Ten years ago, Texas native Katie Visco became the second youngest woman ever to run solo across America, making her way from Boston to San Diego on foot in just nine months. Now, she’s set her sights on an even bigger challenge: Australia. This time, however, she’ll have company. The 2,112-mile run will be the only known bicycle-supported transcontinental run across Australia. Katie’s husband, Henley, is pedaling alongside her with 400 pounds of food, water and supplies as they make their way from the northern coast in Darwin through the Tanami, Central, and Simpson deserts to their final destination in Adelaide. We caught up with Katie as she reached the halfway point, Alice Springs, to talk about her epic journey.
What prompted you to want to make another transcontinental run halfway around the world?
I wanted to head to Oz to travel through her deserts, into her complex and elegant desolation. I wanted to go to the desert to shed a layer off. This is my pilgrimage, to confront all parts of myself in one of the most raw and barren places on earth, to find my Katie again, to reclaim my fire, to accept my vulnerability and let it all go at the same time. I want to challenge myself by doing something incredibly hard, and running is one medium through which I can do that. I’ve always been fascinated by the Aboriginal right of passage, the walkabout. A young man goes out into the bush and needs to survive by his own means, and only when he succeeds and returns homes he becomes a man. Respectfully, I’ve always wondered if I could have my own walkabout-type experience through Australia. That is why I’m here, running across this magical, vastly uninterrupted landscape.
How do you prepare for a journey like this?
I prepared to run across Australia in 8 months by working up my weekly miles from about 10 miles a week to 65 miles a week. I focused on Bikram yoga and strength twice a week, and tried my absolute best to strengthen my mind (through the yoga mostly). Emotionally speaking, the single most important thing I did to prepare for this journey was to have made the decision to do it. Staying committed to this decision, and not letting fear derail me during the preparatory months was a success and emboldening experience.
What is your typical day like on the trail?
Henley and I wake up at 5 AM, have a snack and pack up camp, and hit the road by 5:50 AM. I run about 8 miles through dawn and sunrise and then at about 7:30 we break and have oatmeal breakfast and coffee/tea for 70-90 minutes. I go back out again for another hour and a half or 8 miles. And then break under some bush shade or under our tarp for 45 minutes. I lay on my back and rest, then some stretches and roller stick action. Then back out for another hour and a half. At around 12:30/1pm we break for lunch and a nap till 4pm to escape the afternoon heat. It’s always interesting trying to find shade in the outback, but surprisingly so there have still been trees around even though sparse.
Sometimes we don’t even have to set up our shade tarp! At around 3 o’clock we make coffee and tea and either read a book to each other or listen to a podcast series. This is my favorite part of the day! I lay on my back and listen while watching the sky or the tree branches wave in the wind.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge so far was the first four weeks. It was initiation; we got to know how uncomfortable the bush is with its pokey and burnt ground, and the heat was up there! My body was sluggish and massively uncomfortable. My knees felt weak and it was hard to relax and rest given the heat. My mind spiraled. I knew the first few weeks would be the hardest, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect exactly. Before coming to Australia I didn’t really think about that too much on purpose. I just knew it would be “hard.” There’s so much more to the story but I’ve just given you the abbreviated version. Just imagine the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life; this first month was that for me.
You recently reached the halfway point – congratulations! How did it feel to reach that milestone and what did you do to celebrate?
When I reached the halfway point, I felt relieved and satisfied. I ran straight to the local burrito place and we celebrated with stuffing our faces with delicious made to order burritos. I was in heaven! We stayed with our host family in Alice Springs for nine days, and we celebrated simply by giving ourselves the joy of rest and going out to a coffee shop for some treats :-)
Katie & Henley still have quite a ways to go before they reach their final destination, and we’ll be cheering them on as they go! If you’d like to follow their journey, sign up for their newsletter here or find Katie on Instagram here.