One day, Lindsi Peters will tell her grandkids the story about her cross-country adventure. This was no Jack Kerouac-ian road trip, however. Nor was it at all similar to one that college students sometimes take as a last hurrah before entering the 'real world'.
No, Peters did hers on foot.
It all began in late November of 2016. Or was it early December? No matter, she was still training for her upcoming lacrosse debut for the Mavericks.
“I actually discovered it one night hanging out in my dorm," Peters told NCAA.com. "I was just laying in bed and those Facebook ads popped up, and 4K for Cancer popped up on mine. So, I started reading a little bit about it.
"We’ve all had people affected by cancer. My best friend passed away from cancer when we were seven. My grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. I think it was something that hit home for everyone, and this was a pretty cool opportunity. Running across the country is not something I’m going to do every summer.”
So, she applied. It wasn't a tough application for her. It was required that the runner was in college, between the ages of 18 and 24. Thanks to Colorado Mesa's lacrosse program, she was already in the shape required to fight through and finish the task at hand.
That task? A 4,000 mile run from the shores of California to the piers of New York City.
But before that, was lacrosse season. In case you were wondering, Peters had a fantastic freshman campaign for the Mavericks. She started in 13 of the 15 games she appeared in, finishing third on the team in points with 34 goals and 18 assists. Once the season was done and school let out for the summer, it was on to her next team. The 27 other people she would spend the next 49 days of her life with.
"Our first run we were all together, we ran three miles over the Golden Gate Bridge. As soon as that run started, everyone got closer. We were like, ‘wow, this is really happening.’ After that first day it was fine. Our relationships grew day in and day out, spending every waking second together.”
That first leg of the journey, as Peters said, was run together, but after that the group split up and ran in tandems. The group ran, and ran, and ran some more, until they reached a new city to call home for a night.
“Mileage varied," Peters said. "We were in a new city almost every night. We were on the road 49 days, but 10 of those days were rest days, so 39 different cities basically. We woke up at 4:30 almost every morning, and we had a list of chores to do. Then we would all gather around in a dedication circle. We all had names written on the backs of our legs, for whoever we were dedicating those miles to that day. We would go around and tell who were dedicating our run to that day. Pretty much by 6:00 a.m., we were off and running. We'd end earliest by 12 and latest 3.
“It was basically the miles between the city we were at and the city we had to get to. It was split in half. If we had 100 miles to cover, the first van with half the team would drive miles zero to 50, and then run miles 50 to 100, while the second van did the opposite."
They shared some special experiences. Sometimes it was brightening someone's day visiting a hospital. Other times it was enjoying a shower or eating a good meal donated to them throughout their trip. And even some other times, it was historical landmarks.
“Oh my gosh, it was a lot," Peters said. "We hit Yellowstone and had a rest day there. So we ran through Yellowstone and had a day to be touristy. We went to Niagara Falls. We also got to tour Lambeau Field. Elvis’ favorite ride is [in Green Bay], it’s an old rickety roller coaster, so we went on that a bunch. We actually met the mayor of Green Bay on the side of the road and he invited us to hang out in his office.”
“Yea,” Peters said with a laugh. “We had rest day there. We were just going into downtown Green Bay. We parked on the side road and this guy in a suit started to walk away, looked at us and started to come back. We thought we were in trouble or something. We draw on all the windows of our van, so he asked what we were doing. So we explained what we were doing and he was like, ‘no way, I’m the mayor of Green Bay, I would love for you guys to come back to my office and take some pictures and check it out for a little bit.’”
Not every night was a stop in a grand city or tourist attraction, however. Sometimes, the tiniest of towns called themselves home, and the discoveries made there were life altering.
“There’s so much in between. The best milkshake I’ve ever had was in a place in Vale, Oregon with the population of 300. Just random little places like that. We went through a few towns that had populations of like 15.”
You would think that running mile after mile for almost an entire summer would accumulate quite the play list. But it wasn't music that got Peters and her cohorts through the long days. It was each other.
“We ran in pairs, so you wound up running with everybody on the team at one point or the other. So you just talked. At first it was just getting to know each other. Then we’d play riddle games or tell stories, and it made it go so much faster.”
Finally, the end was in sight. One final leg, a marathon nonetheless, and they reached New York.
“I definitely remember the last day. We ran a marathon that day actually. When we got across the Brooklyn Bridge, everyone was so excited. A bunch of family were there and we had a big celebration at the end.
"Once we actually finished and stopped running that last bit, it was sad. I was like, ‘wow, it’s over. I have to say goodbye to you guys.’ There were a lot of people crying and hugging and saying hi to their families. And then everyone kind of just left and went their separate ways.”
They didn't go completely separate, though. As one would imagine, after 49 days, quite the bond was formed. Peters not only accomplished an amazing feat for a greater good, but made a new circle of friends for life.
“We have a Group Me. We do life updates, and do a role call every morning. If you’re No. 1 you give your update on February 1. If you’re No. 2, the second. We all keep in touch. One guy just headed off to basic training, another girl went to Thailand for the peace corps, so we won’t hear from them for a little while.”
So, what did Peters learn from the experience? Simply put ... everything.
“Oh boy. It was honestly an incredible experience. I don’t think I could duplicate it ever. It puts life in perspective. We lived out of a van. We had no money. You didn’t know what the next day would bring. There’s so many things to learn from it, I recommend it to anyone who can take on the challenge. It’s life changing.”
While she has a new perspective on life, one thing remains the same. Peters and the No. 22 Mavericks return to the field February 17 against Fort Lewis as they begin their quest for a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title.