Clarkís first running goal was set back in fifth grade. A twinge of
sibling rivalry turned into a passion when Clark was determined to
beat big brother Benís new mile record at Gillett Middle School in
Gillett. His mother, willing to aid in his endeavour, drove him to the
high school every afternoon when he was in fifth and sixth grade so he
could train with the high school cross country team. The time to beat
ó 5 minutes, 18 seconds.
After two years
of training with the cross country team and many mile sprints on the
old railroad bed, he accomplished his mission and crossed the finish
line with his friend, Jason, at 5 minutes, 7 seconds.
later, Clarkís younger brother, Josh, crushed the record at 4
minutes, 56 seconds.
You could say it
set the pace for Clarkís lifestyle. He focuses on a task and works
hard to complete it.
about the journey and having a goal," he says. "The goal is
to put you on the right road leading to something."
Clark, who lives
in Milwaukee, is a quiet guy with a zest for adventure. The 6-foot,
2-inch athlete has a runnerís body, and an easygoing attitude. He
takes things in stride. His personality and determination were key
factors in allowing him to be the 15th member of the elite club to run
across the United States solo ó without a support crew.
what it would be like to start running and never have to turn
around," he says.
2,960-mile run across America started on the Pacific shore in
Oceanside, Calif., on Feb. 15, 2010, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean
at Atlantic City, N.J., on June 30, 2010. It took him 136 days and
five pairs of Asics.
The dream to run
across the country was fueled by a passion to help those in need. He
decided to make the experience a fundraiser and succeeded in raising
$90,000 for Living Water International. The money was targeted to
supply Haitians with clean drinking water following the 2010
cents will give a person clean water for a year," says Clark.
"I had the first thought while I was sailing on Lake Michigan. I
was floating on all this water and thinking about those people who are
looking for drinking water. Water is the basic of life. Itís a
started doing some research, found Living Water International and
planned to make the nonprofit the beneficiary of his fundraising
It took nearly
four months to plan for his journey, which he completed with one
running partner: Ruby, his baby jogging stroller that was loaded with
70 pounds of supplies.
would have no desire to run an unfamiliar terrain for days on end ó
alone ó but thatís how Clark wanted it.
easier and more simple that way. The bottom line is I was on a
shoestring budget," he says, with a smile. "I like that side
of it ó adventurous and alone."
To top it off,
Clark ran sans music, except for three days in Oklahoma when the wind
was getting the better of him. "Itís a state of mind you reach
and you stay there all day. It frees your mind," he says.
"You find yourself in this zone and youíre focused on what your
body is doing."
While Clark was
busy transversing the country, his fiancťe, Kate Kopp, was home
waiting for calls on his progress. The couple married shortly after he
completed the cross-country trek.
Kopp is an
independent woman. The two met in the summer of 2008, when they were
both leaders at the Fort Wilderness Ministries Camp in northern
Wisconsin. They quickly fell in love.
old soul with extreme ideas," she says.
And she knew
what she was getting into from the get go. "We had a conversation
very early on and he told me what he wanted to do," she says.
"It really didnít surprise me one-and-a-half years later when
he started planning it. He wanted to push himself to the extreme and
see if he could do it, but he wanted to do it for a greater
couple had only been engaged a few months when Clarkís started his
journey. "I struggled with it for a while, but I was very proud
of him," she says.
Knowing he had
Koppís support along with family and friends helped propel Clark
onward through the unknown terrain. He averaged 25 miles a day.
"The body is amazing because it adapts to whatever we put it
through." And that self discovery came with plenty of adventure
along the way, from surviving a blizzard in the Rocky Mountain
wilderness to waking in the forest during the night to the sounds of
mountain lions purring nearby.
The first month
was the most painful on his body as it adjusted to the mileage.
"I would collapse at the side of the road for a bit," he
says. "Those times are when you find out what you are really made
As the miles and
states slipped by, Clark discovered a change in himself after sitting
on the edge of his bed in a motel room in New Mexico.
adrenaline left and it began to feel like a lifestyle," he says.
"It didnít feel like a big event anymore. To handle a long
journey like that you have to look at it that way."
part about his journey was seeing the country on foot and meeting the
people along the way. "My relationships were 12 hours long and I
was passing through, peeking into peopleís lives," he says.
"It was America who took care of me through the whole journey. I
was pretty vulnerable and they would give me a place to sleep or
state was never more prevalent than when he was running through a
mountain pass in northern New Mexico and a blizzard set in. Running in
nothing more than running tights, a long-sleeve shirt and lightweight
running jacket, Clark quickly realized he needed to take shelter ó
and fast ó before he froze to death.
He was in the
middle of the wilderness with no cell phone reception, so his survival
instincts set in. He quickly dug a snow cave, put on the five shirts
and pair of jeans he had and hunkered down in his sleeping bag. He
spent 16 hours buried under 6 feet of snow. When he emerged from the
cave, the sun was out and a snowplow had gone through leaving him with
one lane to run the 30 miles out of the mountains. He walked most of
the day due to leg cramps as a result of lying in his snow cave, but
he made it to Taos, N.M., where he was picked up by a park ranger.
"Humans have a desire to live and fight for life. The will to
survive. For a while, I didnít want to sleep outside any more
because I was so afraid of freezing," he says.
was in New Mexico was the scariest time. It was four or five days I
didnít hear from him. I didnít know if he was dead or alive,"
But he made it,
and his journey continued. By the second half of his trip, Clark says
he was in really good shape and could pluck off 20 to 25 miles a day
challenges set in, including more populated areas and not-so-friendly
people. From kids harassing him in the middle of the night to a pastor
refusing to help, Clark held steadfast on reaching his goal, but the
mental and emotional challenges were mounting. Kopp sensed Clark was
struggling, so she drove to Ohio and surprised him one day as he was
running down the trail. "The second half of the trip he was very
lonely and struggling, so I felt more needed," she says. The trip
to Ohio was perfect timing so she could encourage him to go on, she
across 15 states, he reached Atlantic City, where Kopp and his family
But that was not
the end of his American journey and quest to help others in need.
One year later,
a group of four people from Texas, inspired by Clarkís run, decided
to bike the perimeter of the United States to raise money for Living
Water International. Clark made the decision to join them a week
before they left. He bought a bike, a plane ticket to Texas and headed
out on the road once again on June 15, 2011. The adventure took him
more than 9,000 miles around the perimeter of the United States, which
the group completed in 146 days. Clark embarked on the challenge with
no prior training on the bike. As a matter of fact, the farthest he
had ever biked was 50 miles. He met the task, and the group averaged
80 miles a day.
to be a part of the bike ride so I could watch it (the desire to help)
grow," he says.
frustrating for Kopp when their relationship becomes about Clarkís
latest adventure, but she takes it in stride. "I never would want
a normal life. Iím drawn to him for that reason, so Iím supportive
of it," she says.
his two expeditions, Clark came home and wrote a book, "Running
Water," about his day-to-day journey across the country. He also
does motivational speaking and recently took a job at Door Countyís
plan to transverse the country again on foot or bike ó heís
checked those off the bucket list ≠ó but he plans to continue
working with Living Water International. Besides running and biking,
Clark is an avid sailor. He would like to spotlight the fresh water
crisis by sailing to underdeveloped countries in need of fresh water
and film a documentary for viewers to see where there is a need.
setting up my life where I can continue to have adventures and help
people," he says.
he does, heíll do well," says Kopp. "He needs to be in an
environment where it is limitless."
To read more
about Clarkís run across America, check out "Running
Water" at http://abrahamlouis.com/runningwater/, amazon.com or
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5412873.Abraham Louis Clark. m