Just after 11 a.m. on Aug. 19, Kyle Lang ’19 jogged onto Coney Island beach. Beachgoers lounged on the sand. They didn’t pay much attention as Lang, along with two other runners, jogged past them and continued straight into the water. 

“I stood there and let the waves wash over my feet, and I knew I didn’t have to get back up the next day and run another 40 miles,” Lang said.

After 76 days, 3,016 miles, and 12 gallons of slushies, Lang had made it. He had run across the entirety of the United States, starting with his feet in the Pacific Ocean, traversing mountains, open plains, cornfields, rivers, lakes, and many an open road, and now, finally, finishing with his feet in the Atlantic Ocean. 

How does it feel? 

Chatting later that evening, Lang said that his legs felt “totally fine.” 

“Right now, it feels like I just went out for a five, six-mile run,” he said in his characteristic matter-of-fact way.

But the past two and a half months have certainly taken their toll on Lang, both mentally and physically. Writing in a Facebook post, he channeled his inner Forrest Gump. “I’m kinda tired,” Lang wrote. “I think I’ll go home now.” 

Mission accomplished: Lang rests his legs in the Atlantic after arriving at Coney Island, N.Y.
Courtesy Kyle Lang
And he has good reason to be exhausted. A typical day has consisted of waking up before 6 a.m., logging 20 miles before noon, covering another 13 to 15 miles before a late-afternoon nap, then topping it all off with a final 7 to 10 miles. All this adds up to being on his feet for some 11 hours a day, with eating, stretching, and writing daily updates squeezed in. Lang estimates that he has lost about 20 pounds since starting his cross-country trek in June. 

He has also had to battle injuries, playing an at times painful tug of war between what his mind wanted and what his body could tolerate. 

Early on, a mere 10 days into the journey, a bout of shin splints threatened to derail Lang’s plans. 

“We were 300 miles into the journey. I was feeling horribly. I could barely walk,” he recalled. “I thought that if we were less than 10 percent through, and if this is how I feel now, it would only get worse.” 

WATCH a video of Lang’s preparations for his run across the country

That day, as Lang lay on a hotel room bed, he grappled with the “pretty unsettling, almost scary feeling” of knowing that he was covering no ground, and that there was nothing he could do about it.  

Luckily, Lang was able to tape up his shins, and he continued his journey without any major hiccups. 

As he ran across the country during a politically fraught time, Lang met countless people who went out of their ways to help him and his family.    

“It restored my faith in humanity,” he said. “And it made me realize –– made us all realize –– that there are good people in the world, who are looking out for each other. It was inspiring, really.”

This story was posted online Aug. 21, 2017; a version appears in the Sept. 13, 2017, issue.