Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New England Ultras

So I'm off to Pittsfield, VT for the weekend to try my hand at race directing. So far the experience has been educational for sure and once I return from the weekend, I plan on sharing my thoughts on the topic with all of you. Basically, regardless of how this weekend turns out, its going to be a very VERY long time before I am a race director once again.

The 200 Milers start on Thursday evening, 5pm. They have 72 Hours to complete the course.
The 100 Milers start on Saturday morning, 5am. They have 36 Hours to complete the course.
The 50 Milers (New option) start on Sunday Morning, 6am. And they have 12 hours to complete the course.

I toured the course on Sunday when I went out to hang the ribbons. It's a muddy, slick, slippery mess. About 90% of the leaves are down and strewn about the trail. They are saturated and cover up all of the rocks and roots. Over the last 5 days the course has received over 4" of rain and from what I hear, a few inches of snow last night. Water was pouring out of everywhere on Sunday and I'm certain it still is. The few muddy sections we have are slippery and deep. Runners WILL BE WET and miserable... or maybe they enjoy it. Quite a challenge lay before them and its our duty to help them succeed through the best of all of our abilities. It should be a good time.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, we need volunteers. Pittsfield is on Route 100 in Vermont. We'd love to have you. Feel like running? We welcome you to our mountains to run as many or few laps as you desire. The course is open. Runners will need pacers. Or maybe you want to enjoy a nice challenging long run. We'll be there.. come see us at the Aimee Farm. Good luck to all those all ready registered, including Ri Fahnestock, who if and when he completes the 100 mile event, will win the coveted $10,000 Peaks Purse for completed ALL of our races this past year. (Snowshoe Marathon, McNaughton Park 100, Peaks 50, Death Race, 666 Mt. Bike and 100 Mile Funeral Run)!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

RR: The Run Across New Hampshire Part 3

Part 3 - The Final Part.

Portsmouth or Bust
The discomfort I feel is nothing I didn't expect. I am amazed at how much my body is literally shaking. Shaking from the tremors of running this far on the pavement and its evident that my body is in a state of shock. My knees are sore and IT Bands tight. My feet are killing me, however the pain has been so horrible for so long that my feet are actually starting to go numb. This is something I never expected... my feet going numb. They are so swollen from the run that they literally fill every inch of my shoes. I am however re-energized and ready to finish this run up. I'm within the Portsmouth City Limits now. Nate has come back to cheer me on. I am once again being cared for by a full crew and we've picked up about 4 runners. As we left the EMS parking lot, I noticed that Josh was back out with us. "What are you doing man?!" "Hey... I've gotta finish this with you." I was totally stoked. We were now a party of 10 runners. Just as we were heading out, my professor Brent came up to me and told me he had something for me. He pulled from his pocket a book written by John Dewey titled, Experience & Education. This book we've been dissecting for a few weeks in class now and I'd be lying if I told you I loved it. But the fact that Brent took it out, opened it up and read a short quote from the book... actually a random quote. Regardless, not only was it funny, but it meant a lot. So Brent.. this is for you.. a Dewey quote that speaks to me: "Every experience is a moving force. Its value can be judged only on the ground of what it moves toward and into." ~J. Dewey

We ran as a solid group out of the parking lot and headed back to Woodbury Ave. I thought it would be funny to get to Woodbury Ave and stand there waiting for the Crossing Lights to change to walk. Here I was 115 miles into a run, and I was actually willing to stop to wait for a light. I think mostly because I was afraid of being slammed by a car and hurt with so little left to go on the run. We cross the busy avenue and made our way onto the sidewalk where I decided to run a little bit in the grass. Of course it felt nice to run on the grass, but it was short lived. All I could think about was, "Well, I ran on the damn pavement this long." So I got off the grass and continued to run down the sidewalk. For some reason I really felt more fluid on the pavement at this point. I'd run for so long on it that I actually felt like I was a part of it. And judging by how my calves, legs and feet had hardened from the run, perhaps I really was a part of the sidewalk. A row of tree's grow from the other-side of a chain link fence. Its branches reach high and sway over the sidewalk, but someone has cleared the way creating a tunnel for us to run through. Its dark under the branches even though the sun shines brightly on the other end. Its rays reach inside our tunnel... trying to grab us and free us from the darkness. There always seems to be some darkness, light always teases us to be free. As we run out from the tunnel we continue to run under I-95 and along the shores of Portsmouth Harbor.

