Matt Livermanne needed a job, so he started walking.
So far, he's totaled more than 14,000 miles in three years. That's more than 28 million steps, all leading him to a new career as a professional endurance walker.
Currently, Livermanne is walking from Mexico to Alaska, a journey he aims to complete in 145 days. In part, he hopes this expedition will raise awareness for his Transcontinental Walking Association, which is working to make ridiculously long walks an organized sport. He recently traveled through Sacramento on his way north and spoke about his unusual profession.
"This is my full-time job," he said. "I was a paralegal (in Salt Lake City), but I lost my job. I got replaced by a computer program."
At the time, Livermanne thought setting a world record would help his future job prospects; it would be something noteworthy to add to his résumé. He ended up walking 10,000 miles in 19 months. (Livermanne said he submitted his documentation to Ripley's which certifies extreme world records and that it's now under consideration.)
"I went from Los Angeles to New York, back to L.A., then to Chicago," Livermanne said. "That went so well, people wanted more."
After achieving that milestone, he just kept on going.
"I have my own company now," he said. "I test shoes. (He averages 800 miles a pair.) I have a candy bar named for me the Walker bar. I have sponsors."
His current trek grew out of his record-setting journey. He started in Tijuana in late March and hopes to make it to Deadhorse, Alaska the northernmost point in the state's road system by Aug. 24.
"The last plane leaves Deadhorse on Aug. 25," he said. "If I don't make it, it's going to be a long cold winter."
Last week, he took a side trip to Sacramento, home to a representative for one of his sponsors, EverStride anti-chafing balm. Then he was back on the road.
"California is really set up for walking," he said. "But there's nothing flat in this state. It's work."
In his travels, the native Texan said he's often compared to a certain movie character.
"People always tell me, 'You're just like Forrest Gump,' " Livermanne said with a chuckle. "I have a Gumpy moment every day."
Portrayed by Tom Hanks in the Oscar-winning movie, the fictional Forrest Gump ran cross-country on his own transcontinental adventure, picking up legions of fans along the way.
"People expect you to look like Forrest Gump when you're a transcontinental walker," Livermanne said. "My sponsors won't let me cut my hair or shave my beard. I look pretty grizzly right now. I'm just glad Forrest Gump bathed."
Like Gump, Livermanne maintains an ever-optimistic attitude. Carrying a 35-pound backpack, he walks 30 to 40 miles a day usually over 14 to 16 hours on paved highways. (And yes, he has state and federal permits so he can walk on highways.) He camps almost every night.
Livermanne, 36, consumes more than 7,000 calories a day including a dozen hard-boiled eggs from one of his sponsors. In the five weeks and 700 miles since he left Tijuana, he's lost 40 pounds.
He's particularly enjoying his walk through California. He lauded the state parks ("I love the parks here; they do an amazing job"), thanked the California Highway Patrol for its help and praised the breathtaking coastline.
"When I planned this route, there were 20 things that I've never seen but always wanted to," he said. "Big Sur is so beautiful; I wanted to stay longer but I had to keep walking."
Right now, he's somewhere north of Santa Rosa, working his way up Highway 101. Livermanne had hoped to make it to Crescent City by tonight, but a toe injury demanded a two-day break from his trek.
"I tripped on some gravel and knocked it out of its socket," said Livermanne, who has never had a blister during his walks. "But the swelling came down fast. It's the only injury I've had, but it's not a career-ender."
While he walks alone, Livermanne has plenty of support.
"This is a team effort," he said. "I have fans everywhere. I've met literally thousands of people and made a lot of good friends on this journey. My favorite part is meeting people."
Fans follow Livermanne via his website, www.transwalk.com, and via Twitter @transwalk.
"I've had seven proposals (of marriage) on Facebook," he added. "It's all part of the fun."
He hopes his journey can inspire others to walk if not long distance, around the block.
"People should get out and walk more," he said. "You miss so much unless you see it on foot."
WALK THE WALK
Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.