and start running/walking/biking for a cause you care about. For every mile that you run, corporations donate money to a charity that you choose on your behalf. I am running for Team RWB and Wounded Warrior Project, and I feel that the cause is extremely important, but I encourage readers to choose a cause that they are passionate about. More than anything, I hope this run inspires people to get active – both physically and within their communities. Putting others before yourself is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things you can do, and it all begins with setting your intention to make a difference. With Charity Miles, you can make a difference just by moving your body.
I’m live broadcasting my entire journey by using a mobile app called Hang w/. I do three to four broadcasts a day, and document the most beautiful and difficult parts of my journey. Download the app and follow Anna Runs America. We are also extremely active on social media, so add Anna Runs America on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Girls Gone Sporty: I have to know, what type of gear are you packing?
Anna Judd: For food, I’m eating Promax Nutrition protein bars to keep me fueled on the road, Hivemind Bee Pollen, Frezzor (omega-3s and superfood shakes), and Bulletproof Coffee. When I was looking for sponsors, it was really important to me that the products I chose be high quality and made by ethical companies. All of the food and supplements I eat are extremely healthy, and the companies that donated them are dedicated to making a difference in their communities.
I wear all different kinds of shoes. Nike has been generous and has donated a lot of gear. I wrap my ankles and calves in ace bandages over my socks every day, which keeps swelling down in my feet and legs. I have to wear a lot of sunscreen, and I run with a camelpak usually. Hydration is really key to staying injury free, and I usually take a sip of water every three to four minutes. If I forget to drink enough water, or if I wait until I get thirsty to drink, my performance suffers in a huge way. I have a huge cooler in the RV full of ice water, and every ten miles, I have to take off the ace bandages, the socks, and my shoes and ice down my legs for ten minutes to prevent swelling and inflammation. It’s a real pain, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it to New York.
Girls Gone Sporty: What are you looking forward to the most about the experience, and is there anything you’re particularly nervous about?
Anna Judd: I’m looking forward to seeing the country, one step at a time. You realize how very beautiful and diverse our country is, both the land and the people. Being a city girl, I forget that most of this country is wide open spaces, farmlands, desert, swamps, mountains. Some of the most beautiful landscapes you could ever imagine. Everywhere I go, people are friendly and generous and hospitable. I’m nervous about the mountains in New Mexico and the summer heat, but I’ve already conceded to slowing down my pace if it will prevent injury.
Girls Gone Sporty: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Anna Judd: I think it’s really important for people to know that I’m not a professional athlete. I’m an artist by trade, who really just loves to run and wants to make a difference in the world. I’ve never come close to winning a race, and don’t think I ever will. Running for me is about conquering myself, achieving my goals, and growing as a person. Others can run faster and for longer than I can. I really think that I am able to run across America because I work hard and because I believe in myself and in the cause I am running for. There is nothing special or unique about my physical or mental abilities, except that I absolutely refuse to give up.
Connect with Anna:
- Website: http://annarunsamerica.com
- Facebook: http://facebook.com/annarunsamerica
- Instagram: http://instagram/annarunsamerica
- Hang w/: http://hangwith.me/annarunsamerica
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/runannarun2014
- Blog: http://annarunsamerica.blogspot.com
- Charity Name: Team RWB (http://teamrwb.org), Charity Miles (http://charitymiles.com)
Anna is currently almost halfway through her journey (as of May 2, 2014)! Check her route to see if you can cheer her along as she makes her way across the country!