As we ran down Woodbury Ave I could feel my pace picking up still. I ran at a pretty good clip, maybe even 10 minute miles or faster. Josh looked at me and said, "You smell the ocean can't you?" Indeed I could smell the ocean. I could feel the waves, I could hear them crash. I was quiet and content. I thought about all that I had been through thus far. I was feeling amazingly great and I had no understanding of why. As we ran ahead we entered the historic streets of Portsmouth. Colonial homes lined the tight and narrow streets. We followed the signs for Strawberry Banke, which led us past one of our states first settlements. I very much think about how hard they must have had it in the late 1600's; landing their ships on our shore and starting life over. If they could only see us now as cars zip and zing through the streets. But Portsmouth is very much a "horse and buggy" kinda town, and you get the feel of it as its many residents walk on by. We pass many old churches as church goers climb out of the pews and pack into the world. As we pass by one house of worship, I remove my hat and give my respects to religion. As we wind through town and Rout 1B is just ahead, I look back to make sure we have everyone. Apparently in my speedy uptake, we lost sight of some of the girls and they had fallen off the pack. I stopped on a median strip and waited while laying in the grass. The sun shines gloriously, the leaves continue to rustle and the colors fall from the sky. Its windy and chilly but the perfect day none-the less. The girls rejoin us and Tory looks tired. She urges me to move on and they'll catch up. "No way in Hell! I invited you guys to enjoy this moment with me. I want you to experience it. This is no race. There is no cut-off, no reward... we're doing this together." And as I got to my feet, I told Tory we could walk for a while.

New Castle and The News
We turned onto Route 1B and continued to run out of Portsmouth and across the bridge onto Goat Island and the Island known as New Castle. The wind is really whipping through this area as w are now at sea level running along New Hampshire's Granite Shores. As we cross the bridge onto the island I see our crews set up and ready to go. Everyone runs in together and attends to their individual needs. I get ushered over to a car where a WMUR-TV News 9 reporter is waiting to conduct an interview. Nate has been giving him some background information about our run. As Nate answers questions, the reporter and camera man see me, step in front of Nate and block him out. The attention was now on me and I caught all of this. I felt terrible for Nate, as if he didn't feel bad enough.. after this run I have found just how ignorant reporters and the rest of the media can be. Reporter: "So John, what's the story here?" Me: "The story is that this has always been a dream of mine, I've always wanted to run across the state of New Hampshire and really enjoy its beauty, up close and personal instead of through the car window and thats exactly what I got this weekend. This state has a lot to offer if people would just slow down and enjoy it." I was so exhausted at this point that I was lucky to even get that much out. I thanked the reporters for coming out, went to the aid vehicles and just asked that my bottles be refilled. I'm done eating, but continue to take in some Powergels. I've eaten so many gels that the taste buds have been burned from my tongue. To continue on about the media, my phone rang while running and it was a photographer from the Boston Globe, she wanted to know if I still planned to be at the finish between 1 and 2. I told her I had no idea what time it even was so I couldn't even begin to tell her what time it would be. With 4 miles to go, anything could happen. She then asked if I could give her "an exact time of my arrival." NO. Then she said, "Well, can you call me when you're getting closer or is that too much to ask?" Too much to ask... is that too mush to ask?! Yes.. its too much to ask. At 120 miles into this run, I am doing nothing but concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, forgetting about the pain, thinking about my friends at Make-A-Wish and reminiscing about this great journey.. "Yes.. it is too much to ask." And I hung up.

