As massage therapist Jessica Goldman ran across the U.S., covering approximately 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York, New York, one thing that kept her going was thinking of her friends who are living with brain injuries. “I couldn’t give up, because I didn’t want them to give up,” she said.

Goldman ran to raise money for the Brain Injury Association of America. Influenced by her 1999 cross-country bike tour, a passion for running and commitment to brain injury awareness, Goldman decided to support the association by both raising funds and creating media attention. She searched for records of people crossing the U.S. by foot, and discovered she would be the second woman to complete a solo, self-supported cross-country run.

Goldman said her dedication to the Brain Injury Association of America is inspired by two friends living with brain injuries, including her friend Matt, who was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s encephalitis; a history of working in special education and with adults with brain injuries; and a traumatic experience in her own life. While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia, Goldman was in a taxi that struck someone, an event she described as so jarring that she returned home earlier than planned.

Goldman began running on April 16 and completed her run on July 15. She said she is satisfied with her successful training and endurance. Her run was challenged by extreme weather, including hail, strong winds, floods and tornadoes, which sometimes required her to end days’ portions early. Bridges and roads went out, adding hundreds of miles to her journey and affecting her original goal time, as she was required to set new daily goals. Goldman referred to her cross-country run as a “lesson in patience and flexibility.” 

With donations approaching $27,000, Goldman far surpassed her goal of raising $15,750. She recalled that her followers expressed inspiration and a restored faith in humanity, as some offered her cold drinks, dinners and homes to stay in. Goldman said she felt unbelievable encouragement from the support of complete strangers. “We have good people out there that want to do positive things, and will step up when they get the chance,” she said.

Now back home in New Hampshire, Goldman said she plans to put energy into the massage practice she opened last year and to continue endurance training. “I plan on taking advantage of time with a great family and wonderful group of friends, and doing a job I love,” she said.

Donations to the Brain Injury Association of America can be made through Goldman’s Forward Motion Donor Page.

Maegan Galas is MASSAGE Magazine’s marketing and editorial assistant. 

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