From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews:
By KATHY ROPP
When Marshall Hardee decided to travel from coast to coast he didn't take a plane, a car, a train, a bus or even a bicycle; he just looked down, saw his feet and realized they'd do the job.
Well, that isn't actually how it happened, but the 22-year-old Conwayite, he was 21 when he started his cross-country trek, did just run all the way from the Pacific Ocean at Oceanside, Calif., into the Atlantic Ocean near Second Avenue North in Myrtle Beach.
Hardee said he had always had running across the country in the back of his head. He trained and planned every detail of his trip.
When he graduated from Clemson University with a degree in biological sciences in December, he knew the time to live out his dream had come.
Despite intermittent rainstorms around Horry County on Thursday, Hardee persevered through the last leg of his journey and ran into the Atlantic Ocean.
"It feels surreal," Hardee said through tears. "There were times I didn't think I'd make it, but I finally got here and it feels awesome."
Hardee's arrival was greeted with cheers from his friends, family and random strangers who had gathered to encourage him for the last few hundred yards of his 2,727-mile, 135-day trip. His friends and family followed him to the water, and after he got out, they greeted him with warm hugs and tearful smiles.
Hardee's parents, Tim and Tammy Hardee of Conway, are glad to have him home and, despite being concerned for his safety, are glad that their son has had the experience.
"You have faith that he's going to be safe and careful," his dad said.
Hardee's mother said she was proud of her son.
"I'm extremely proud of him, and thankful that God got him back safely," she said. "This is something he's going to remember for the rest of his life."
On Tuesday, Hardee was running on U.S. 378 near Lake City and talking to a reporter on his cell phone complete with road noise and horns blowing in the background and dogs chasing him.
"I'm doing the run totally alone and unsupported, so I don't have like a chase van or any support team or anything like that," he said.
What he did have was a converted baby stroller filled with his things that he pushed in front of him.
"It was really important for me to like do it by myself," he said. "I was the only one that had a hand in it. I kind of planned for the things that, you know, just the incidentals. I mean I've never even been west of Colorado before so I had no idea what to think about the desert and things like that, so I tried to plan for all contingencies," he said.
He thinks his planning paid off and that's why he was able to finish his trek that started Feb. 9.
After that he averaged about 20 miles a day, based on the day's terrain. He was not able to use interstate highways or secondary roads, so he sometimes found himself pushing through open sand.
He ran through snow, rain, night-time temperatures as low as 18 degrees in the New Mexico desert, sizzling heat and a dust storm in Yuma, Ariz.
He recalls the dust storm as the lowest point of his trip, saying every part of his body and all of his things were covered with dust when the storm ended. He immediately got wet so the dust turned to mud.
"I went from dusty and dirty to muddy like in seconds – mud up to my ankles and knees. That was pretty discouraging, but the sun comes back out. I dried off," he said.
On the other end of the scale, he lists as the high point of his trip a visit to White Sands National Park in New Mexico.
"It was like countless square miles of pure white gypsum sand. I even slid down some of them (the dunes)," he said, adding that he cut up one of his water jugs to make a sled.
He described the sand as being cool because it was so white that it reflected the sun.
"It was like being on the moon," he said. "It was really cool."
He said he went through a lot of elevation changes, but not as much as he could have if he had taken a more northerly route.
The former Conway Elementary, Conway Middle and Conway High School student says he camped about 110 or 120 nights as he crossed the United States, but very occasionally turned to an app on his cell phone called "Couch Surfing."
Using that app he was able to find people who were willing to take him in for the night. He says it's safe and a "couch surfer" can even know the layout of a home before he gets there.
The longest he went without seeing another human was about five days while he was running through the dessert. Other than that if he longed for human contact he found a bar or restaurant where he met and talked with folks.
"I never really was totally dissocialized or anything like that. I always knew there was another town around the corner. It was just a matter of running there," he said.
The Hardees tracked their son across the country and called him occasionally.
He believes his dad, a former long distance runner, was excited when he took off, but acknowledges that his mom was probably scared.
However, the entire Hardee family has had adventures of their own. Tim and Tammy have bicycled across the state and are planning to tackle the entire country next, according to Marshall.
"I'd been planning to do it for a while...I think they'd seen that I was ready and prepared," he said.
He was also pleased with the support he got along the road with people coming out to give him a Gatorade or something else to drink. He characterized just about everybody he met along the way as "cool".
He expected to be back on his feet in just a couple of days after the run.
He doesn't expect a big letdown now that his dream has been fulfilled. After all, it isn't the only one he's ever had.
His next feat he believes will likely involve trying skydiving or maybe getting back to sailing.
"I've always enjoyed just getting off the beaten path. I've never been the kind of guy who likes sitting at home watching television," he said.
Now that he's run from one coast to another, he encourages other people to follow their dreams.
"If anyone else has a dream like this they should get out there and do it. Don't let these things sit on the shelf until you're too old...People say, 'Aw man, congratulations! I wish I would have done something like that when I was younger.' Don't let those days get away from you. Take advantage of your youth.
He said he might have had to sleep on the ground several times, but it was worth it.
"It's something I'll never forget. It's been an amazing trip, absolutely," he said.
His final advice to others who have dreams: "Just do it! Just get out there and live big!" he said.