A Catholic man is running across America and praying the whole way. Despite the difficulties he has faced, he says he wants to use his talents to serve God and to help those he prays for.
Jeff Grabosky, 27, plans to begin his 3,700-mile run in Oceanside, California on Jan. 20 and end in Long Island’s Smith Point in New York City on May 26.
The primary mission of his run is to encourage prayer in America and across the world. He is taking prayer requests and praying a decade of the Rosary for each intention during his run.
Grabosky’s faith has helped him survive some “very difficult times,” he told CNA in a Jan. 17 interview. A week after his mother died from cancer in 2006, his wife told him that she was leaving him.
“I was left living out of my car for two months,” he said. “It took everything I had just to make it to the end of each day, as it felt the world around me was crashing down. The one consistent thing in my life was prayer as I constantly asked God for his help. As difficult as things were, I trusted that the Lord would help pull me through and that He had a plan.”
Grabosky’s “long road back” included setbacks like a collapsed lung and a week-long stay in intensive care. But his faith in God “only became stronger” because of what he experienced.
Now he wants to inspire others to pursue their dreams “even if this world thinks that it may be out of the ordinary or even impossible.”
The New Jersey native has been around runners since his childhood, when his mother would take him to the track on summer mornings. He ran cross country and track through middle school and high school, but he was not fast enough to run on the Division I team of University of Notre Dame, where he graduated from in 2005. He only ran intramural cross country and finished his first marathon as a senior in college.
He first had the idea to run across America after his second marathon finish in 2008.
“I thought a run across the country would be an awesome experience and an incredible challenge, but I put it on the back burner for some time because of what I had going on in my life.”
He said that the physical challenges of his task will be “extremely difficult” but the mental challenges will be even harder.
“I think it will be easy to become frustrated and to think negatively,” he added. “I will need to stay focused at all times.”
Loneliness is one problem he anticipates because he is running solo without a support team. He said he has planned in advance how much food and water to carry, appropriate clothes to wear, where to stay, and what route to follow.
Grabosky took inspiration from his mother, who used to pray the Rosary whenever she ran.
The prayer requests he is receiving have opened his eyes to how “everyone is struggling with something.” He saw no better way to help those in need than to encourage prayer and pray for their intentions.
“It’s interesting how God works. I started out thinking I would need to finish this run for myself, but now more than anything I need to finish it for all those I am praying for,” he said.
“I believe God can help us overcome and make it through anything if we only trust in Him. I tell people who are in tough stretches that this life is often difficult, but God has a plan for us and if we let Him in our hearts He can and will do amazing things with our lives. If you truly believe that, then it is hard to not smile and look at each day with an optimistic attitude.”
His transcontinental route passes through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. He will also swing through New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
Grabosky said people who want to support him should send in any prayer requests, which will help motivate him to finish. He also invited others to run or walk with him along his route.
He hopes to speak with as many people as possible along his way. He is scheduling talks with youth groups and welcomes any invitations.
The marathon runner is also asking for people to lend him a couch or a place to sleep the night.
“I know this is going to be an extremely difficult challenge and it would mean a lot to me to know people are keeping my health and safety on this run in their thoughts and prayers as well,” Grabosky said. “I have no doubt in mind there are going to some brutal days out there but I believe in the words of Philippians 4:13, that I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.”
More information about Grabosky’s run is at his website http://jeffrunsamerica.com