Thanks to Faye Irey for being such a gracious hostess in Monongahela and for calling Chris Buckley at the local newspaper! Thanks to Chris for interviewing us. Because of good people like the Irey’s and Chris, we enjoyed our time in Monongahela. Our best to all of you!
By Chris Buckley
The Valley Independent
David Wilcox remembers the day a couple years ago when he read an Internet story about a 17-year-old girl who ran across the country.
“Without thinking about any of the challenges, the competitive part of me said, ‘I want to do that,’” recalled Wilcox, now 15.
His father, Brett, wondered if his son was prepared for such a challenge. But David Wilcox, who won a cross country title as a freshman at Sitka High School in Alaska, was undaunted.
Still, the teen learned there is a difference between the speed of running 5Ks at 5½ minutes per mile and the much slower pace needed to log the miles it takes to cross the country.
“The first day, we weren’t prepared enough and I thought maybe we made a mistake,” David Wilcox admitted. “But after that …”
Brett Wilcox notes that he is 53, adding with a laugh, “but my face is 2,600 miles old.”
The cross country trek has only been made by one other 15-year-old, Tobias Cotton, who did it in 1928.
“There’s a reason 15-year-olds don’t do this,” Brett Wilcox said. “It’s a brutally long and disciplined trip. David’s now done something only one other 15-year-old has done. That shows a level of tenacity and commitment.”
In January, the father-and-son team flew from their Alaska home to Utah to pick up a truck that is their support system. Brett Wilcox’s wife, Kris, is the driver. They drove the truck to Huntington Beach, Calif., and on Jan. 18, began their transcontinental run.
The trip was designed around David’s cross country season. He studied online during the spring semester.
“It’s been a run of faith — to believe what we’re doing is right and to believe that enough people would support us,” Brett Wilcox said. “For me, the greatest challenge is letting go and believing that God will get us safely through this with missiles flying by at 60 to 70 miles per hour.
“I just have to trust that God is going to take care of us.”
In Dalhart, Texas, on April 1, the father and son picked up a dog, Jenna, who has made the trip with them since. She sometimes rides in the three-wheel baby stroller where the Wilcox family stores items such as water and food.
The Wilcoxes arrived Monday in Monongahela, a stop ordained nearly six decades ago in Korea. Brett Wilcox’s father served in the Army in Korea in the early 1950s with Jim Irey, a Monongahela native.
Brett Wilcox visited Monongahela when he was just a child and recalled very little of the city. But as he saw it approaching on his Google Map app Monday, he made some calls and made contact with Faye Irey, the widow of Jim’s brother, Frank Irey.
The family stayed with Faye Irey overnight before hitting the road by mid-morning Tuesday.
Brett Wilcox didn’t get into running until he was in his 40s. “I was sitting in my office, sore from sitting all day,” Brett Wilcox said. At a trail near his house, he began running, starting with short distances. But one mile turned into three, and then 12 miles on weekend days.
Still that is a far cry from the minimum 20-mile days, day after day for six months. David Wilcox has dealt with a hip injury for weeks. His fourth chiropractic appointment with Dr. E. Joseph Burger in McMurray finally diagnosed and repaired the problem.
Brett Wilcox wore a tech running shirt that proclaimed their mission,“Running For A GMO Free USA.”
According to the Non GMO Project, “genetically modified organisms are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.”
Brett Wilcox said meeting people on the road, he has learned that the public opposes the use of GMOs.
“There’s no reason for anyone to go to the grocery store to buy GMO products,” said Brett Wilcox, who got into the cause for health reasons.
The trip also has given him an opportunity to connect with his son. “For me, I don’t think I knew David a fraction of what I do now,” Brett Wilcox said. “We’re together virtually 24/7. I’m finding out what motivates him, what he likes, how gentle he is, but the competitive spirit that drives him to run cross country.”
David Wilcox said he is also learning about his father. “I had faith he could do it, but I thought I’d be running ahead of him,” he said.
Last week, they averaged more than 25 miles a day — nearly a marathon each day for a week.
The goal is to reach Atlantic City on July 19, Brett and Kris Wilcox’s 25th anniversary.
“I want on that day to run into the ocean,” Brett Wilcox said. “That would be a great anniversary present.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.