Ultramarathoner Shan Riggs talks about his 3,000-mile run from Florida to Maine to raise awareness and money for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. (Featured image credit: Daniel Paschall, East Coast Greenway Alliance)
New funding announced in August will help close one of Pennsylvania’s Top Ten trail gaps, as ranked by DCNR. The Spring Garden Street Greenway will link the Schuylkill River Trail with the Delaware River Trail across a densely populated stretch of Center City, connecting trail users and nearby residents to both rivers, and to the Circuit Trails network beyond. The completed connector will mean unprecedented access to the city for neighborhoods historically constrained by heavy traffic and often unsafe walking and biking conditions.
But the Spring Garden Street Greenway, when finished, will also connect Philadelphians to a much larger trail corridor beyond the Circuit, extending down the Atlantic coast from Maine to Key West: the East Coast Greenway.
It’s a cause that fits right in with the period of time that we’re in, where we need to encourage people to get out, move, and help support these infrastructure projects that put together these special places.
Ultramarathoner Shan Riggs ran the entire length of the Greenway earlier this year, along with his support crew — and now fiancé — Josh Grant, who completed the trip by bike. Riggs is the first person to run the full East Coast Greenway. His goal was to raise awareness of the Greenway, and to raise money for the East Coast Greenway Alliance.
“We thought, this could be something that would be unique. And it’s a cause that fits right in with the period of time that we’re in, where we need to encourage people to get out, move, and help support these infrastructure projects that put together these special places,” said Riggs.
Riggs ran an average of 40 miles a day, starting at dawn to beat the heat and finishing by mid-afternoon, with time to eat an enormous meal and get some rest before starting it all again the next day. This routine isn’t new to Riggs; in 2020 he completed a long distance run from San Fransisco to Connecticut to raise money for Foodshare, a program of Feeding America.
While his west-to-east transcontinental trek stuck to mostly rural roads, the East Coast Greenway took Riggs through more densely populated areas.
“With a few exceptions, it’s relatively urban, the East Coast Greenway. A lot of it is old canal trails or old rail trails, and the railroads and the canals tend to have the towns built up around them. So when you convert that to a trail you’re going right through the middle of town, so it’s a lot of fun to see that,” he said. “There’s 450 different communities that we pass through, and that’s a lot different than my 2020 run cross country.”
In total, the run raised nearly $20,000 for the East Coast Greenway. It also received lots of media attention and helped raise awareness for the Greenway. This all helps support the Greenway’s mission of completing the 3,000-mile protected route. Of course, there is still lots of work to be done: in Pennsylvania, 48% of the Greenway is completed, with new segments being added every year.
“I hope that people take advantage of all the lovely trails that have been built. It takes lots of money and lots of time to develop things, especially in an urban corridor. Most cities have nice sections, but they’re not all connected yet. Hopefully people can use what’s there and also encourage their local communities their politicians to help [the East Coast Greenway Alliance] finish the job,” said Riggs.