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On the run

Run RIT, run. Their goal was to make it across the United States in 14 days or less and to celebrate the university’s 175th anniversary.

But they outdid themselves, besting by more than two days the record of the 1979 coast-to-coast run – organized to celebrate RIT’s 150th anniversary.
A team of 18 students and alumni set off from San Diego, Calif., on Nov. 17. Crossing 13 states and the District of Columbia, they encountered mountains, cactus, sleet, snow, detours and Thanksgiving dinner on the road during their 2,730-mile trek.

They met folks who stopped to see how they were doing, encountered a restaurant owner who insisted they stop by for pie – in Pietown, N.M., no less – and, in Ohio, became part of an impromptu parade in a small town’s annual winter festival.

Donald Campbell ’81 (mechanical engineering) was one of 12 runners who participated in the 1979 run.

Each runner – a member or graduate of the cross country team – ran a 2-mile segment, then rested for three to four hours in one of two RVs before joining the relay again. The conditions were cramped, showers were scarce, but they kept at it, overcoming their challenges and building camaraderie and confidence along the way.

“Most of us gained a true feeling that there wasn’t a single thing that could come up that we couldn’t handle in stride,” says Chad Byler, fourth-year mechanical engineering student and the principal organizer of the run.

They kept parents, friends and the rest of the world informed through an on-the-road blog – an online journal – packed with tales and photos of the trip.

The run officially ended around 7 p.m. on Nov. 29 at the city docks in Annapolis, Md., near the United States Naval Academy.

They were greeted by the academy’s cross country team and offered welcome warm showers.

A few days after returning to RIT, the runners were met with cheers and a homecoming celebration as they made a ceremonial run into campus with President Albert Simone and Mary-Beth Cooper, vice president of student affairs.

“Now that we are back in the swing of things,” Byler says, “I think many have taken away that in life, not just out on the road, there is nothing we as individuals or as a team can’t accomplish.”

The run was declared a success – and proclaimed an RIT tradition. The next cross-country run? Look for it in 2029 – RIT’s 200th anniversary.

Silandara Bartlett

To read the Coast-to-Coast blog and see additional photos of the run, visit www.ritcoasttocoastrun.com.

About the photographer: Matthew Hartman ’04 (fine art photography) documented the Coast-to-Coast run. During his student years at RIT, Hartman was on the indoor and outdoor track and field teams and worked as a student trainer for three years. Originally from Gilmanton, N.H., Hartman returned there after graduation and launched a free-lance career.