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2/16/2006

Good luck

A fat man says he's going to get thin by walking across the entire country.
Gary Long began his ambitious, girth-burning quest in fine St. Louis style. He stepped off beneath the Arch on Wednesday to the peal of the Old Cathedral's bells.

Sunshine broke through billowy clouds as he strode across the Arch grounds to the Eads Bridge. Television crews hustled alongside to record his every headstrong step.

All he had left was another 2,900 miles.

Long, 51, of Fenton, says he will tread the breadth of the United States over the next year to burn away half of his 360 pounds. Long has tried and failed with diets and gyms. He needs a dramatic challenge.

"I will not quit until I walk beneath this Arch again," Long declared to a small gathering. "It will be hard, but it's something I know I must do."

Long grew up in St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Mo., spent 21 years in the Army and came home 11 years ago a trim 180 pounds. He became a long-haul trucker and, he said, that's how his troubles began.

"Too many of those truckers' buffets," he said. "Then home on the couch, eating pizza. I have to remove myself from all of that and stay focused."

...He plans to sleep along the road in a small tent and keep in touch with his wife, Cheryl, by cell phone. He'll give himself a motel bed once a week.

...He plans to make 13 to 18 miles per day heading for New York, mainly via old U.S. Highway 40. He will double-back by airplane to Los Angeles, then head east for his last 1,900 miles.

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