Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Overweight US man ends his 5,000km coast-to-coast walk

AP , NEW YORK

As with many trips, Steve Vaught's trek across the US was about more than just the simple act of getting from one place to another.

"I'm glad that I'm here, but for me it's never been about the destination," he said as he crossed the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to Manhattan more than a year after he began the trip to lose weight and find happiness. "It's been about the journey."

Vaught, 40, began the roughly 4,828km trek from his home in Oceanside, California, to Manhattan on April 10 last year, when he weighed 186kg and was suffering from severe depression after he accidentally killed two elderly pedestrians while driving 15 years ago.

He ended the journey on Tuesday about 45kg lighter.

Along the way, Vaught slept in tents and motels and went through 15 pairs of shoes, more than 30 pairs of socks and six backpacks. But he did not travel with a pedometer or measure the food he ate, and he said he aimed to change his behavior -- not just his weight.

"This is not about obsessing about numbers, or times, or dates, or miles," he said. "It's just about going on a walk and, sort of, having time to get things straight."

Vaught's path wasn't a straight one. He spent a week at a Texas hotel, where he went off antidepressants, and he returned to California for Christmas and then to work out with a personal trainer.

Vaught chronicled his progress on a Web site, thefatmanwalking.com, which lists the names of dozens of supporters in 26 states. He has signed a book deal, and his trip attracted the attention of documentary filmmakers.

As Vaught began walking the span from New Jersey to Manhattan on Tuesday evening with a flock of cameras and reporters, a passing bicyclist yelled, "Hey, that's the walking dude! Congratulations! Good job!"

Nicoline Biggio, who went to see him complete his journey, said her husband has been following Vaught's progress but had missed the finale because he was out of town.

"I think it's great that he's finished his goal," Biggio said. "So few of us actually keep them."

Vaught posed for photographs on the bridge with the New York City skyline in the background and standing in front of the "Welcome to New York, the Empire State" sign. Once he reached the other side -- his final destination -- he spoke to reporters for a few minutes on the street before being picked up by a black sedan that took him to a hotel.

His first order of business at the hotel, Vaught said, was to "put on some new socks."

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