We leave the Goat Island fishing area and continue to run through New Castle. The tiny colonial homes here are even closer together than they were in Portsmouth, and many of them are the originals that have stood strong here since before the revolution. The immense history that has transpired on these rocky shores, rushed through my soul. I have such an appreciation for history, when men were men, when winter was winter. I can't even imagine how hard life used to be. The wind continued to whip across the water making it quite a challenge for us to push on through while crossing tiny bridges. The harbor is choppy as white capped waves crash along the shore. Tiny boats lie resting on the sides of the water, I can see Maine to my left and Portsmouth to my right. A man riding a bicycle continues to ride along our route and cheers us on at short intervals, "You're doing amazing John.. almost there." I start to think about it... almost there. I feel amazing. I know I can keep running and I don't want this to end. I know I could run further, but for what or from what. I knew I needed to stop.. and the end was pulling us closer. We continue to run and walk together as a unified group of runners. We turned a few more corners, ran past Wentworth By The Sea, and crossed one last bridge. As we crossed the bridge, I looked to my left and saw Odiorne State Park... the end of this incredible journey. I could see it! Emotion began to overcome me.. and I knew I just had to keep it together. We entered Rye and the crew was stopped at the final aid station with less than 3 miles to go.

I ran in and the crew asked me what I needed, "Nothing but to finish." The celebration was starting. Everywhere I turned people were taking photos, shaking my hand and patting me on the back. I still have 2 or so miles to go, and I was ready for all of it. I noticed Jason from the Make-A-Wish Foundation was ready to run as was my dad. My dad.. I was so touched that my dad had decided to come out and run the final miles with us. Another family whose daughter was the recipient of a wish a few years ago had come out to support and they were running as well. Our party of ten was now a party of 14. i had dreamed of this moment for years. Everything that I wanted this run to be is exactly how it was, right down to a crowd of good people, with hearts bigger than my own running along side me in the thrill of accomplishment, and the acknowledgment of achievement through adventure. I told the crews to get to the finish and I'd see them there. I rallied the runners and we were off. 2 miles to go!

We ran down Route 1A, the wind has died now, blocked by the trees that line the land between the ocean and this road. Its not much farther now. I lead the group of 14 runners and keep looking back to see where my dad was. I spotted him at the end. I pulled off to the side and instructed everyone to run ahead. I stopped and waited for Dad to catch up. Dad:"Hey.. you're supposed to be leading this thing." Me:"Nah.. thats overrated, I want to run with my father. Thanks Dad." We continue to run down the road and talk lightly about what was about to transpire in the moments that were quickly to come. I looked over at Jason from Make-A-Wish, "Hey Jason, I just want you to know how much of a true honor and privilege it has been to run on behalf of your organization." I left the two men here, and surged back tot he front of the pack. As we rounded the corner, I saw the barrier lining the edges of Odiorne State Park. Nate and Sarah drive up in the van to tell me there is confusion at the Seacoast Science Center in terms of where I was going to finish. I tried explaining it to them.. but something was up. I told them to just wrangle everyone up in the parking lot.. and we'll go where we need to go together.. everyone can join me on the final bit. They loved the idea and so they drove off. Then I saw that Boston Globe photographer, she holds her camera up and starts snapping photos. She asks. "Where are you going?" I told her, "The finish is up here" "Well thats not where they told me it was." I'm not BEYOND pissed off at these reporters, I don;t even want them here. I could care less about them. So I tell her, "Well, I'm the guy who just ran 124 miles. I know where the finish is and I invite you to come on down, donate to Make-A-Wish, snap a few photos and celebrate with us. But thats up to you." I turn back to the road.. and push on. As I continue to run, I know the end is near. Less than a mile left, I get this sick idea in my head to push it a bit. I look back at the Don, smile and ask if he is ready.. "for what?" I turn around and start running an 8:30 minute mile down Route 1A. I'm smokin! Josh starts laughing, I hear someone breathing heavy behind me. I'm not breathing heavy, I'm not sweating.. so I ask, "Who's breathing heavy!?" Silence.. even the breathing stops. I look at Josh and we laugh. And before I know it.. we turn the final corner and I run through the front entrance of the Seacoast Science Center... the finish.

