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Modern-day Forrest Gump finishes cross-country run in NYC

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NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Published: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5:39 PM

Updated: Friday, April 10, 2015, 6:26 PM

He made it!

A Michigan man finished a punishing 100-day, 2,900-mile cross-country run from California to Times Square on Friday, and the Daily News caught up with him for the final mile.

“That was awesome!” crowed Wendell, 33, as he broke through the finish line tape set up before the TKTS steps. “I just ran 100 marathons. There’s nothing more exciting than this.”

He began at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day, and has been hoofing it across the country ever since, much like Tom Hanks’ titular 1994 “Forrest Gump” character.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiSusan Watts/New York Daily News

He’s got Forrest Gump-tion! Runner Daren Wendell greets wife Danielle after running 2,900 miles across the country to Times Square.

A crowd that had been followign his adventure on social media cheered him into the heart of the city with chants of, “Run, Daren, run!” – although his mother and aunt held a banner reading “Stop Daren Stop” once he finally finished.

“I’m relieved it’s over, and that he’s in one piece,” said his mom Joy Wendell. “But I’m so proud.”

The endurance athlete ran 29.9 miles – that’s almost four miles longer than a marathon – every single day during his transcontinental trek.

He lost three toenails, ran through 10 pairs of sneakers and bounded across 14 states while shuffling across the scorching Mojave Desert, the frozen Missouri countryside, and past herds of Pennsylvania buffalo.

The big toe on his right foot was also threatening to come off, so Wendell actually cut a hole in his shoe for the final leg of his journey. “I don’t want to deal with that tomorrow,” he said.

He also ran with a Stryker T2 Tibia Nail in his right leg that is the length of his shin, as the result of a 2006 soccer injury.

Wendell's not too tired to jump for joy now that his 100-day running streak is over at last.Susan Watts/New York Daily News

Wendell’s not too tired to jump for joy now that his 100-day running streak is over at last.

“I’m feeling surprisingly better than most people think,” he said. “My body has conditioned itself to run 30 miles a day and be OK.”

Wendell, a professional fundraiser, spent two and a half years preparing for this coast-to-coast challenge to raise $ 100,000 for ActiveWater, which provides safe drinking water to Ethiopian communities.

He surpassed that goal by hitting $ 130,000 on Friday, which he said will serve 3,200 people with clean water.

Michigan runner Daren Wendall is running across the country in 100 days to raise money for charity. He's running 29.9 miles (an ultramarathon) from California to Times Square.Daren and Danielle Wendell

Michigan runner Daren Wendall is running across the country in 100 days to raise money for charity. He’s running 29.9 miles (an ultramarathon) from California to Times Square.

A two-person crew, including his wife Danielle Wendell and friend Ryan Beerwinkle, drove ahead of him for the last three and a half months in a Ford Expedition rigged to a camper. They met him every 8 to 10 miles so that he could eat and relieve himself. And they were waiting for him at the finish line.

Wendell crossed the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan around 1 p.m. on Friday, and savored the final 7-mile stretch south along Broadway and into Times Square while running with a pack of 20 friends, family and complete strangers that he picked up along the way.

Many New Yorkers gave him puzzled looks as he bounded past them with his entourage.

“Is this a marathon?” one bystander asked.

If she only knew.

Once Wendell finished, he kissed his wife and high-fived the crowd that gathered to see his incredible finish.

He also held aloft all of the scuffed pairs of sneakers, with the soles worn down to nothing, that carried through the last 100 ultramarathons.

There was only one place fit to celebrate his amazing trans-America feat afteward.

“We’re going to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for happy hour. How can I not?” he laughed. “And I am absolutely not doing any running tomorrow.”

Wendell crossed scorching deserts and snowy plains while running from sea to shining sea.Daren and Danielle Wendell

Wendell crossed scorching deserts and snowy plains while running from sea to shining sea.

Wendell crossed scorching deserts and snowy plains while running from sea to shining sea.Daren and Danielle Wendell

Wendell crossed scorching deserts and snowy plains while running from sea to shining sea.

Wendell's wife, Danielle, greets her marathon man at the finish line. She's been supporting him on teh road for the past 100 days - and the 2 1/2 years before that.Susan Watts/New York Daily News

Wendell’s wife, Danielle, greets her marathon man at the finish line. She’s been supporting him on teh road for the past 100 days – and the 2 1/2 years before that.

Daren Wendell celebrates finally completing his 2,900-mile running journey in Times Square.Susan Watts/New York Daily News

Daren Wendell celebrates finally completing his 2,900-mile running journey in Times Square.

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To donate to his ActiveWater charity, visit rundarenrun.com.

BY THE NUMBERS

Distance: 2,900 miles

Daily mileage: 29.9 miles

Steps: 45,000-50,000 per day

Time: 100 days

States covered: 14

Pace: 10- to 11-minute mile

Sneakers: 10 pairs, changed every 300 miles

Calories burned: About 7,000 a day, 700,000 on the run to date

Toenails lost: 3

Money raised for charity: $ 130,000 and counting, serving 3,200 people

ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiSusan Watts/New York Daily News

Runner Daren Wendell ran through 10 pairs of shoes on his 2,900-mile transcontinental trek.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiSusan Watts/New York Daily News

Daren Wendell high-fives his father David as he comes down the homestretch in Times Square.

Wendell ran through 14 states on his journey across the country.Daren and Danielle Wendell

Wendell ran through 14 states on his journey across the country.

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Tags:
Forrest Gump ,
Times Square ,
Daren Wendell ,
ultramarathon ,
ActiveWater


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