Eagle runner finishes his cross-country journey
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Irene was an angel, as far as Markus Mueller was concerned.
Mueller, 47, was one of a handful of runners who finished the ninth Los Angeles to New York Foot Race – 3,200 miles over 70 days, much through the brutal desert heat during the fire-breathing heart of summer.
He finished Saturday in Times Square as Tropical Storm Irene’s rain fell on him, washing away the 115 degree days in the California/Arizona desert, and the pounding they took in the Oklahoma panhandle as they ran through the worst drought in the last 150 years.
They crossed the George Washington Bridge in the rain Saturday in a relatively empty New York City, and were done.
“My legs now have time to be exhausted,” Mueller said.
He started thinking about running the LA/NY Foot Race when he read about the first one in 1928. A 19-year-old kid, Andy Payne from Foyil, Oklahoma, won it after training when he couldn’t find a job in Los Angeles. He used the $25,000 prize to pay off his dad’s Oklahoma farm.
Mueller was born in Germany and lives in Eagle. He ran a trans-Germany race in 1998, then a trans-Australia race. A trans-America race seemed like the logical next step.
The Australia race was hard, but nothing compared to what they faced crossing Oklahoma’s panhandle, he said. They shared a panhandle highway crowded with semi trucks hauling hay to starving cattle, suffering from the worst drought since the 1880s.
He’s glad he did it, and he won’t be doing it again.
“This was it. This is something you can do only once,” he said.
For that inaugural 1928 race, they started in March. This one started in June and ended last Saturday – not the best timing.
“We hit the hottest summer for the last 30 years and one of the three hottest summers on record,” Mueller said. “The desert sucked everything out of you. This was a record year for heat in the U.S., and we ran through it all.”
Finally, in Missouri it rained. Just 10 minutes. But it rained. After that, running 50 miles a day felt like, well … only 50 miles. Mueller did it at a steady 4.5 miles an hour, every day for 70 days.
They were running through Pennsylvania when that East Coast earthquake hit.
Then Irene showed up. They were prepared to finish in New Jersey if the storm forced New York City to close the George Washington Bridge.
“We were lucky. We just ran through some rain,” Mueller said. “There was not much to see because Manhattan was in the clouds.”
There were a couple tourists around the finish line in Times Square, but not many.
“It seems fitting in some ways that the end of such a crazy adventure would be a crazy adventure in itself,” said Brandi Resa, Markus’s wife who helped him through it.
Mueller has always been one of those follow-your-dream guys.
“I have always been amazed at Markus’ ability to enjoy the experience of adventure even when the result is not as he had dreamed,” Resa said. “The end of this adventure was no exception and it is gratifying to see what completion of a 25-year-old dream looks like in someone’s spirit.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.