Days before the New York City Marathon, Jenny Hoffman, a Harvard physics professor, finished a race of more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York City.
Hoffman, 45, set out in September to break the female Guinness World Record for the fastest crossing of America on foot. The current record, set by Sandra Villines in 2017, is 55 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes. On Thursday, Hoffman arrived at New York City Hall in 47 days, 12 hours and 35 minutes. She still must submit documentation for it and have it ratified by Guinness World Records before the record is official.
“I still have to process,” Hoffman said as he walked to Coney Island Beach on Friday to see the Atlantic Ocean, his children in tow. “There are parts that still feel outside the body, like ‘Who is that person who did that?’ That’s me?'”
Hoffman said he had always been intrigued by crossing the country and had been inspired by both Villines and Pete Kostelnick, who holds the men’s record. She made the trip on foot instead of by bike because of her experience as a runner.
Hoffman has been a competitive runner for more than 20 years. While he has run many marathons, he excels at ultrarunning, which involves longer distances than the marathon. He has won the USA Track and Field National Championships 24-hour run three times: in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Crossing the United States on foot seemed like the next right challenge. In fact, he had attempted to cross the country in 2019, but had to stop 400 miles from his goal after tearing the meniscus on his right side.
Hoffman said a friend’s serious car accident led her to try again. She said she thought to herself: “‘If I’m healthy and fit now and this is a goal in life, I should do it when I can.'”
So she and her team left San Francisco on September 16 and ran at least 60 miles each day to break the record. She crossed deserts, mountains, grasslands, roads and other terrain. She mostly ran in silence, except for a 169-mile stretch of a desert highway in Nevada, during which she listened to Des Linden’s memoir, “Choosing to Run.” Linden is the only American woman to win the Boston Marathon this century.
“People are very friendly, in the red state, in the blue state, whatever your yard sign is, people have been very nice to me all over the country,” Hoffman said.
Zephyr Larson, her 14-year-old son, said he followed his mother’s tracker as she ran. “It’s great to have a mom who inspires me and teaches me that I can do anything I set my mind to,” she said.
Hoffman must now gather all of his career documentation and submit it to Guinness; He said it could take a year for it to be ratified. Until then, he will swim and exercise to prepare for his next race.
In December, he will compete at the International Ultrarunners Association 24-Hour World Championships in Taiwan. His personal record for that race is 145.4 miles.
“I probably won’t be able to match that because I just worked so hard on this body,” he said with a smile.