Welcome to Odiorne Point State Park
As I run into the parking lot, this loud round of applause breaks the silence. I hear people starting to yell, "Yeah John!" I couldn't believe it.. I made it... I was here. One of the first voices that sinks into my head is the distinctive voice of my brother in law Mike. I was so glad knowing that he, my sister and my young nephews were here to witness this moment. I continue to run forward, through the parking lot and out onto the grass. I see Karen Provazza who is one of coordinators of our finish line event. I ask her, "Where do I finish?" She pointed to the right, "Over by those rocks.. thats the Eastern-most point of our state." Great. I pause in the field, and wait for everyone to catch up. Runners, spectators.. everyone. Camera's are going off everywhere, its sheer craziness. People come up to me and start shaking my hand, patting me on the back. "Great job Sherpa.. simply amazing." I reply, "yes, but we're not there yet. Come on everyone! Come with me to the water!" I wave everyone to hurry up. "If I can run 124 miles.. you can run 124 feet!" I can feel my emotions starting to build and build. This is a moment in time, that I've always dreamt about. Man... I did it. I DID IT. And just then, I turn around and see Stephanie there, and just as she did the night before in Concord.. she lunges at me and throws her arms around me. I didn't think I could get a bigger hug.. but I did. And it was all I had in me not to cry. I hugged her, lowered my head to her ear and whispered to her, "Remember Steph... you can do anything you put your mind to in this life. Anything. If you can think it, you can do it. Always remember that... always." She shook her head yes and we continued to embrace.

I let go of Steph and noticed everyone had gathered. The round of applause was continuing, people cheering, whistling.. it was an amazing feeling. I felt like a rockstar. I found Karen and we started walking arm in arm towards the water. "Come on everyone, follow me!" As we walked to the water, Karen was in amazement. I looked at her with a smile and all I could say was, "Hey.. did you guys know that you are a LONG way away from Keene?" We got in a good laugh, walked through a row of bushes and in front of me was the ocean. "You're not going to jump in right?" Hmmm... "No" Hmmm... I continue to walk forward and crested the rocky hill lining the shore. Laid out before me is the mighty Altantic Ocean. Waves crash along the shore in the distance and against rocks that rise from the murky deep. The ocean has never in my life looked so amazingly beautiful.

I walk over the water tumbled stones, and stop to admire the view. Is this real? Did I really just do this? I feel amazingly great. I could keep on running.. but I'm here. I'm at the end. I walk down to the waters edge and suddenly everything gets quiet. I don't know where everyone else is, but in this moment, I felt totally alone. I heard no other person, just myself.. and my thoughts.

I watch as the waves crash against the shore, I hear the rush of the water, and smell the salt. A seagull soars above and lets out his distinctive call. Seaweed floats in and out with the tide. I walk to the edge of the water and step up onto a group of large boulders. The waves crash below my feet. I look out from my vantage point and realize that I've got nowhere else to run. The road ends here, the journey is over. The adventure is complete. I am overcome by emotion and crouch down, put my head in my hands and begin to cry. I did it... I really did it.

I stand back up straight and do all I could to just let it out. To let the world know that I did it... that I completed the greatest journey. I saw New Hampshire.. all of it. I stood tall, looked to the ocean, gazed upon the sea, threw my hands into the air and yelled "Yeaaaaaaaaaah!!... Whooooooo... Yeaaaaaaaahhh!" The silence was deafening as everyone simply watched. I wish I knew what they were all thinking, what they were seeing through their eyes.. what was their perspective on what was taking place.I wanted to know.. but I enjoyed the silence, I enjoyed my moment just as much with silence.

Yesterday morning, 31 Hours and 50 Minutes ago, I stood on the rocky river banks of the Connecticut River, gazed through the darkness at the state of Vermont. I filled a vial with water and vowed to carry it to the Atlantic. 31 Hours and 50 minutes... 124.4 miles later, I took out my vial, unscrewed the cap tipped it upside down and completed the rivers journey to the sea.

I couldn't resist. I'd run this far, I just became the first person to ever Run Across NH. 124 Miles... I couldn't believe it. The water was so beautiful as the suns rays danced on the top like gold on a river of coal. I jumped off the rocks I stood upon and walked into the water. Waves crashed against my weary legs, the 40 degree water made all the pain go away. Salt water touched all of my wounds, yet I felt nothing. Nothing but that sheer sense of accomplishment. There was no buckle, no medal.. just man and earth. I walked further into the water as the waves nearly knocked me down. I began to laugh like a child. I stopped, and looked out into the sea. I looked up at the sky and thanked god for allowing me the courage and strength to make it this far. But even more.. I looked beyond the clouds and spoke to my grandfather who I miss more and more everyday.. "We did it Moe... We did it."

