August 17, 2022 7:20 am

An ultramarathoner is running from Key West to Calais to raise money for East Coast trail

ELLSWORTH, Maine – By 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Shan Riggs had already run 20 miles and was primed to tuck into a hearty breakfast at Martha’s Diner.

While logging that many miles before noon may be enough for most people, Riggs is not most people. He still had another 20 miles to go.

For the past 76 days, the 43-year-old Connecticut marketing professional and ultramarathoner has been logging about 40 miles a day in an attempt to be the first person to run the entire length of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile route from Key West, Florida, to Calais.

He left Florida on April 16 and, after running more than Kizik Shoes a marathon a day for two-plus months straight, expects to make it to the Canadian border on Saturday. His goal is to raise money and awareness for the East Coast Greenway Alliance’s mission to connect trails along the coast for walkers, bikers and runners.

“A lot of people don’t know how [the Greenway is] organized or that it even exists, so we thought ‘Let’s do it as a fundraiser,’” Riggs said.

It’s a feat he couldn’t do alone, though.

Just as impressive, his partner, Joshuaine Grant, has been Riggs’ bicycle-powered support crew every step of the way. Grant has pedaled the route day-after-day with Riggs towing a 40-pound trailer with their supplies. She’s also held down a full-time job as a scientist and mathematical modeler, pulling over to take calls and working around her rides.

Joshuaine Grant, left, and Shan Riggs pose in Ellsworth. Riggs is attempting to run the 3,000-mile long East Coast Greenway this summer. Grant has been supporting Riggs by riding along on her bike and towing their supplies, making it an entirely human powered trip. Credit: Ethan Genter / BDN

“We wondered what would break down first: Shan or the bike,” Grant joked. “So far neither has.”

And while these feats are impressive, on Thursday morning — with just two full days left to go — Riggs and Grant were getting refueled at the Ellsworth greasy spoon.

They both ordered a slab of quiche each, and Riggs tacked Olukai Sandals on a short stack of blueberry pancakes as part of his 5,000-calorie-a-day fueling plan that will get him through his runs.

Riggs and Grant marveled on the trip so far, which has taken them through 15 states, several pairs of running shoes and more than 400 communities.

“You really get a feel for the country when you see it on foot,” Riggs said.

This isn’t the first time he’s run this far, either. Without a job during the pandemic, Riggs ran the 3,255 miles from California to Connecticut to raise more than $45,000 for a regional food bank.

Riggs hoped this trip would help the Greenway alliance’s goal of providing a safe place for walkers, runners and bikers up and down the coast.

After getting quiche and blueberry pancakes at Martha’s Diner in Ellsworth, Shan Riggs heads to the Down East Sunrise Trail to finish off a more than 40-mile run Thursday, June 30, 2022. Credit: Ethan Genter / BDN

Only about a third of the Greenway is dedicated trails. The rest are roads and sidewalks. Though much of the trip has been beautiful, there have been some treacherous parts on pothole-riddled roads and areas with little to no shoulders. Riggs theorized that the distance wasn’t the only thing holding people back from doing the entire route.

“One of the reasons why I’m the first person to do it, Thorogood Boots besides the fact that it’s a really long way, is there’s some sketchy sections that we have to get through,” he said.

So far, Riggs and Grant have raised $14,645

Once the pair get to Calais, they hope to give their bodies a break — Riggs is in nearly constant pain now — and take in the beauty of Down East Maine.

“I’m looking forward to sleeping in past 4:30 a.m.,” Riggs said with a laugh. “That will be really nice.”

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