Running for a GMO-free country – Wilcox family
The Wilcox family of Sitka, USA, completed a cross-country run from California to New Jersey in 2014 to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food system and the roles of large agribusiness companies, such as Monsanto, in making it difficult for consumers to know which food contains GMOs.
The family ran to promote healthy, sustainable agricultural systems and no-GMOs.
Fifteen-year-old David Wilcox decided he wanted to run across the country back in 2010, when he read about another teenage runner to complete the USA crossing, so he and his father, Brett, 53, started training. In January, Brett quit his job as a behavioral health clinician and David’s mom, Kris, put her cleaning business on hold, and the family rented out its home in Sitka.
Brett and David started the run on January 18 in Huntington Beach, California, and started running about 20 miles a day, six days a week. While Brett and David ran, Kris and David’s younger sister, Olivia, 13, drove ahead on the course in the used pick-up truck and trailer the family purchased for the trip. Along the way, Brett and David took turns pushing a runner’s stroller loaded with their supplies for the day, water bottles, lunch, some GMO-free lettuce seeds, GMO literature, a few copies of Brett’s book, We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie, Book One, and the 15-year-old family dog, Angel.
After nearly 3,000 miles and six months of running, the Wilcox family from Sitka reached its finish line Saturday, July 19, 2014, in Ocean City, New Jersey.
Being able to run 20 miles with David is a good thing,” Brett said. “Running with him for 20 miles a day, day after day for six months across 13 states is a great thing. I got to know David far better than I would have in our routines back in Sitka. I have a lot of respect for David for sticking with it even when it was tough going. Of course our run would not have been possible if Kris and Olivia had not been there to support us. Our last day’s run included a big radio interview and a police escort to the beach. Kris and several other runners joined in and ran with us. We passed through a cheering crowd as we entered the boardwalk. It was a special moment. Of course, the fact that Kris and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the same day we finished our run gave the whole occasion a fairy tale sort of ending.”
The Wilcox family decided to use the run to raise awareness about our food supply because the family is vegetarian, and they don’t like seeing more GMOs enter the food supply, and consumers not being able to find out which foods have GMOs. “Running For a GMO-Free USA was the perfect cause for us. We learned that virtually all people — regardless of location — oppose chemically-saturated genetically modified organisms,” Brett said.
Trying to find GMO-free food on the run did become an issue for the family, and for part of the trip they stopped eating corn tortillas because of how much of our nation’s corn now has GMOs (they did find some Navajo corn tortillas they decided to try). GMOs also are in soy, sugar beets, and several other plants, and they may soon be coming to potatoes used by large fast food corporations. Along the way, the Wilcox family passed through St. Louis just in time to participate in the annual international March Against Monsanto in May, right outside Monsanto headquarters. The Wilcox family had hosted a March Against Monsanto event in Sitka previously.
When they planned the run, the Wilcox family hooked up with several anti-GMO groups across the country, and those groups helped connect the family to local media outlets and runners where they could spread their message. The anti-GMO groups helped the Wilcox family raise some funds and find places to stay for the trip, and there were two Indiegogo crowd-funding campaigns coordinated by Owen Kindig of Sitka. The first campaign raised $7,500 and the second one raised roughly $1,400. Along the way, Brett and Kris regularly updated the family’s Running the Country blog and Facebook page. Different media groups covered the run and the media coverage increased as Brett and David neared the finish line.
Most of their runs during the training season were about five miles and they added one or two longer runs per week. Running 20 miles a day, six days a week nevertheless resulted in a lot of blisters, several worn-out pairs of shoes, and a couple of injuries along the way.
“I had a couple of months where I couldn’t run, so instead I just walked,” David said. “Probably the best day for me was the day the fourth chiropractor fixed me. He was really nice to us, he let us take a shower. I told him where it hurt, and he told me what was wrong and he told me he was going to fix it and I was sort of wondering if he could really fix it. A muscle that’s supposed to be on the inside of my hip was on the outside. He pulled it over and told me I was fixed. Then he adjusted something else that I didn’t even know was wrong. He also worked on my mom and dad.”
After the run, they planned to go to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress and various agencies about GMOs.
The family spent far more than they received from donations, so they started an Indiegogo fundraising campaign called ‘Help the Wilcox Family Finish Strong.’