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This physics professor ran 3,000 miles across America in record time

Jenny Hoffman on her epic journey.
Jill Yeomans
Jenny Hoffman on her epic journey.

Mustering up the energy to go for a light jog can sometimes feels insurmountable. But for some, running is just a way of life. Take Jenny Hoffman, who just became the fastest woman to ever run across America.

Who is she? Hoffman is a physicist and professor at Harvard, and is now also the world record holder for the fastest time a woman has run across the country.

What did she do? Hoffman ran 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York City in 47 days, 12 hours and 35 minutes.

  • Hoffman beat the previous record by more than a week! According to Guinness World Records, Sara Villines completed the trek in 2017 with a time of 55 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes.
  • Hoffman had attempted the journey once before in 2019 but had to stop because of an injury.

What is she saying? All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang spoke with Hoffman about her achievement. Here's what she said.

On why she felt compelled to do this:

It's hard to explain, I don't know. It's something I have dreamed about, crossing this country under my own power, since I was a child. Once I got it in my head, I just couldn't let go. Every single day, every moment that I wasn't actively doing something else, it was there in the background as something that I just knew that I wanted to do. I would be driving, and I would see the open road ahead of me, and I would say, "I could be running this." It just kind of permeated everything.

Oh the places she'll go.
/ Jill Yeomans
Jill Yeomans
Oh the places she'll go.

On what she learned about the country:

I learned how friendly Americans are. We had a wonderful woman in Nebraska who gave us a dozen eggs fresh from her chickens. And we had a cement company in Utah who gave me a reflective vest that kept me safe all the way across the country. Just so many generous Americans. And you know, red states, blue states, whatever their yard signs, they were so generous and so kind.

On the thoughts she kept coming back to on her run:

When I first did this in 2019 I was spending a lot of time processing my father's passing, and that was really an important time to grieve. And this time in 2023, I was thinking a lot about all the things I'm grateful for and a lot about how I could use this journey to learn to be a better person and also to provide inspiration for others to pursue their audacious goals no matter what they may be. And I tried really hard to do a better job of publicly documenting my journey in hope that somebody somewhere sees that and thinks, "Maybe I can tackle that big goal that I was afraid to tackle."

Learn more:

The interview with Jenny Hoffman was conducted by Ailsa Chang, produced by Karen Zamora and edited by Tinbete Ermyas. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Megan Lim
[Copyright 2024 NPR]