We were recently contacted by Living Water International about a running event called “Running Water” which is due to take place this year. Runner Abe Clark is going to run a staggering 2,860 miles across the entire width of the USA. Abe is taking on this challenge in order to raise money for the charity which helps to provide clean water for people in developing countries. For many people in Africa obtaining water can be a laborious and time consuming task. According to the UK Department for International Development (DFID)…
Households in rural Africa spend an average of 26% of their time fetching water.
It is hard to imagine spending all that time and effort collecting clean water when all we have to do is turn on a tap…even if it means walking across a campsite! When we go hiking and wild camping we must take our on water with us, or use purification tablets or a water filter. But let’s face it we would not want to have to carry or find and purify our water all the time! We thought that we should learn more, so we asked Abe Clark to tell us about the water crisis and about his running challenge…
Abe Clark “Running Water” Interview
CheapTents.com: What inspired you to get into running?
Abe Clark: Running was a hobby always encouraged by my parents. In the summer of 4th grade they said they would give me $10 if I logged 100 miles that summer. It was easy money in my 10 year old mind. The next two years my mom would pick me up from the small Lutheran school I went to and drive me 15 miles to the public school where my older brother was on the new high school cross country team that retired Coach Bill Greiten had started. He had coached many years previously and was filled with running knowledge. I got my fill of inspiration jogging next to Coach Greiten after the varsity team left us in the dust.
My older brother, Ben, who is now in the Marine Corps, started running in junior high. He broke the Gillett Junior High School mile record and it became my goal to break his mark of 5:18. Four years later I ended up tying the record with my teammate, Jason Soper, setting the mark at 5:07.9. It only stood three years before my younger brother, Josh, smashed it by running a 4:56. What started as friendly brotherly competition became a life time hobby and I have been hooked ever since.
CheapTents.com: What is the furthest distance that you have covered in any running event to date?
Abe Clark: After cross-country season my freshman year at UW Green Bay I really started to run a lot. Part of it was that I had an hour between classes instead of going to my dorm room I would just go running. After a winter and spring of running 80 to 115 mile per week I entered my first marathon pretty much on a whim. Three days before the race, when I was considering it, I ran 20 miles just to make sure I could make it that far. At the age of 19 I ended up running a 2:36 marathon. Since then I have run numerous 20 to 30 mile training runs. I am currently logging at least three 20 milers a week and one 30 miler in my preparation for the 2850 mile run.
CheapTents.com: What is your biggest weakness?
Abe Clark: I always have to remind my self to live in the present. I am a dreamer or what I like to call a “realist dreamer” I am constantly planning and preparing myself for big future plans and often the little every day things of the present get ignored or neglected.
As far as running goes I never had a “kick” I am sure I will have many more weaknesses to report after the run across America.
CheapTents.com: What do you find most challenging about training?
Abe Clark: Living in Wisconsin it is definitely the cold winters. In the fall, the leaf covered trails and the weather beg you to come run. Then it turns freezing cold and you have to stick to the snowy roads. I think it takes three times the mental mind power to put on the running shoes. It is also challenging to keep a high level of motivation and consistency. Two to five hour runs is a bit long to fit in on the lunch hour.
CheapTents.com: What has been your worst injury from outdoor sports and how did it happen?
Abe Clark: I have been very blessed with a basically injury free running career, knock on wood. While living on a sailboat and cruising the great lakes this past summer I had my fair share of cuts and close calls but otherwise I have been quite healthy.
CheapTents.com: In February 2010 you will be running 2,860 miles across the United States. What has made you decide to take up this challenge?