I walked from the water. I really felt like my soul had been washed. My demons on solemn ships floating amongst the waves. Many lessons learned, take their place in my heart and the knowledge in knowing that I'll never glare into the distance the same again. I walk out of the water and Nate comes down to the edge and puts his hand upon my shoulder. "You did it man... nobody else here knows what you've been through quite like I do.... go ahead man... go ahead and cry.. You did it." I grabbed Nate and we embraced, two best friends. A fallen friend, a storied moment and a personal triumph all at once. I lost it.. and cried.. "you did it man.. simply amazing."

Nate and I stop and pose for more photos. And while Nate thinks his adventure ended at Mile 70, its hard for me to explain to him how it really didn't. Because from mile 70 to mile 124, I ran with his spirit in my mind. I ran to the ocean in knowing that I would get there for us. As the wind brushed across my face, and the salt water dripped from my shorts. I began to chill. Nate moved aside and my mom walked down to me. She held up a fleece jacket.. and wrapped it around me. "John.. this was Moe's jacket. I think he'd want to keep you warm right now." I just couldn't hold my emotions in anymore. I miss my best friend. I miss my grandfather. I cry in my mothers arms. I'm at a complete loss for words, but manage to find a way to thank mom. "Mom, you taught me all along that I could do anything I put my mind to... and I'm living proof of your example.. thank you.. I love you."

Final Thoughts
I walked from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean a new man. I have only managed to scrape against the surface of what I experienced and learned on my adventure across New Hampshire. This really is one amazing place, a land of hardened people, rugged lands and temperamental earthly extremes. I've said many things about this place and I've even talked about leaving here. After this weekend, I'm not sure if I could. I love New Hampshire and I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity in this life to see what my state has to offer me from a completely different perspective. We live in a land of machines. Man is just as much a machine as is a car. You can pedal a bike, run, skateboard or whatever. Whatever it is that you do.. take a moment to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty that your state has to offer. I promise you won't be disappointed.

I started running in 2004, and when I started running, I started as a way to prove myself to others. To prove the naysayers wrong, to prove that I am worth your time. That I care, that I'm human and that I have feelings just like everyone else. But on this 124 mile adventure, I finally understood that I don't have anything to prove to anyone. That I only need to run because I love to run. And it was this thought, from before I took my first step, that saw me to the ocean. I used to run because I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I know now that they are.. and not because of my ability to run.. but because I live every day of my life trying to utilize the morals and values they taught me as a young man. Because I appreciate this life for everything that it is and I try to live everyday as if its my last.

I'd like to sit here and tell you that a journey ended on Sunday when I made it to the ocean. But I can't. I can't because I know that while one adventure ended, the journey is just beginning. I've got many places to go in this life and I know that I'm going to reach all of them. Because I know what Human Potential really is, I know where it resides. I know how to tap into that place in my soul that helps me accomplish the seemingly impossible. I can accept that nothing is impossible, that if I can think it I can do it, that I can do anything I put my mind to and that the journey is not what is beneath my feet.. the journey is within. "HUMAN POTENTIAL is that little voice in your head that dares you to dream it, moves you to do it and wills you to experience it. It is unlimited.” ~SJ

On Saturday, October 18, 2008 I began the greatest adventure of my life. On Sunday, October 19, 2008; 31 Hours 50 Minutes after I began; I became the first person to ever run across New Hampshire and my dreams had once again come true. Its not hard to chase your dreams, the hard part is admitting that you can and even starting in the first place. I'm not sure I'll ever know everything I learned while running this weekend. And I'm glad because it leaves doors open to learn more in the future. These journey's are about self-discovery. I discovered a sense of self within me that I never knew existed. Proof that there is always more to learn. All I can say to all of you moving forward in your lives is this: "Listen Deep, Breathe Deep, Look Deep.... GO FAR."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

