For the next year, my family and I — along with some friends — plan to run, hike, bike, swim and walk our way across the United States. We will start at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and by next year we will have traversed 3,521 miles and 13 states to arrive at the Washington Monument. How is this possible? We're part of a new challenge called the Amerithon in which participants can take on the task to rack up fitness miles while virtually tracking those miles across the U.S.

The Amerithon Challenge is the brainchild of Tim Catalano and Adam Goucher, coauthors of the book "Run The Edge" and cofounders of another wildly popular fitness challenge called Run The Year, which began in 2015 and has since helped runners and walkers rack up that year's date as their annual mileage.

I've taken on the Run The Year challenge for the past two years and have thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and support from fellow runners on the group's Facebook page. There's nothing like logging in to find dozens of posts from runners around the world talking about the ups and downs of their morning run to motivate you to get out the door and log your own miles.

The Amerithon also has its own closed Facebook group, so I'm hoping for even more motivation from exercisers of all backgrounds. But what really sold me on the Amerithon Challenge was that it offered an opportunity to get my whole family involved in racking up the miles — and it also gives me an excuse to sneak in a few geography lessons along the way.

Catalano told me this was exactly why he and Goucher were inspired to create these challenges. "Our motivation in these is to create a fun way to keep people motivated to move," he explained. With Amerithon, the team wanted "to create a BIG challenge that will keep people moving over a long period of time to develop good fitness and exercise habits."

And it's already working in my house. My teenager usually takes a pass on bike rides as she's more of a swimmer and hiker. But this morning, when her younger sister and I were heading out the door for a ride, she asked to join us. "I don't want to miss out on all of those Amerithon miles!" she explained.

Hey, whatever it takes, right?

You can register for the Amerithon at various levels, each of which includes swag that increase with the price. But all levels include flyover videos that show you and your team exactly where you're traveling in each segment. If you go for the Deluxe or Get It All packages, you also get a U.S. wall map to plot your course as well as a crazy big six-piece medal that you can assemble along the way.

The Amerithon Challenge's 6-piece medal. The Amerithon Challenge's six-piece medal. (Photo: Amerithon Challenge)

While it may seem like a daunting number of miles, participants can split the Amerithon's 3,521 mile goal by joining up with friends and family to make a team. Darcie Duckworth of Hendersonville, Tennessee, is taking on the challenge with her sister and her son. "I thought this would be a great opportunity for us as a family and [to] learn about some U.S. geography along the way!" Duckworth told me. Pam Wood from Weil in Schönbuch, Germany, hopes to run the Amerithon miles along with her team of six. Brooklyn Kennedy is part of a five-person Colorado/Texas team, and they plan to use "all types of miles," to complete the challenge.

If you're really into fitness, you can also sign up for the Amerithon solo — like Dave Guymon from Idaho Falls, Idaho, who plans to use this challenge to "get into the best shape of his life," or Leslie Dixon who's folding this challenge into her own effort to virtually walk from her home in England to her daughter's front door in Australia — 9,680 mile away.

"I started 441 days ago and have walked 3400 miles so far so when I finish the [A]merithon I'll be 70%ish finished and also know more American geography than I do now!!!" Dixon explained.

The Amerithon Challenge kicked off July 4, and Catalano and Goucher suggest a one-year time commitment, but you can hop in any time and rack up your miles by whatever means and in whatever time frame works for you.

Whether you decide to take on this challenge or not, here's to many happy [fitness] miles over the course of the next year!

How to exercise your way across the U.S. without leaving the comfort of home
Get ready to virtually run, bike, hike, swim or ski from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Washington Monument.