Maxwell Prizant ’18
Two years to the date after taking my last steps off the Malesardi Quad in May 2018 — diploma in hand — I took the first steps of my 3,000-mile journey across America on foot.

I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on May 21, 2020, with my twin brother, Zac, and arrived at the Brooklyn Bridge on New Year’s Eve, raising $13,000 for Heart-to-Heart International’s COVID-relief efforts in the process.

Penn National Gaming, the company where I had spent 20 months completing a management-rotational program, offered me a promotion in the spring. However, industry-wide shutdowns from the coronavirus led to the furloughing of my positions as well as Zac’s post at MGM.

Positivity in a Pandemic
Displeased with the sedentary lifestyle into which the coronavirus had temporarily forced us, I sought armament: a 1978 Jayco Wilderness Camper to use as a support vehicle and a pair of Asics Gel-Nimbus 22s — I would need seven more pairs to complete the journey!

Hours after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I traversed the eight-mile Bay Bridge, which had no sidewalks. Cars whizzed by as I hugged the rail with water 200 feet below, Alcatraz to my left. It was thrilling. Four years of pole vaulting at Bucknell gave me courage to press forward.

two people running
Photo: Sherri Kimmel
Max ’18 (right) and Zac Prizant arrive at Bucknell in late December. Max wore out seven pairs of Asics Gel-Nimbus running shoes on the journey.
At Bucknell I ran 21 mph down the runway while lowering a 15-foot carbon-fiber pole into a little box 100 feet from my starting point to propel myself 15-feet-9-inches into the air and the Bucknell record books.

What was this but a long runway? Of course, San Francisco police officers did not handcuff me in my Bucknell track days, escort me off the runway and leave me no choice but to backtrack five miles to my unwilling extraction point before continuing to run a total of 26 miles — that was day one!

An Uphill Battle
Our difficulties only increased as Zac and I summited mountains up to 10,000 feet tall in the Sierra Nevadas, the Rockies and the Appalachians; traversed 150 miles of barren deserts and salt flats; and trudged 20 to 40 miles through triple- and single-digit temperatures day and night.
Near-death experiences included making a four-mile detour into abandoned farmlands in Stockton, Calif., at a temperature of 104 degrees and with little water; facing down 10 charging wild horses in Dixie Valley, Nev., with only dried cow pies to fend them off; and running east on the shoulder of I-80 West — with state trooper approval — for 800 miles, surviving many close calls with traffic.

Despite abundant challenges, Zac and I never stopped pushing. We ran 62.1 miles through Wyoming’s Red Desert in a single day!

“Despite abundant challenges, Zac and I never stopped pushing. We ran 62.1 miles through Wyoming’s Red Desert in a single day!”
Years of having my undergraduate weeks filled with the course load of an accounting & financial management major, with a philosophy minor, and the regimen of a Division I track athlete showed me the value of challenging myself.

Halfway to Brooklyn, an engine fire incinerated our support vehicle along with all our possessions. Many followers assumed our journey would be over. I’ll never forget the Bucknellians who reached out to show their support. Their faith in our ability to continue and concern for our safety bolstered my unyielding resolve and solidified our new goal of crossing the country by New Year’s Eve — a feat we accomplished after I procured a replacement camper in Lincoln, Neb.

Finishing Strong
When Zac and I reached our hometown, Youngstown, Ohio, in mid-December, the snowfall in the Appalachians threatened our progress. We abandoned the vehicles and ran the remaining 500 miles to Brooklyn, hotel-to-hotel, with nothing but the clothes on our backs.

Passing through Lewisburg to a surprise greeting from my former track coach, Kevin Donner, was especially rewarding (I paused briefly at Bucknell’s indoor track for a trip down memory lane and the pole-vault runway). Look no further than my Brooklyn Bridge-crossing pictures to see that Bucknell is tantamount to family.

One lesson I learned through this experience is if you spend too much time planning, you might not reach your goals. My new goal is to become the first person to traverse all seven continents on foot while growing my charitable footprint. I would like to document my travels in books, music and documentaries. Six more continents to go!