Bill Sycalik’s mission to run a marathon in all 59 national parks is fueled by his passion for three things — possibility, parks and plants.
A former management consultant in New York City, Sycalik quit his job in 2016 and started a journey to run 26.2 miles in all 59 national parks. On Thursday, he’ll run the distance in Mesa Verde National Park, the 44th park so far.
“It’s about having an enjoyable run through the country’s most unspoiled lands,” Sycalik said.
In addition to supporting the parks, Sycalik said he’s running in part to show people that it’s possible to make a change in their lives, and a change can be beneficial for your mind and body. He is also a vegan athlete, and another reason he’s running is to show that it’s possible to run a marathon a week on a purely plant-based diet, he said.
Sycalik said he typically spends 3-7 days at each park, enjoying the attractions and planning his running route with the help of park rangers. Sometimes, people join him for the runs, he said. People have run the full marathon alongside Sycalik at 10 parks so far, he said.
In some parks, the route is mostly on trails, but his route at Mesa Verde will be a combination of trails and roads, he said.
To start his marathon, he plans to run from the park headquarters to Far View Lodge and back, then run along the Mesa Top Loop and Cliff Palace Loop roads, he said. The route will finish up on the Petroglyph Point trail.
Some of his favorite runs have been in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and North Cascades National Park in Washington, Sycalik said. Lassen Volcanic National Park in California also was a highlight of the trip, he said.
Before coming to Mesa Verde, he ran a marathon at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Sycalik said that was his first experience running on soft sand, even though he previously visited parks near the ocean, such as Biscayne National Park in Florida.
Sycalik said he has been pleasantly surprised by how different all the national parks are.
“The sheer diversity of the parks is impressive,” he said.
After running at Mesa Verde, Sycalik’s next stop is Grand Canyon National Park. He’ll be running from the South Rim to the North Rim of the canyon as part of his marathon at that park, he said.
Sycalik said he encourages people to pursue projects like his, but he said people should be sure to plan everything out before they start. You risk having a project be stressful if you don’t plan, he said.
The more stress a person can take away with something he or she is passionate about, the more passion he or she can put into it, he said.
“What I’m doing may seem extreme, but it’s possible if you plan it out,” Sycalik said. “If something grabs you passionately, you should do it.”
For more information, visit Sycalik’s website at runningtheparks.com.