22-Year-Old Runs Across the Country to Raise Money for Animals

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Among some of the top running bucket list goals are things like completing a marathon, running a marathon in all 50 states in the United States, maintaining a running streak, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, or completing all six Abbott World Marathon Majors.

Some runners also aspire to run the length or width of their entire country.

Running across the United States represents a track of more than 3000 miles, an incredible feat for even the most well-trained, experienced, lifelong runners.

However, 22-year-old runner Timmy Zhou just proved that you don’t have to be a veteran runner to accomplish a cross-country run, as he successfully ran from coast to coast across the United States in just 88 days.

Although Timmy Zhou admits that in some ways he is like Forrest Gump because he does enjoy running for running’s sake, he did not spontaneously run across the country because he “just felt like running.”

Instead, the young runner decided to run from Los Angeles, California to New York City, New York in order to raise money and awareness for wildlife conservation.

Interestingly, not only is Timmy Zhou only 22 years old, which makes his 3000+ mile transcontinental run super impressive, but he has also only been running since the summer of 2020.

Zhou reportedly was inspired to start running in order to train to run across the USA to follow in the footsteps of vegan ultramarathoner Robbie Balenger, who also ran across the country.

As Zhou said in an interview with the Washington Post, 

“I’ve always had a passion for conservation and environmental stuff, and I’ve just never really felt like I’ve been able to make a huge difference,” adding that traditional routes of activism didn’t feel impactful enough for him given his passion for conservation.

Timmy Zhou used his deep commitment to raising awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation in an age where environmental issues seem to be increasingly swept under the rug to motivate his intense training.

In fact, he raised more than $20,000 for VetPaw, an animal charity.

To build his endurance, Zhou trained for a little more than two years, tackling multiple ultramarathons in preparation for his coast-to-coast US run after running his first marathon just three months into becoming a runner. 

Zhou even graduated a semester early from New York University (in December 2022) to dedicate more time to training.

Although Zhou didn’t have an anticipated start date for his run across the US when he started running, things came together and on March 1, 2023, he stood next to the pier at Venice Beach alongside his girlfriend and dog to begin his 3,095-mile run across America.

His girlfriend and dog served as Timmy Zhou’s only support crew, as he ran all the way to Central Park in New York City, crossing a makeshift finish line 88 days later.

​​So, what did Zhou’s day-to-day routine look like over the 88 days he ran across America?

He would wake up and have a smoothie alongside some other form of breakfast and then run at least 35 miles a day, meeting his girlfriend, Christine, about every 10 miles to refuel before continuing on his run.

As a vegan runner, all of Zhou’s running nutrition was plant-based foods, and he and his girlfriend would enjoy a vegan dinner at the RV park or hotel where they would spend the night before he would get up and do the same thing the next day.

Zhou decided not to take rest days on his coast-to-coast run across the United States because he thought it would cause him to lose momentum and, of course, it would prolong the length of the journey, so he just wanted to bang out the 3,095 miles in one continuous running streak.

Because the run took him 88 days, Zhou averaged just over 35 miles per day.

Although runner Timmy Zhou did most of his run across the US alone, he had various running friends join him for different legs of the journey, mainly other runners who had found Zhou on TikTok and were inspired to take part and show support.

To witness Timmy Zhou’s completion of running across the United States was a surprisingly large pack of runners who had been following his running journey on TikTok.

You can see what’s next for this young, goal-oriented runner on his Instagram here.

If you are interested in starting your own running journey as a beginner, check out our Couch to 5K training plan here.

Alternatively, if you are an experienced runner looking to take on your own impressive running goal, check out our guide to awesome running goal ideas here.

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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