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Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 09:56 am

Cross-country runner

Ultramarathoner visits Springfield on his way across U.S.

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John Radich is running across the nation with his baby buggy full of supplies.

John Radich laughs as he recalls being “pulled over” by a state trooper on the highway in New Mexico. The police had gotten several calls that a man was running down the road, pushing a baby stroller.

“I showed him there was no baby – it’s just my shoes, clothes and supplies in the baby buggy – and he just smiled,” Radich says. “Everyone so far has been very kind.”

The lean 56-year-old ultramarathoner from southern California is running across the nation, stopping in Springfield last week to rest, relax and resupply.

Radich started his coast-to-coast run from the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, Calif., on July 4, making his way east on Route 66. It is the fulfillment of a 40-year dream for Radich, who says he had dreamt of running across the nation since reading in high school about the 1928 Bunion Derby, a 3,422-mile footrace from Los Angeles to Chicago along Route 66, then on to New York.

“I told my running coach at the time, ‘I think I want to run across the country,’ ” Radich recalled while taking a break at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield on Oct. 4. “He was like, ‘Whoa, you can do that some day, but right now your body wouldn’t hold up.’ He told me to find a charity I believed in and run for that cause, so I waited and thought about it for a long time.”

Radich is running to benefit The Way to Happiness Foundation, a California-based group that he says helps keep kids out of gangs and off drugs through teaching its “21 precepts” to happiness. An accompanying “common sense guide to better living” booklet, written by L. Ron Hubbard, the creator of Scientology, is the most translated non-religious text in the world, according to Guinness World Records. The Foundation’s website says it is a nonprofit organization, though it does not seem to appear in the California attorney general’s registry of charitable trusts. Radich says he lives by the group’s principles, which include honesty, temperance, love and honor, among others.

Radich sometimes runs with a crew, which drives along with him, carrying supplies and his baby buggy full of belongings. Judy Maguire, a fellow ultramarathoner and crew captain from California, supported Radich on his journey through the Mojave Desert, where temperatures at times reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Maguire says the crew often provides moral and logistical support as well.

“The physical and mental elements can take their toll and the runner may not always be able to make a sound decision or take care of himself properly,” she said via e-mail. “…So, it’s important to have a person with him who is not so exhausted and can ensure that he eats and drinks and even urinates enough.”

Maguire describes Radich as “humble and sincere, yet very dedicated to running for this cause.”

“This is what drives him on – knowing that he is able to touch others’ lives while on this run and also be touched himself by the lives he is running through,” she says.

Radich said last week that he expected to reach Chicago within a week, where he would undergo a medical examination to make sure his body is fit to continue. Discounting any health problems, Radich hopes to continue on to Atlantic City, N.J., which he hopes to reach before Christmas.

“Don’t underestimate the ability you have to set a good example and influence people,” Radich says, explaining what he has learned from his voyage so far. “Right now, our society needs that because we have a lot of negative things going on. You can have a positive impact.”

Follow Radich’s progress at http://thetransusarun.blogspot.com.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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