RR: The Run Across New Hampshire Part 2

Click HERE for Pictures
RANH 073
Into The Darkness
Josh and I ran off into the night while first negotiating this overpopulated portion of New Hampshire known as Concord. As we made our way down the rest of Route 9, we passed by a bar on the right side of the road. As we ran by a woman approached us from the bars parking lot and asked us if we were "Running Across New Hampshire?" We told her that yes we were and she explained to us that the folks she was smoking cigarettes with near the front door were wondering why two guys were running down the road with head lamps on and she told them it was us and she had read about us in the paper. Never mind the fact that it COULD be possible that two guys are out running at night to simply exercise. As a former cigarette smoker myself, (long ago) I understand their lack of thought though only slightly. The woman wishes us well on our adventure and Josh and I talk about how awkward that kind of felt. "Yeah man... you have to be Nate now." It was a sad thought because now everyone we ran into was thinking that Josh was Nate. I don;t know who I felt worse for.. Nate who was now laying in bed at home, or Josh who was out here working to see me through.

We ran across Route 106 in Loudon and over Route 4, rounded the bend and there was Horse Rd alongside the garden center. Loni had the Subaru Outback Impreza all lit up for us to see. As we approached the vehicle we noticed another figure standing with her. A woman had shown up and was standing along side our aid vehicle with her arms extended and a camera at the end. "Oh my god! Good for you guys! I've been following you all day and wanted to catch you.. Good Luck!" Ok, now things were starting to get rather creepy. Its about 11:30pm (or later) and the creeps are starting to come out. First the bar, and now a random woman taking our picture. I'm glad she left because pictures of what I did next would not have been impressive. I've been dealing with severe chaffe during long runs for quite some time now, and I've thought long and hard about possible solutions. Everytime I thought, if I could only just cut the liner out of these shorts. Tonight, the thought didn't just end with a thought. Right in the middle of the road, I dropped my shorts and took out the scissors from my medical kit and began cutting the liner out of my running shorts. I twisted and turned, I spun around trying to see what I was doing. I was getting tired, anxious and out of sorts and holding scissors so close to my private areas was one of the dumbest of ideas. Josh looked over at me trying to figure out what I was doing when I heard, "huh... wha... DUDE!" "Sorry man.. I gotta cut this thing out." As I cut the last snip of fabric, the liner was gone from my shorts and I had found a temporary fix to a major problem and a painful one at that. We thanked Loni for her help and were off onto the long climb into Epsom.

Route 4 At Last
We made our way around the bend and finally onto Route 4. Route 9 was done and I was exciting in knowing that this long stretch of unrelenting pavement would lead me to the ocean along New Hampshire's seacoast. As we climbed the hill towards Epsom, we heard rustling in the tall grass along the side of the road. Josh and I turned our heads to shine a light onto the area in question to which we were surprised to see a few sets of eyes staring back at us. We watched as 2 or 3 White tail Deer hopped back into the thick woods along the roadside. As we crested the hill we saw Loni Stopped at the Hess Station. I hunkered down into the camp chair, tilted my head back and enjoyed a moment of rest. I ate more Ramen before we took off back into the darkness.

Its funny how I don't remember much about the night time and as many of you have read throughout this report, I do tend to have a good memory. This night was especially tough for me. It was longer than any other night I've run through, with over 12 hours of darkness. As we ran further down Route 4, we stopped at Wendy's where Josh was set to order a Spicy Chicken Sandwich. No such luck, as the lights were off and the restaurant closed for the evening all ready. I went into the Dunkin' Donuts to use the facilities. On my way out the workers stopped me. "Is that your vehicle out there? Looks like you guys are celebrating Christmas!" "No, I'm running across the state.." Of course this spiraled into the usual conversation about how long it's going to take, how many miles I've run, when will I sleep, etc. But as I walked out the door, the kind workers gave up ONE Dollar from their tip jar as a donation to Make-A-Wish. I felt privileged to be accepting their tip money as the woman continued to tell me how she usually purchases 8 angles around Christmas Time. Nice! I made my way back outside and put on my fleece pants. It was much colder now and trying to stay warm was becoming quite the chore.

