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Bill Sycalik, a 45-year-old former New York City-based management consultant, quit his job last year in pursuit of a new challenge: running a marathon in all 59 U.S. National Parks, a journey spanning 1,546.9 miles across 29 states.

“Two things can happen in New York—you can either be fed by the energy or it can feed on you.” Sycalik told Runner’s World. “I was not in a good space. I was not happy with my job, and I had unnecessary stress and limited access to the outdoors.”

He tried various methods to cure his growing malaise—a sabbatical, a 10-day meditation retreat — to no avail. “After that, I just decided that it [the stress] wasn’t worth it and life was too short,” Sycalik says. So upon reading about the 100th anniversary of the national parks, Sycalik came up with the idea to bid adieu to the Big Apple for good and combine his love of long distance trail running with his desire to explore our nation’s natural protected lands. Thus, the National Parks Marathon Project was born.

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