Utah man returns home after trying to walk across America

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SALT LAKE CITY - A Utah man returned to Salt Lake the day after Thanksgiving 46 pounds lighter. That's because he tried and failed to walk across the country in record-time, but Matt Livermanne is planning on trying again.

His goal was to walk 3,000 miles from New York to Los Angeles in just 53 days. He made it only halfway, to Lebanon, Missouri. He gave it up after 1,480 miles of close calls with trucks, increasing cold, hassles from cops and an unrealistic schedule.

"It was very stressful," Livermanne said, "because you have to dodge trucks, cars, just about everything you can imagine."

Livermanne planned the walk as a way to call attention to the issue of childhood obesity. He also hoped to raise funds for physical education programs in the schools. He trained for months in Utah, walking dozens of miles a day by doing laps at Liberty Park or hiking long distances on rural highways.

On the road, dodging vehicles in Eastern states, he didn't do so well. "My average per day was about 26, 27 miles a day," Livermanne said. "I was doing 60 miles a day here in Utah, where we have wider shoulders." He began to think of himself as potential road-kill because he had so many close calls with large trucks. The scariest were trucks hauling coal at high speeds in West Virginia. "Most places back East there is no shoulder," he said. "And the traffic is a lot more intense back East than it is here."

As the days got colder and shorter, he also ran into trouble with cops. At one point he says a policeman handcuffed him because he was illegally walking on a roadway at night. Cops always treated him nicely and let him go, though, after they learned he was sponsored by Habitat For Humanity.

Livermanne now believes the 53-day record he was shooting for is fraudulent. It was supposedly set by an Englishman who walked from New York to Los Angeles in the 1970s. A friend of Livermanne's who researched the issue was unable to find any media reports from that era verifying the incident. He said he received an e-mail from Guinness World Records, which said that organization no longer accepts the 53-day record.

Livermanne plans to try again next May or June, with a more realistic goal of 90 days.


E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com


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