Abe Clark: I am very drawn to adventure and the feeling of living in complete freedom. When the idea of running across America made its way into my mind four years ago. It seemed like everything was pushing me towards this moment. The two things that pushed me over the edge may sound a bit strange because they don’t have anything to do with running. 1) fixing up an old sailboat, living on it and sailing Lake Michigan all summer with no prior knowledge of sailing. This gave me a lot of confidence in my self and my dreams. A lot can be accomplished when you follow a dream 100%. The other major thing that inspired me to attempt the run was a speaker I heard at a Christian camp I worked at called Fort Wilderness. The message was on Gods will for your life and the speaker (Michael Lane) made it crystal clear. God works through your passions. This knowledge in combination with one of my favourite bible verses (Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.) made me an extremely motivated. I am so excited to use this strength that I have been empowered by. I plan to keep taking one step of faith at a time. There is an amazing comfort when you finally let go of your own life and agenda and just let God use you.
CheapTents.com: What is the Water Crisis?
Abe Clark: Here are a few of the facts that really stood out to me!
– 884 Million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world’s population. (WHO-UNICEF)
– 1.8 Million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. This amounts to around 5000 deaths a day. (UNDP) That is like blowing up an American pre-school classroom every 6 seconds.
Learn more facts at http://www.water.cc
CheapTents.com: How does Living Water International help to provide people with clean drinking water?
Abe Clark: Living Water International projects provide safe water and hygiene education at an average cost of $1= water for 1 person for 1 year; so $25 provides clean drinking water for someone for a generation. LWI’s approach is to train, equip, and consult nationals. This ensures that the energy and resources contributed by volunteers and donors result in sustainable, participatory water systems that meet the long-term needs of communities. Their priorities are appropriate technology, community involvement, maintenance and sustainability, and to be a Christian witness. LWI faith in Jesus is the reason they do what they do. Jesus tells us to think more highly of others than ourselves; he calls us to love those on society’s margins, and to see the image of God in the poorest of the poor.
CheapTents.com: How long will it take you to run 2,860 miles across the United States?
Abe Clark: The plan is 140 days long from February 15th to July 4th that averages out to 20.4 miles a day including the 14 days off. I will in speak in churches along the way spreading word of the need for clean water in underdeveloped countries.
CheapTents.com: Why did you choose the particular route from Dana Point, California, to Atlantic City, New Jersey?
Abe Clark: The biggest reason for starting in Dana Point which is south of LA was because I wanted to be in the warmer climates for the first part of the run. I also have family I knew I could stay with the days before the run and to send me off. Once I get through New Mexico it will start to turn to spring and the route will take me on a north east direction. To be honest there is no real reason for ending in Atlantic City besides the name sounded like a fitting city to end in. I really wanted to run through Washington DC for the political possibilities then just get close to New York City.
CheapTents.com: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Abe Clark: I have a Recon 3 sleeping bag that my parents gave me for Christmas a few years ago that is awesome! Other then that I keep it pretty much on the cheap side. Kohl’s running shoes and Wal-Mart tents. I think it would be great to get some good gear for the run since there will definitely be days and nights where there is no one around and I will need supplies to be able to survive.
CheapTents.com: Any thing else you would like to say?
Abe Clark: I think that a lot of people look at this as just a run but I think if I look at it as a run I will fail. This run is so long that it will become a life style not an event. The Water Crisis is unimaginable and when I think about running across America it is also inconceivable. The good news is that taking one step at a time can solve them both. Please join my site and follow me on my journey across America and the quest for clean water and adventure. You can also donate to LWI from my site, my goal is to raise $100,000 if we succeed we will literally change to lives of 10,000 people! If you would like to buy Running Water apparel where the proceeds will go to supporting the run itself, visit www.cafepress.com/runningwater.
Let the adventure begin!
Thank you Abe for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with the run!
If you enjoyed reading this interview, you will surely like our interviews with ultra-marathon runner Sam Thompson and world champion orienteer Graham Gristwood!
3 thoughts on “Run Across America with Abe Clark”
Very inspiring, Abe. Nice interview.
Abe has now completed his epic, unsupported, solo run across America, raising $88,706 for Living Water. Congratulations Abe!