Interview with Heart Trek USA Walker Colon Terrell

Colon Terrell completed a 3,275 mile walk across the United States in 2012. After a heart attack in February 2009, doctors found 95-100% blockage in all the arteries to the front of his heart, resulting in open heart five by-pass surgery. Despite being a former marathoner and living a relatively healthy lifestyle, Colon was the victim of stress and a strong family history of heart disease — the nation’s #1 killer.

Heart Trek USA Banner

Heart Trek USA Banner

He celebrated his survival and raised awareness and funds to fight heart disease by walking across America beginning in March 2012. The route took Colon from the Cape Hatteras (NC) Lighthouse on the Atlantic Coast to the Santa Monica (CA) Pier on the Pacific traveling through ten southern and southwestern states. Much of the Race Across USA’s route is based on Colon’s actual walk.

Learn more about Colon in the interview below.

Colon Terrell on his Heart Trek USA walk across the country

Colon Terrell on his Heart Trek USA walk across the country

Name: Colon Terrell

Age: 65

  • Married with two sons and four granddaughters
  • Native North Carolinian currently living in Destin, Florida
  • Retired banker after 41 years (25 as a bank president)

1. Why did you decide to walk across the country? What was your goal? What was going on in your life? Were you searching for anything in particular?

After having suffered a major heart attack in 2009 followed by open heart quintuple bypass surgery, I wanted to do something significant to celebrate being alive and to help others with latent cardiovascular disease. I decided to make the cross country journey to encourage daily exercise as part of a heart healthy life and to raise funds for research and education by the American Heart Association. Having just retired at the end of 2011 after a 41 year career as a banker, it was a perfect time for the adventure. My wife and I were excited about the opportunity to see much of American in depth, slowly and a little bit at a time.

2. What comes to mind today when you think back to that time?

It was perhaps to most exciting and memorable time of my life. I miss the daily adventure and anticipation of new sights, sounds, people and places.

3. What is it like to day after day cover 3,275 miles from North Carolina to California?

I never dreaded a single day. I always looked forward to what was over the next hill and what new awaited me. Since I was only walking 4 – 6 hours per day, we took the time to learn about each place we were experiencing. And I looked forward to sharing those experiences at least every other day with people following my blog.

4. What was the highpoint in the entire journey…other than the finish?

The inspirational people that I met—like Evan in Anniston, AL who gave me a “gift from God;” Milton in Jefferson, TX, a 90 year old, who rang the church bell in our honor despite heart surgery scheduled the next day; and Dan in Glendora, CA who became a marathoner after losing his beloved policeman father to a heart attack.

Colon walking across the USA

Colon walking across the USA

5. What was the low point in the journey?

Emotionally, I had little or no problems on the trip because my wife was with me and was so supportive. Likewise, I got constant positive reinforcement from family and friends via social media and encouragement from a support team at the American Heart Association. Physically, the Mojave Desert in August was a huge drain. Temps in the 110-117 F range — walking from 4:00 to 9:00 AM to beat the worst heat — never below 90 F at night. And then there was the 8 mm kidney stone that haunted me the entire trip, making me take frequent diversions into the woods.

6. What advice would you offer for runners of the Race Across USA for a successful crossing beyond simple perseverance?

Don’t think too far ahead. Eat that elephant one bite at a time. Prepare mentally and physically for the one day in front of you. Up your calories to about 3,000/day. Hydrate to the saturation point before, during and after your run. Get some rest — take an afternoon nap. Take care of your feet and any nagging ailments. Enjoy your surroundings — enjoy the journey, not just the completion.

7. How should racers prepare? How will they know they are ready?

Pretty simple — just build your daily preparation mileage slowly until you reach what will be your daily average on the trip. Once you can do 4-5 days in a row at the average, you’re ready to go.

8. How did completion of this challenge change your life? Do you achieve a new level of confidence or ability as a result?

I was humbled by the task but took great pride in the completion. I’m now 65 years old but believe I have the heart of a man half my age. I’m addicted to exercise and a healthy lifestyle — I still walk 8 miles a day and play in a sports league three days a week. I have confidence that I can accomplish great feats if taken a little at a time.

9. Any further advice for runners/walkers contemplating a coast-to-coast race?

Challenge yourself. Think big but break the task into small parts. Prepare, prepare, anticipate, prepare. And most importantly — slow down enough to savor the adventure.

Learn more about Heart Trek USA here.

Colon finishing his walk in Santa Monica, CA

Colon finishing his walk in Santa Monica, CA

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.

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One comment on “Interview with Heart Trek USA Walker Colon Terrell
  1. jup says:

    Love this story,the challenge and smiles that it brings. Thanks for sharing

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  2. […] in vehicles, carry their gear, and man the aide stations every 6.6 miles. The route is based on a heart attack survivor’s cross-country walk, but the Van Soyes made adjustments to avoid some of the busiest roads and to end up in the […]