Attempting a First
Some people collect canned goods or visit a senior center to give back, but Zoe Romano, 27, runs. And runs and runs. Fitness feats for the sake of others has become her thing: In 2011, she made a cross-country trek to raise more than $15,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. When she discovered that no one had ever run the 2,115-mile Tour de France course, Zoe knew she had found her next adventure.
Zoe decided to run for the World Pediatric Project, a nonprofit organization for which she had volunteered in Belize in 2013. "They do amazing work to train doctors and treat critically ill kids," she says.
Her training plan, which began in January 2013, included lots of stretching, six- to 28-mile runs, and a weekly workout in the Blue Ridge Mountains. "I drove 90 minutes to train there to prepare for the elevation in the Alps," Zoe says. To prevent injuries, she upped her mileage by just 10 percent each week.
Run the World
On May 18, Zoe started the Tour de France course. While she averaged 30 miles a day, her boyfriend, Alex, drove an SUV with water and food, filmed her, posted on social media and connected with local sponsors to raise money. Surprisingly, climbing 9,000 feet in one day wasn't the hardest part of Zoe's journey. "In the middle of France, we had a miserable three weeks. The landscape was monotonous, the weather was rainy, and I had a calf strain," Zoe says. "I considered quitting until the owners of our hotel told us they'd heard about our cause and wanted to cover our room and breakfast." Their kindness inspired Zoe, and so did the sun that came out shortly afterward.
On August 2 at 1 a.m., Zoe finished (she took only eight rest days in 11 weeks). She had raised nearly $200,000 with the help of sponsors, donors along the route, and online fundraising. "Thinking of the kids we'd help kept me going," she says. And she's still going; after just two weeks off, Zoe was training for her next marathon.