Forrest Gump, Meet Peter Goren
The hallucinations begin on mile 60 somewhere in the Southern California mountains between Wrightwood and Pasadena. It is the middle of the night. The dim beam from his cheap plastic flashlight dances off trees and branches, swaying back and forth with each numb stride up a portion of the race’s 23,000-foot elevation change. He has been running in the Angeles Crest 100-Mile Endurance Run for almost 20 straight hours. A tree turns into a girl, bushes look like cars parked at aid stations. The only 18-year-old in the 119-person race, he still has 40 miles and 12 hours left to go before reaching the finish line. The finish tape may signify the end of the race, but it doesn’t represent the completion of his goals. There are still 3,500 miles, three months and $100,000 left to go before he runs across the country.
Forrest Gump, meet Peter Goren.
When second-year UCSB business and economics major Peter Goren, now 20, embarks this summer on a cross-country “journey run” from Sands Beach in Isla Vista to Sand Beach in Maine, he will have as many miles of pain, hardship, sweat and fatigue behind him as he will in front of him.
“I just kind of enjoy it, even though the pain is indescribable,” Goren said. “Some people say I’m kind of masochistic, but I just enjoy the challenge.”
Peter is running across the country to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. By the end of his run, he hopes to have donated $100,000.
“My parents are a little worried about getting sponsors, but I think I’ll definitely be able to do it. I haven’t really gotten my story out. My ultimate goal is to eventually be able to raise $1,000,000.”
Peter’s tenacity, unrelenting determination and insatiable ambition have already carried him through five marathons, six 50-mile races and two 100-mile races in only three years. His first race was the 2001 L.A. Marathon during his senior year in high school.
“That was a really big goal for me,” Goren said. “While I was doing it, I didn’t see myself ever running farther than 26.2 miles. I hit the wall like everyone else at 20 miles … When I finished, my mom was happy and said ‘you’ve proven you can do it, now you never have to do it again.’ Thirteen days later I ran the Catalina Marathon.
“… Before the American River 50-mile race, my mom kind of stopped supporting me. She said, ‘You’re crazy. You’re going to kill yourself; this is too much.”
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Goren attended high school in Claremont, California where he played baseball and football. He began running as part of his baseball training after meeting another player who was in excellent physical condition from running six miles a day. That player had been drafted by a professional team. Goren’s original goal was to play professional baseball.
The son of two doctors, Goren said he is inspired by his mother’s work as a pediatric oncologist. She has treated children with Leukemia for the past 20 years.
“I’m running to honor her and her patients. I don’t have one-tenth the courage that her patients have… I run for as long as I can keep moving or until I pass out,” he said.
Goren is also running to honor the memory of his younger brother, who died in a car accident when Peter was eleven. His brother was 7 years old when he was killed.
Goren’s search for challenges began, he said, after he ran the L.A. Marathon. “I got really addicted to running. I liked how everyone got medals at the end. It’s like you’re all winners,” he explained. From that point, his desire to obtain the satisfaction of completing races only grew.
“Sometimes while I was running, I would think to myself that I would never do this again. But I always came back and started another race.”
When Goren decided to compete in the Angeles Crest 100-Mile Endurance Run, “a lot of people told me that it was too much, that this was one of the hardest endurance races and that I was ill-prepared.”
A lot of people were right.
“I had only run one 50 mile race before this, but I didn’t want to kill myself during training. I knew that I would only stop if I missed a cut-off time or passed out.”
Goren barely made the final cut-off time but finished the race.
“I lost an hour because the EMTs made me sit and eat some hamburgers because I had lost 11 pounds,” Goren said. “I hadn’t even come to the race with a water bottle when most people had two. I also didn’t have a pacer for most of the race. My uncle was my crew. He stayed up with me all night.”
Goren’s addiction to running brought him to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa last summer. Stepping off the plane after two overnight flights, Goren plunged into the two-week, 100-mile Extreme Africa race that covered 30,000 feet in elevation changes and involved three mountain climbs. The atmosphere at the higher elevations near Kilimanjaro’s summit contains 70% less oxygen than at sea level.
“We climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked down and then ran to Mt. Meru, which was the most beautiful place I’ve run so far. We were standing on top of that mountain looking down at the clouds and a big volcanic crater,” he said. “Sometimes we ran with native Tanzanian warriors who carried big knives while they ran and used pieces of old car tires as shoes. The knives were for fixing the shoes when they broke.”
An Inspiration? Or One Who is Inspired?
While Goren was in Africa he met Chris Moon, a former British military man who had an arm and leg amputated after a mine clearing accident.
“Chris really inspired me,” Goren said. “… Seeing him out there really helped make me think that anything was possible … Chris told me I should find my limits, then go beyond them.”
Goren’s motivation to run across the United States was also inspired by the Canadian runner Terry Fox, who was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 18. Fox decided to run across Canada in a 1980 fund-raising effort called the “Marathon of Hope” after having his right leg amputated six inches above the knee. Fox ran for 143 days and covered 3,339 miles before the cancer spread to his lungs, forcing him to stop. The lung cancer eventually led to his death. However, the foundation established in his name has raised almost $300 million for cancer research to date.
Training Around School
Goren says he is supposed to be running about 150 miles per week in order to get in shape for an ultra marathon the length of the entire country. However, he says that it is hard to run 150 miles a week and take classes at the same time.
“Since I can’t run for as long as I need to, I run with 30 pounds of water on my back to make the training more difficult,” he said. “I’ve probably put on about 20-30 pounds since I first started running, but it’s easy to lose 10 pounds in a 100-mile race or a week’s worth of calories in a 50-mile race.
“I average running about two hours a day on weekdays and six to eight hours on Saturday. I’m going to start running six to eight hours back-to-back on Sundays also. I think that will really get me ready.
Goren usually runs laps around the campus and local beaches with Tupac rapping in his headphones. Depending on his schedule , he sometimes trains at night with a halogen head lamp.
“Sometime within the next 10 years, I’d like to climb Mount Everest, but I really do need to focus more on school,” he said. “It’s really hard to study sometimes, but even if my grades might be slipping, if I can raise $100,000 to help save some lives, I think it will be worth it.”
Goren plans to depart early this summer with an RV and support crew. His preliminary route takes him through Colorado, Utah and through the headquarters of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in New York.
“I’m planning on running 30-40 miles a day, for eight hours a day. If worse comes to worst, I can always walk at about one mile in 15 minutes.
“I know it’s going to be really hard; the distance shocks your body, but then you get used to it. It’s something new everyday; it’s not going around in laps,” he said.
Goren has a web page set up at where you can search for “Peter Goren” and donate money through him to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Goren will also be setting up a new website at to accept donations in the months prior to his trip.
His trip should cost between $10,000 and $15,000, which makes the search for sponsors to cover his expenses extremely important – Goren wants all the money he raises to be donated.
“There are people who think I can do this, but most importantly, I think I can do it,” he said.