Running for Boys and Girls: Portland woman plans cross-country trek

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PORTLAND — Zoe Romano remembers a day she was running along the beach in Charleston, S.C., her feet wet from the rolling waves, when the sky began to darken and the clouds rolled in. She pushed on, determined to get her run in, but the weather had other plans.

When lightning started darting across the sky, she turned back toward a friend’s house where she was staying. But as she turned, something in the water caught her eye. A dolphin was swimming just beyond the crashing waves, following her as she ran. It followed her all the way back along the beach, keeping pace as the storm rolled in behind them.

“When you’re out running alone and things like that happen, it’s just amazing,” Romano said.

So, when she decided she wanted to run 3,500 miles across the country, she knew that beach would be where she would finish the trek.

Romano, 23, plans to leave Jan. 8 from Huntington Beach, Calif., and run straight across the country, ending at that Charleston beach. Her plan is to run 25 miles a day for 5 1/2 months, staying with friends, family and strangers who have volunteered their couches as she makes her way through deserts, mountains, swampland and cities, all the while pushing a child’s stroller full of supplies and food.

But she’s not just doing this to say she did it – Romano is raising money for the Boys and Girls Club of America, an organization near and dear to her heart.

“It means so much getting the kids involved,” Romano said. “You might feel invincible at that age, but I just want to show them that you actually can run across the country if you want to. You can do anything.”

She has been in touch with Boys and Girls Clubs across the country, many of which have running clubs of their own. Some of the children will be joining her on parts of her trip and she’ll be speaking to the clubs along the way.

Romano has been training for the trek since June. She began by running six miles per day. Last week, she ran 22 miles per day. By January, she plans to be doing the 25 miles per day she hopes to average, depending on weather and terrain, during the trip.

Surprisingly, Romano hasn’t always been a runner. In fact, when she was attending Portland High School, she hated running.

“I did soccer, softball and I swam,” she said. “But the summer after my first year of college, I finally ran the whole (Baxter) Boulevard without stopping – it felt so amazing. Now it takes 22 miles to get that same feeling.”

Romano said she isn’t nervous about the running part of her trek, but is more concerned about the organizational part. She has a large database with every town she’ll run through, and people and connections in each town in case she needs anything. For part of the trip through the Arizona desert, her brother will drive a recreation vehicle so she has a place to stay out of the sun.

However, as she makes her way across much of Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, she’ll be on her own.

She seems unfazed by the potential risks.

“There’s just so much to do,” she said. “I can’t wait until I’m just running all day.”

Romano will have her phone with her and will update her blog,, as often as possible. She also hopes to have a GPS device to map her route in real time.

In the meantime, she’s planning, soliciting donations to cover her supplies and the seven pairs of sneakers she expects to go through during the trip, trying to raise awareness about the Boys and Girls Club, and putting the finishing touches on her city-by-city information database.

“I know the starting line is going to be very exciting and that there’s going to be parts that are really lonely,” she said. “But when I finish, I just know there are going to be tears streaming down my face.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]

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Zoe Romano, 23, runs in Portland with the stroller that will carry her supplies across the country. Romano will leave Jan. 8 from Huntington Beach, Calif., en route to Charleston, N.C., to raise money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.