A run for Boys & Girls

A few years ago, it would have been hard to get Zoe Romano to run for any appreciable distance, at least voluntarily.

The Portland, Maine, resident played sports all through high school, participating in soccer, swimming, lacrosse and indoor track. The idea of running long distances never appealed to her, though — maybe because it was her coaches' penalty for the team playing sluggishly or players showing up late to practice.

It was only years later that Romano, who began a cross-country charity run at the Huntington Beach Pier on Saturday, found that she did like the sport after all.

"I actually can remember the first day I ran a stretch in my hometown around the bay," the 23-year-old said. "It's about three and a half miles. The first time I ran that without stopping to walk, it was an incredible feeling. For some reason, something kind of switched on when I wasn't running as a sort of punishment."

Now, Romano plans to do little else for the next half-year. By the time she arrives in Charleston, S.C., she will have run an average of 25 miles a day, six days a week, in hopes of raising $25,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Romano took off in Huntington Beach with her sister and a dozen or so friends, who accompanied her for the first few miles. On her website, zoegoesrunning.wordpress.com, she has posted two updates about her trek: one about the first day, and another Monday about getting lost in an orange grove and running through the mountains.

A former volunteer at her local Boys & Girls Club in Portland, Romano worked three jobs — bartending, hosting children's birthday parties and tutoring Spanish –— before quitting all of them in November to begin training for her run. She chose Surf City for her starting point in hopes that renowned marathon runner Dean Karnazes, a California resident, could accompany her part of the way, although that dream didn't pan out.

"I was hoping that if I started here, he could run the first day here with me," Romano said. "But I'm pretty sure he's on his own cross-country trek right now."

Several of Romano's family members will accompany her part of the way in an RV with a supply of water, food and ice for her feet. The rest of the time, Romano will make do with a stroller containing camping and food supplies, which she'll push in front of her while running. She plans to stay at several friends' homes and Boys & Girls Clubs along the route; a few hotels, she said, have also offered a complimentary stay.

Her father, Rick Romano, said a cross-country charity run was highly in character for her.

"I nicknamed her 'Sparky' when she was about 6 years old," he said. "She had this way of getting things done, even as a little kid."

How to help

To donate to Zoe Romano's run for the Boys & Girls Club (either the national club or your local club), visit zoegoesrunning.wordpress.com.

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