Katie Visco


Written By Katie Visco

August 15, 2019

Saying Yes to Fear

Katie Visco with her gear on a small hand pulled cart
Katie was both 2nd youngest and the 13th woman to run solo across the United States

Running Across Australia with Katie Visco

When Katie Visco was tricked into joining the cross-country team by a friend in seventh grade, seeds of passion and inspiration were unexpectedly planted. In 2009 at the age of 23, Katie was both the 2nd youngest and the 13th woman to run solo across the United States, a journey of over 3000 miles. During her nine month adventure from Boston to San Diego, Katie ran in the mornings and spoke to young people in the afternoons. Her message encouraged kids to look within, identify their dreams, and then follow them - whatever they may be. A decade later, on July 13th of this year, Katie began an even more challenging adventure. With her husband Henley Phillips carrying up to 400 lbs. of support gear on his bicycle, Katie is running over 2100 miles, traversing the Australian desert from Darwin to Adelaide. Her quest for adventure and willingness to face her fears is contagious. We caught up with Katie recently to learn more about how she prepares for such amazing endeavors.

How did you come up with your original plan to run across America?

My drive to run across the USA was truly a fire in my chest. After completing a year of service with AmeriCorps working with high school students, I was completely enraptured by the idea of changing the world. In truth, I always had been. I had been considering running across America for a while by then but was searching for a really good reason to do it. That reason became real while I was working so closely with kids who had never really stopped to consider their dreams. I wanted to run my heart out to send a very important message to kids like the ones I worked with. “You are worth living a bold and passion-driven life for. You are worth following your dreams. You are worth giving life to your curiosities.” These messages were absent from the lives of these kids as far as I could tell. My journey ended up being 50% speaking tour and 50% running. Most days, I would be done running by noon or 1 pm and spend the afternoon meeting local people—doing speaking events with small groups of girls, larger audiences at schools, or community groups, whatever. I was on fire and felt I was making a huge impact on the lives of others!

What drives you to pursue your goal of running across Australia?

Katie Visco training by running on a track
Katie will run over 2100 miles, traversing the Australian desert from Darwin to Adelaide

The dream to run across Australia actually predates my run across America. In early 2006, when I was twenty, I bought a round-trip ticket to Sydney, Australia with my own money, took a leave of absence from college, and signed up for an internship at a nonprofit. My three months in Oz was more than I could have imagined. The experience was my breakthrough from girlhood to becoming a powerful and independent woman. While there, I began to wonder, "What is the Outback like and is the sand really that red? Why are Aussies so carefree? What’s up with the walkabout, the aboriginal right of passage? And as an American woman, can I do one myself?" I left Australia promising myself that one day I would run across it. That day has now come.

I will run across Australia, through her deserts, into her complex and elegant desolation. I am going to the desert to shed a layer. This is my pilgrimage:

  • To confront all parts of myself in one of the most raw and barren places on earth.
  • To find Katie again, to reclaim all of my fire.
  • To accept my vulnerability and let it all go at the same time.

I want to go to the outside edge again and love it. In other words, why not? I want to challenge myself and show others that a little curiosity might be all you need to move towards your biggest goals.

I want to do great things and make sure that they help other people. I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to make a difference. However, in doing big (and small) things for other people, I have got to take care of myself. I need to ultimately give to myself what I need so that I can best give to others. Can I do something "big" for me? Can I adventure for my own good and feel proud of that? That’s what this run across Australia is ultimately all about—making friends with my ambition, and holding myself with grace while doing something for me. When it is all over, I hope my story connects with those who hear it and allows them to give fully to themselves as well as to others. To love and give to yourself is bravery. I want others to be brave too!

What are your must-haves the trail?

When I go out for a long run on the trail, I always pack my running vest with these things:

  • Energy bar or my homemade Good Juju Energy Balls. I eat 200 calories an hour so I aim for calorie-dense bars.
  • HydraPak 1.5L water bladder with hose. I drink every 20-30 minutes. This is key for me.
  • Salt Stick Caps for electrolytes. I take 1 cap every 40 minutes.

I also wear or apply these things before I head out:
  • Powdered healthy sunscreen by Day Spa Body Basics - it doesn’t sweat off! This is a game-changer.
  • Squirrel’s Nut Butter chafing cream. Oh yeah.
  • A good sun hat with neck cape is essential. I wear the Ultra Adventure Hat by Sunday Afternoons.

What advice do you have for go-getters considering their next big adventure?

Above all else, that doing something big is ultimately for you. Be brave and ask yourself why you need this. For me 10 years ago, I needed to fulfill a desire to make a difference in the world. Now, heading into my adventure across Australia, I need a pilgrimage for myself, to reconnect and to see myself more clearly so that I can give to others moving forward. When it comes to following your dreams, the reason that lives deep inside you needs to be the strongest. Find that flame that will fuel you. Write it on your wall. And go do it.

Your passion is impressive Katie. Where do you find your inspiration?

This quote is my absolute favorite quote. It has been a guiding light for me and will continue to be a source of inspiration when I am struggling in Australia.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

How can readers follow your adventures?

Please visit my website to donate and follow my run across Australia. You can also sign up for my newsletter. I send out writings about my adventures to my email list and love to keep readers in the loop that way. On Instagram I’m @katievisco and my husband Henley (who will be supporting me across the Outback on a bicycle!) is @henley.phillips. You can also email me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy. I’d love to hear from you! Your support means so much.

Henley Phillips carrying up to 400 lbs. of support gear on his bicycle