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58-year-old Massachusetts retiree takes Run Across America in stride

Greg Masse

Under a cool, cloudy sky with light drizzle softly falling on the surrounding hills, the conditions couldn’t have been better Thursday for Bob Alessio to trot into Glenwood Springs.

Alessio stopped at the Hotel Colorado as part of his 5,450-mile “Run Across America – For Enduring Freedom.”

Alessio, a 58-year-old Stow, Mass., resident (who celebrated his July 20 birthday with some new friends in Palisade) and lifelong athlete, is running across the nation while keeping his thoughts close to the victims who perished in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their families.

“On Sept. 6 (2001) I was out on a training run and it hit me like a bolt – I should do a personal athletic challenge,” Alessio explained.

It came to him that he’s retired, his kids are grown up and he runs miles every day, so why not focus that energy into a run across America?

“So I started planning a route from San Francisco to Boston.”

The planned route was 3,300 miles.

“Then Sept. 11 happened,” he said. “I was almost in tears for the victims and their families, so I decided that instead of running this personal challenge, I’d make it a patriotic run.”

The route became a combination of hitting towns and cities directly affected by terrorist acts – the airports where the hijacked planes were headed, Oklahoma City, New York City, Washington, D.C., etc. – areas with historical significance, military academies and slices of Americana. Suddenly the route grew to 5,450 miles and 288 running days over a 324-day period. It will wind through 25 states.

“Then I’m stopping at fire and police stations along the way,” he said.

A burgeoning patch collection from fire and police stations along the way is being stowed in his van during the long trip. Bruce Crumley and Judy Game, Palisade residents whom he met at a concert there, have been driving the van since Palisade and plan to go at least to Colorado Springs.

“I was a fireman in western Pennsylvania,” he said. “I’m just going to be saying hello and showing my appreciation for their services.”

He’s also collecting messages from across the country, which he will share with people at Ground Zero in New York City.

“I’ll tell them what’s going on back here.”

Also in an effort to show patriotism, he’s been carrying an American Flag, wearing shirts, jackets and caps with symbols of patriotism, armed services and service academies, as well as logos from the 2001 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

His run Thursday culminated at the Hotel Colorado, where the management let him stay for free.

From here, he’ll head toward Aspen today, making stops in Carbondale and Basalt, then during the next few weeks he’ll head over Independence Pass and on to Colorado Springs, where he plans to run the Pike’s Peak Marathon on Aug. 18.

While the run is dedicated to the victims and families of Sept. 11, the money raised will go to the Brain Center in Massachusetts.

“I had a son who died of head trauma, so it just made sense to name The Brain Center as the recipients,” he said. “It’s an organization that takes information from medical researchers and scientists, making that information available through seminars and conferences.”

When he gets close to Boston, he plans to finish the run by running 36 miles in one day.

Since the run began on April 23, Alessio started thinking that while there are roads and trails throughout America, there isn’t one particular route that’s all-American. To try and fill this void, he’s calling his route the American Freedom Trail, a name taken from the Freedom Trail in Boston.

“I think it’s appropriate because it’s Bush’s goal to eliminate terrorism,” he said. “I think there needs to be more focus on America’s ideals of freedom and liberty.”

Before Thursday, Alessio said, he’d never been to Glenwood Springs, but he said it’s beautiful.

“When I was planning this, I was looking forward most to my run through the Rockies,” he said. “I love mountains, and I love to climb.”

Contributions to Alessio’s charity can be mailed to: The Brain Center, Promontory Point, Mashpee, Mass., 02649.


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