As Josh and I crossed the Epsom Circle, we continued down Route 4 meeting up with Loni not far after at the Epsom Rest Area. She decided to start keeping the lights off so as to not draw attention to herself given the very real probability of creeps on the prowl. We left her again and was making our way through the downtown area of Epsom when a Police Officer drove by, turned around and came at us with his Blue's on. We walked up to the passenger side window at which point he did not roll it down. He stepped out of the car with his huge and insanely bright flashlight. He asked if we were ok and we told him what we were doing. He stopped, told us he thought that it was next weekend until realizing he had the date wrong, wished us well and took off in the other direction. As he left I wondered if it was REALLY that weird to see two runners running through the night on route 4. I mean... what if it WASN'T because we were running across NH. Would he stop any and all runners trotting down the road at 1am? Is it really hard to believe that two second-shift workers might be out for a run late at night because its the only time they have?

The night is cold and lonely. Josh is doing his best to keep me company but I realize quickly that I'm starting to fade. We run through Northwood, past where the July tornado ripped the trees, homes and earth to shreds at the beginning of its long destructive journey. Loni was stopped again at the local gun shop/convenient store parking lot. We ran in and I took some Up Time and Red Bull. We took off again making our way up the hill past Johnson's Dairy Bar. The restaurant sits on a hill surrounded by fields on all directions. The chilly wind was whipping through here, causing me to break into a slight shiver. I couldn't move fast enough across this traverse, my muscles began to tense up from the cold air, and my eyes continued to get heavy. Up ahead we could see Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, the schools parking lot would be our next stop on our tour. As we rolled into the lot, I immediately made my way to the back of the car, where I circled around like a cat, and curled up on the gravel parking lot for a quick nap. After 5 minutes, Josh shook me and we were moving again. Amazing how a 5 minute cat nap works in these events... but the thing that makes it interesting is that its not even really sleep... I can hear everything going on around me, yet my eyes are closed and I breathe heavily. Its almost more like a catatonic state of mind.

We continue through Northwood to the top of the Hill. Loni was waiting at the Irving which I thought would have been open 24 hours. It wasn't. I got into the parking lot and laid down on the cold pavement in an attempt to catch a few more precious seconds of comatose sleep. Josh gave me 10 minutes before shaking me and dragging me to continue on into the night. I ate more chips and asked them to put some Amino in my drink. They did this for me and we started moving pretty quickly out of the gate from here. I felt like I had much more energy after taking another uptime and adding Amino to my potion. It was all downhill from here into Lee and Josh and I had a good trot going on. We were now around 85-90 miles into the run and despite feeling sleepy, I felt great. Yeah.. feeling sleepy. As we ran along Josh started running the White line. He did his best to keep me in conversation, but he knew I was slipping away. Pretty soon I was sleep running. Josh would watch my headlamp's spot sink from ahead of us to down near my feet. Josh would clap, yell, do anything to not only keep himself awake but try to keep me awake. He ran the white line on the side of the road and each time I'd sleep run, and drift towards the road, he'd bounce me back into the shoulder. Soon we made it to Loni again, where she had parked on a side street. We ran to the car and I immediately crashed to the ground and fell asleep. They let my lay there for 10 more minutes before waking me up and shoving more ramen noodle soup down my throat. It was a delicate process, a battle with sleep deprivation that I was losing and it was starting to turn the run into a death march. The sun couldn't come up any sooner.
RANH 084
We started to run the final lengths of Route 4 between Concord and Lee. We were amazed at how few cars had actually came by us during the night hours. I expected Route 4 to be as busy at night as it is during the day. We could have counted the cars on our hands, or so it seemed. In the distance we heard one rushing along and we awaited its arrival. Amazing to see a car go flying by at 80 mph in a 45 mph zone.. and being so close to the action. As we ran down into towns like Barrington and Nottingham, things started to get a bit interesting. We ran by a house with a series of white tents set up in the front yard. Under the tents were large coolers and a sign that read "Free Bait - 24 Hours." Now I have no idea what kind of bait that it was, but the sign was flippin' hilarious. As the suns first rays finally began to emerge above the darkened landscape, we heard a rooster's call from the backyard of a local farm. In the distance I could see the lights of Portsmouth illuminating the earth. We crested a final hill and could see the Lee Traffic circle a few miles away up ahead. The sun was finally back and we knew that company awaited. I was still sleep running and a bit delusional. As we neared the traffic circle, Josh was trying to jazz me up for the fact that some of my classmates were out to run with me. And then I had a hallucination. Out of a nearby storm drain I saw a bunch of black butterflies. Thank God the Night is over. I ran into the Lee Dunkin' Donuts where my friends awaited. 98.9 miles Down in 24 Hours 45 Minutes. I could conceivably run 100 miles in one day thus far. Regardless, I had 25.5 Miles to run and I was a tired, chafed mess.

