Looking for something other than a race? Try a running project.
You know, like...
When self-described "fat guy runner" Robert O'Ferrell decided he was sick of being overweight and out of shape, he knew it was time to make a change.
But he never imagined the journey this tipping point would take him on.
Here's what happened...
Robert O'Ferrell wasn't in a good place.
He was overweight and out of shape. He didn't feel good. And things weren't getting any better.
"I was dating a bartender, and drinking a lot," says Robert. "Basically, I was hungover every day."
He wanted to make some lifestyle changes, but nothing seemed to stick:
And then one day, he just decided..."I'm doing this!"
He set his old-school stopwatch and walked for two minutes, the ran for 30 seconds.
That's how this unlikely journey for Robert began...
"I only know this in retrospect, and it's kind of weird," says Robert.
"When you're trying to do something different, you usually have to fail so many times, until that new habit starts to sink in."
"Hey, man. Where did you come from?"
I was running a 50-mile out-and-back solo run on a hot, summer day in 2020, when a runner wearing a hydration pack showed up running from the east side of Multnomah Falls...miles from anywhere.
"I'm running across the county," Robert said.
"Have you heard of ultrarunner Rickey Gates?" he asked me.
"He does these running projects like running every street in San Francisco. He challenged people to run across their county, so that's what I'm doing."
We ran some miles after Multnomah Falls, and chatted about:
A few miles west of Multnomah Falls, I pulled a stash of snacks and drinks out of the bushes that my wife had dropped earlier in the day, and then we parted ways. (Robert was kind enough to take a picture)
But after an hour-plus and some more miles, we happened to meet again in Parkdale, when I spotted Robert sitting outside a coffee shop.
"The girl who made my coffee was the nicest person," Robert said. "I tipped almost 100 percent. But this turned out to be the worst coffee I've ever had."
We had a good laugh about this kind of running...
But full of curious things that's you never see or experience in a race or see whizzing by in a car.
And Robert was already chasing the finish line of another big running project...
When Robert watched the documentary of Solomon-sponsored ultrarunner Rickey Gates "Every Single Street" running every street in San Francisco, Calif., his mind started formulating a plan...
By now, he had already checked off a long list of races including:
But it wasn't the same as going solo and exploring some place on foot...up close and personal.
"I started thinking, this could be a cheap and easy way to get some miles in without signing up for a race," Robert said.
"And what an interesting way to see the city of Portland. I've lived here all my life and I've probably only seen 5 percent of the city."
He got this idea in his head to create a running project like Rickey Gates.
"I started thinking about this all the time," says Robert. "I was obsessed with the idea. I started planning out how to do it and where to start."
"Then I just decided to freelance it, go for a run in Portland, and keep track. It kind of evolved from there."
Back when Robert was overweight and out of shape, he never imagined where that voice inside his head would lead him:
"On the very first day I started this, I ran down this alley near the Mississippi Street Fair in Portland," says Robert.
Star Wars alley...
"In the alley, this guy has these full-size Star Wars characters like Darth Vader and Strom Troopers, and they shoot smoke at you."
"I had no idea this even existed, and I thought, 'How many other things in Portland are there like this that I'm not familiar with?'"
He's seen things.
He's taken more than 8,000 photos.
And he's traveled on foot in many places "deemed" unsafe in Portland, only to meet kind, friendly, and generous people.
"I've always liked exploring places on foot," says Robert.
"It's something I've always kind of done, especially when I travel."
"When you walk or run, instead of hopping in a car or taxi, you see so much more. You get an idea of what a place is really like. You meet people, and you experience the sights, sounds and smells of what that place is like."
In a couple of months, Robert will complete the running project to run every street in Portland.
But that hardly means the end to adventuring.
"I've been toying around with running every street in another city," says Robert.
"Maybe do something that's travel and running related. By August, I'll have a good idea of what running project I'm going to do next."
Favorite running shoes
Favorite running watch
Fueling food & drink
Number of photos taken while running every street in Portland
Longest run to date
When you look back on running every street in Portland...
Michael Young I had a friend a few years ago do something similar, but he walked every street in New York City, as a vacation. He was inspired by a guy from France who has done Paris, London, and at that time a few other cities. It was neat because he posted what he had done each day and you could follow his worm route across NY.
Nick Kilpatrick For anyone interested in trying something similar in their hometown, CityStrides is a great tool to keep track of which streets you have already run: https://citystrides.com/
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