LA: Did people just let you crash with them? I would’ve been looking hard for support.
RG: For the most part, I was doing pretty good just sleeping under the stars. But you get torrential rainstorms across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas in the springtime, and one of those nights I got soaked to the bone. I cruised into a store in a small town the next day and was pleading with the woman behind the counter, asking where I could stay dry. There weren’t any hotels. A guy behind me in line with long Willie Nelson braids, tattoos on his fingers, missing a lot of teeth, and a can of Busch Light in his hand said, ‘You’re staying with me tonight, Bud.’ His name was Kevin Wilson. He had pretty sorry living conditions. He told me all about his life. It was what I was aiming for on this trip—to meet people I wouldn’t meet in my normal life and spend some time with them and hear some stories. I think because of the bubbles that we live in we don’t get to cross over those lines very much.
LA: When you announced that you were doing this run, you said, ‘You cannot know the world without knowing your own back roads. In a time of uncertainty and a crescendo of differences, I’ve chosen to slow down, simplify my life and get to know my country by a step-by-step intimacy.’
RG: I went into the trip trying to be as unbiased as I possibly could and, more than anything, wanting to meet people that I disagreed with. And I found that consistently across country. I went through 11 states and I think 9 were red states. It was cool to just sit down and talk and try my best to not pass any judgement. I sat at a bar in Austin, Nevada, and the bartender was a Serbian man who had come to the States 40 years ago and had a big Donald Trump sign in the front of his patio. And he just started spouting politics. I was with a couple of friends, and they couldn’t handle it and started laying into this guy. But you can’t really figure out where people are coming from if you immediately put up a defense and start attacking them. It was cool to see how I had changed a little, and it’s a change I hope to maintain in my ‘regular’ life.
LA: Did you plan out your 3,700-mile route by the mile?
RG: I wanted to hit as many trails as possible, start in the south and go through my hometown of Aspen, Colorado, and finish in San Francisco. I came up with 6 or 7 trails I wanted to hit. I used the walking button for Google Maps to map the shortest route between trails. It sent me on some crazy backcountry roads.
LA: How many pairs of shoes did you go through?
RG: 11 or 12 pairs. I think you can do it with less and you can certainly do it with a whole lot more. I was trying out shoes that [sponsor] Salomon was making. They were sending them to my brother in Aspen, and then he was sending them to post offices along my route.
LA: I can’t run without getting injured. You must’ve had issues. Nobody can run that far without being in pain.
RG: I had a million little injuries, and most would come and go in a few days, which I think is a strong testament to the human body—it figures out how to repair itself. I’ve never had a whole lot of sympathy for people who say they have an injury and can’t run. I do pay close attention to stretching and massage.
LA: You didn’t go dry on this trip did you?
RG: Far from it. You need to have the carrot out in front of you. A gas station 20 miles up ahead with a Bud Light and an outlet to charge your phone is pretty much heaven on earth when you’re running across the desert.
LA: You do all kinds of crazy shit. You decided one year to go to Antarctica and work on a scientific base.
RG: Do you have any desire to visit a different planet? If it were a possibility to go spend some time on Mars or the moon? That’s what I consider Antarctica. It’s the closest that you can get to going to another planet, into outer space. I’ve always had a fascination with strange landscapes. I got an opportunity to go down to the South Pole and wash dishes for four months. I got outside to run every day. I ran a marathon. I found that you can be pretty comfortable running in minus 7 degrees. When I got there, it was minus 60. I put on 30 pounds.