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A modern-day Forrest Gump
Story by Sara Wesselmann, UNI University Relations online magazine and public relations assistant
In July, University of Northern Iowa senior physical education major Zach Liddle went out for a run in Sioux City, Iowa. In October, he ended up in Dubuque – 370 miles across the state.
Beginning his running career during his junior year of high school when his school started its cross country program, Liddle joined and immediately enjoyed the sport. His running continued in college when he joined UNI’s Panther Pacers Running Club, a group of runners who get together during the week to run throughout campus.
After years of training and running experience, his next feat was to log close to 400 miles in 10 days.
Liddle decided he was up for the challenge after training for three months to run the Boston Marathon in April 2010. After successfully completing the marathon, Liddle was motivated to run across Iowa, following the same route used by cyclists in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).
"I decided to take on this journey when I heard the 2010 RAGBRAI route was very short and flat, thinking I would raise money for a good cause in the process," said Liddle, who is no stranger to RAGBRAI, having previously accomplished the route on bike. "The Boston Marathon gave me a great base to start from, so I thought, 'Why not take a shot at it?'"
And that he did. During his run across Iowa, Liddle promoted physical fitness and raised money for the American Cancer Society and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
"I chose these charities because cancer has affected my friends and family, what with my mom being a cancer survivor and the loss of my great-uncle in 2007 to pancreatic cancer,” said Liddle. “So far, I've raised $3,100 and am still accepting donations."
During Liddle’s run, he was surprised by a tornado on day two. "I had to sit in the hotel lobby with no electricity for a couple hours, causing a setback in my run that morning," he said.
To save his body from injury, Liddle went through five pairs of shoes, rotating them after each run. Despite this precaution, Liddle sustained a strain in his right quadriceps.
"My quadriceps basically locked up on day six,” he said. “My left calf and knee had some pain, but only hurt the first couple of miles each day. I was disappointed I had to stop because I hate quitting something I start. I knew if it healed up and I had the time, I would finish.”
Persevering through injury, Liddle’s journey ran smoothly with the inspiration and support of his parents and sponsors.
“The possibility of getting better each day, pushing your body to unimaginable limits and the mentality of making yourself a better and stronger person,” said Liddle, “is what motivates me to keep going.”
As for his future, you guessed it: more running. Liddle plans to begin training again in late December for a spring half-marathon, followed by a couple 5Ks, another half-marathon and a fall marathon in Chicago.