I ran into an old friend on Saturday. Well.. “ran into” doesn’t quite paint an accurate picture, because I drove 90 minutes to see him. I hadn’t seen him in a couple years, and this was my one and only chance to see him for the next couple years.
That friend is Ruslan Shakin, and he’s on a multi-year journey of a lifetime, literally running around the world. So far he’s amassed around 12,000 miles of running, by running across Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South America (Chile and Argentina) and South Africa. Now he’s running across the United States, from Los Angeles to New York City, and he has plans to follow that up by tackling a run across Europe and into Russia, where he’s from.
His goal is to run 24,901 miles – the distance around the earth at the equator. He’s almost halfway there!
I’m so incredibly proud of Ruslan, and so incredibly inspired by him. In the five years that I’ve known him, I’ve watched him evolve into this ultra-running machine, accomplishing things that are beyond my imagination.
We first met in 2015, at a training session for an upcoming stair race in Los Angeles. We did a few races together (including a very memorable race at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, where I beat him by one second), and then Ruslan started focusing on ultra marathons. When he first took off for Japan, and shared on social media that he would be running the length of it, from tip to tip, I was in awe. And I had no idea it would be the first leg of a multi-continent adventure that would have him away from his home, in Los Angeles, for years.
Ruslan runs with a stroller, that he’s outfitted with everything he needs. A tent and camping stove, because he often camps along the side of the road, plus snacks, water, and supplies. He made a nice sign so when people pass him running in the middle of nowhere, they know what he’s doing.
This stroller contains Ruslan’s life. He gave up his apartment in Los Angeles when he left for Japan, and moved his things into a storage unit. When he returned to Los Angeles for a little break (after completing five major runs across Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and Africa), he get rid of everything in the storage unit. What’s left is in that stroller. “I practice minimalism,” Ruslan told me, with a smile.
On this run across America, Ruslan has averaged about 25-30 miles every day. There are no rest days. Sometimes he runs through the night, and if there’s a bright moon, he won’t even use his headlamp. There’s been days where he’s clocked 50 or 60 miles before stopping, and if he’s camping that night, it takes another hour to unload the stroller and pitch the tent before he can actually relax and get some sleep.
“The first mile, each day, is the worst,” Ruslan told me, but then he settles into a rhythm, and his body is warmed up, and he can go for hours, stopping about once an hour or so for water and snacks.
Ruslan rolled his ankle in New Mexico. “It slowed me down,” he told me, before admitting that, for the next week or so, he ran “only” about 20 miles a day. “I got over my running injury by running,” he said.
There’s a charitable component to Ruslan’s efforts, too. He’s raised money for various causes on this travels, usually ones that are relevant for the country or region that he’s in. He’s raising money during his run across the U.S. for Feeding America, a nationwide network of food pantries, since COVID-19 has so greatly increased the need for food assistance.
Ruslan’s route across the U.S. followed Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago, and then east to New York. I’d been keeping an eye on him, because I knew that after Chicago, he’d be passing through northern Ohio as he headed east, and that wasn’t really all too far from me. At the beginning of last week, I started tracking Ruslan’s progress on Garmin, and told him I was coming down to meet up with him on Saturday.
By Saturday morning, he had made it to Bowling Green, Ohio, and JJ and I met him at a restaurant with an outside patio. We caught up, ate breakfast, and chatted for a good 90 minutes, and then all three of us headed out for a run. Ruslan’s goal was to make it to a little town called Monroeville, about 50 miles east, and I decided to join him for the first 3.1 miles (a 5K). Then, JJ and I would have to turn around and run back to the car. It would equal a 10K for me, which would be a great workout for the day.
I got a small taste of running on shoulders along two lane roads, which Ruslan has literally been doing for thousands of miles. His slow pace, with the stroller, is about the same as my regular running pace, so we were pretty well-matched. Running with a friend is always better than running solo, because time and distance fly by quicker. JJ was happy to run, because he’s nearly always happy running, because dogs like to run.
After 3.1 miles, Ruslan and I parted ways. He continued running down the road, pushing his stroller. I watched until he disappeared around the bend, a few hundred yards away, that much closer to finishing his extraordinary quest, to accomplishing something that so few people have ever done before.
My eyes welled up as Ruslan headed down that road, partly out of pride for him, and also, I think, from being in the presence of a man on a mission that is so utterly awe-inspiring, that requires so much determination and drive. I’m proof that good things can come if you focus and work hard, but that message can sometimes feel muddied, or just out of reach. Sometimes it feels like that message is fading, like a photograph that’s been left in the sun. Spending a little time with Ruslan was a wonderful reminder that anyone is capable of astounding things. It’s a reminder that I didn’t realize I needed that day, and one I won’t forget anytime soon.
Keep it up, Ruslan!
CLICK HERE for a list of all of Ruslan’s social media links, as well as how you can support him and his charitable partners.
The run back to the car was uneventful. It was around 1pm at that point, and it was hot, and both JJ and I were feeling the heat. We ended up walking for a couple short sections, but we still clocked 6.5 miles of distance. (We ran probably 5.5 miles of it.)
Keep it up, David!
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