One of the earliest multiple day races was the Trans-American footrace (then called the Bunion Derby), which took place in 1928. It began in Los Angeles and finished in New York City, covering a distance of 3,423 miles in 84 days. Coast to coast races have taken place several times since then. In 1992 a modern version of the Trans-America footrace began. Covering 2,935.8 miles from Huntington Beach, CA to New York City, the winner, David Warady, completed the distance in 521 hours, 35 minutes and 37 seconds over 64 days. Learn more about David in the interview below.
Name: David Warady
Born: Chicago, Illinois
Currently resides: Orange County, California
Last corporate job: IBM, Managing Consultant, Performance Optimization Group
David was an athlete since he was 7 years old, and involved in swimming, football, basketball and running. He has degrees in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley and MBA from California State University Sacramento. David started seriously running at 22 years old, and got a professional coach when he was 30 years old.
Some of David’s Times and Accomplishments:
- Marathon PR: 2:34
- 50 mile PR: 5:56
- WS100: 23:42
- 1987 Southern California 50 Mile District Championships, Winner
- 1992 Runners World Trans-America 3,000 Mile Footrace Champion
- 1995 PCT 50k Champion
- 1995 Cuyamaca 50k Champion, record at least 8 years
- 2012 95th World Series of Poker, Main Event (6598 entrants)
David is also a 2012 Cancer (lymphoma) survivor and upcoming author of “Running Through Cancer” www.runningthroughcancer.com.
1. Why did you decide to join the Trans-Am race? What was your goal? What was going on at that time in your life? Were you searching for anything in particular?
My coach, John Loeschhorn, suggested the 1992 Trans-Am because I had the 13 years of long distance running background, I was reasonably fast with a 2:34 marathon PR, and I recovered well, day to day, balancing 100 mile training weeks with a full-time job and a marriage. For me, I was willing to try most things that challenged my limits in life, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. I thought racing almost 50 miles per day, for 64 straight days, with my ex-wife by my side as personal crew, was an opportunity of a lifetime and a challenge worth taking on.
2. What was the thing that comes to mind today when you think back to that time?
How proud I am for how I lived my life, to not live for retirement and to live within my means so I could take advantage of life’s opportunities when they were presented to me, like Trans-Am, for example. Life isn’t forever and you better jump on board and take advantage of the limited time you have on this earth before it slips through your fingers.
3. What is it like to day after day cover 3,000 miles from LA to NY in just 64 days?
It was like going to runners summer camp for 64 days. We were a traveling bunch of nomads, runners and crew, inching our way across the US. The daily grind was machine-like, same thing every day: up at 3:45am, hurting, Power Bar breakfast, walk-hurt-run-hurt, play mental tricks to make it through the 50 mile day, finish, hurt, eat, nap, eat, hurt, sleep. Same boring thing, day after day, but getting used to that boredom, and embracing it was one of the keys to success.
4. What was the high point in the entire journey… other the finish?
Two things immediately jump out. First, knowing I followed the training plan and race plan my coach put together to near perfection. Second, that I got to do the experience with my ex-wife by my side every step of the way and that I got to share the experience with my training partners, running teammates, friends, and family, many of which met me along the way to participate in the event in some shape or form.
5. What was the low point in the journey?
No real low points, like where I thought about quitting or anything that bleak, but many, many painful points to have to embrace and live through. I was very, very well prepared, physically, and had superior help, so as long as I was willing to accept whatever physical pain that went with crossing the U.S., I knew I would make it from one end to the other, which was the primary goal. If you didn’t make it to the finish, you couldn’t be considered in the standings. A “winning” attitude included NOT thinking about winning, only surviving to get to the finish, and putting in the least amount of energy necessary, on a daily basis. The race would determine the winner over the 3000 mile grind.
6. What are the two or three pieces of advice for runners of the Race Across USA (2015) for a successful crossing beyond simple perseverance?
Be sure you know what you’re doing when you sign on the dotted line to accept this challenge. “Thinking” or “wanting” to do it really bad and being tough as nails ISN’T enough. Doing it for the mere glory of being able to say you did a transcon ISN’T enough. If you don’t have years and years of background, enjoying 2-4 day periods in the past, running by yourself for 10 hours per day, a Trans-Am isn’t for you. If you survived training and/or racing experiences of that length, then you’ve probably figured out the individual needs you have for pacing, food, & equipment. It’s really a time tested skill. Me, I ate everything, on the run, with post-run snacks. 7,000 calories per day, and I only ran at a pace that I knew I could keep up for 3,000 miles. I ran marathons under 6 minutes per mile but only averaged 10:40 per mile for the Trans-Am.
7. How should racers prepare? How will they know that they are ready (or at least have done all they can)?
Different individuals will use different criteria. For me, I used a 12 hour race about 8 months out, a 6 day race 6 months out, and 4 consecutive 50 miles training days 5 weeks out to test my readiness.
8. How did winning the Trans-Am change your life? Did you have a new level of confidence or ability as a result?
Absolutely. Where I was already pretty confident, I had even more now. I had pretty much tested myself against death and I survived. No challenge could be tougher than racing, successfully, across the US. Subsequently, I’ve had multiple surgeries for bad hips and a bout of cancer, and it didn’t affect me negatively one iota. I attribute that to the additional mental toughness I acquired by learning how to survive a Trans-Am type challenge. I’m 80% done documenting it all in “Running Through Cancer”.
9. Do you have any further advice for runners contemplating a coast-to-coast race?
Only attempt it if you have the background. Do the training, for it is a serious challenge. Get a coach or advisor with MORE experience than yourself (hopefully someone with transcon or at least multi-day experience) to oversee your expectations and to comment on your progress from an unbiased viewpoint.
Note: If you are interested in learning more about becoming part of the core team for the Race Across USA, please send a contact request here.