On a recent foggy morning, an ultramarathon runner set out to run the entire length of Whidbey Island.
He succeeded in the endeavor, although it did take him over 10 hours.
Bainbridge Island native, renowned athlete and self-described recovering alcoholic Greg Nance ran from Hoypus Point on North Whidbey to Possession Point on South Whidbey – covering a total of 54 miles in the process – on Saturday, Jan. 15.
Nance believes his final time of 10:07:50 is the fastest known time for anyone running from tip to tip of Whidbey.
He is hopeful others will try running or biking at least a portion of the route he created, which is called the Whidbey Island Traverse. It follows Highway 20 and Highway 525 before taking a right on Bayview Road and zigzagging down to its end at Possession Point State Park.
The route can be viewed at fastestknowntime.com/route/whidbey-island-traverse-wa.
“I know Whidbey has a great community of runners, and it’s such a beloved place,” Nance said. “I encourage people to get out there.”
Surprisingly, Nance’s run was his first time being back on Whidbey since 2003, when he competed in a baseball doubleheader in Oak Harbor.
“When I look at a map, Whidbey is such a cool place,” he said. “It’s beautiful and scenic. I want to explore.”
He began the run at 6:30 a.m., taking a lunch break around Coupeville. He admitted that running in the fog was a little concerning with cars nearby. Sharp turns could be harrowing, and the rolling hills and headwinds were challenging.
“So many people were honking, giving me a thumbs-up on Whidbey,” he said. “It really makes a big difference.”
His extended run was also an opportunity to meet some local wildlife, from deer near Deception Pass to owls at Possession Point.
The Whidbey Island Traverse was a training exercise for Nance, who is preparing to run 3,000 miles across America in the spring.
Reid Block, who often accompanies Nance on his longer runs to assess his overall physical health and provide mindset coaching, said the Whidbey run provided some valuable information. Because of the island’s numerous ups and downs, there were strengthening exercises Nance had to do.
“Had we not run Whidbey, we might not have known that would be an issue,” Block said.
Nance will be spending roughly two months running from the East Coast to the West Coast to bring awareness to youth mental health and addiction recovery.
As a teenager and young adult, Nance struggled with addiction to alcohol and opiates. In December 2021, he celebrated a decade of sobriety. He credits running for keeping him on track, especially during a pandemic that has isolated many people who are grappling with mental health issues.
Since March 27, 2020, he has run every single day, even if it’s just been for one mile.
“I don’t think I would still be sober if I hadn’t been running every day,” he said.
A documentary film crew will be following his upcoming journey across America. The project is titled “1 in 7,” which is a reference to the statistic that one in seven people in the U.S. will face substance addiction.
“The solution is kindness and compassion,” Nance said. “It’s being there for people.”
He will begin the run with a toe in the Atlantic Ocean, near New York City, and average about 50 miles per day. Along the way, he will speak with people who have also recovered from addiction, as well as some people who are currently in the thick of it.
“I’m really excited to see who comes down the path,” he said.
He plans to run through Seattle and toward Ocean Shores, where he will end the run with his feet in the Pacific Ocean.
He’s hopeful the extensive run will shed some light on what he referred to as the nation’s “silent epidemics.”