Maniacal Marathon
I went into the Dunkin' Donuts to clean myself up a bit before staggering back out into the parking lot and readying myself to run the less than marathon I had to go. Sarah had returned to the crew and my mom had now shown up to assist as well. Josh and Loni were zonked. Josh removed his running gear and opted to grab some rest while we made our way to the seacoast. I saw my mom and she asked how I was doing, "I don't know how I'm going to do this mom.." she replied with "With sheer will and determination thats how." I looked up at her and saw this proud look on her face as tears welled up slightly in her eyes. Immediately I was inspired and knew what she meant. Relentless forward progression, never give up.. you can do anything you put your mind to. Sarah handed me my red Mountain Hardware jacket I was craving during the frigid 30 degree late night hours, now was just as well as then. As I finally began to warm up, I refilled my bottles, looked at my classmates and noticed an older gentleman as well. It was Steve. Steve ran his first ultra- just last month, and recently returned from his honeymoon in Africa. I was surprised to see him here, in Lee, ready to run a marathon. Apparently I had gotten through to him about his own potential. I smiled at the group, thanked my crew and we were back on the road, heading east down Route 4.

We headed down Route 4 as my friends started to ask questions. "How is it going John?" The sun is up and I'm feeling better now. The leaves are vibrant again, and the world is starting to fill with life. "This is absolutely awful" I respond as I start to get in tune with the chafe and the pain in the bottoms of my feet. My feet feel bruised and beaten. As we exit Route 4 and head down onto 155A, I am over 100 miles into this run. My feet have been pummeled by 100 miles of pavement, my knees and IT Bands are killing me and my calves are the tightest and sorest they've ever been. This really is awful, but I find some solitude in the amount I am enjoying it. We make our way down Old Concord Turnpike which turns into Main St. Durham and 155. Up ahead I see a biker coming down the hill from The University of NH. A man on a ten speed wearing florescent yellow, I knew right away it was one of my professors, Dr. Brent Bell. I was beyond excited that he decided to come out. We made our way past the horse barns which stank of the stench of fresh silage. Fog rises from the fields lining the outskirts of campus. I feel like I'm back at home. We pull into the field-house where the crews are anxiously waiting our arrival. The stop was quick as I introduced Brent to my mom and the rest of the crew. I drank a boost and was ready to roll on. We headed back out onto the main road.

As we crossed the railroad tracks and New Hampshire Hall, where I have most of my classes, another one of our classmates joined us, Kat. It was immediately evident to me that just up ahead, in a few short moments, when we cross the front steps of Thompson Hall, I will pass the 102 mile mark, the longest I have ever run. As we ran past, I made no big deal about it but Kat remembered and she made short mention of the idea. I was internally excited but still focused on what needed to be done today. I still had 22 miles to run and nothing was going to stop me. We made our way through the small downtown area of Durham, past the many shops and rounded the turn at the post office, running onto Madbury Rd (aka. Frat Row). Durham is a ghost town. Hard to believe that umpteen thousand students live here. But then again, many of them are late sleepers or hung over from the night before. Me? I'm still running, as I had all through the night. Before we reached the end of Madbury, Kat said farewell seeing as she wasn't dressed to go too far. I was very much appreciative of her coming out to say hello. The rest of us continued running through the quiet streets of Durham, where last nights wind had shook more leaves from their colorful perch upon the trees. They were lining the streets now as we shuffled on by. We turned back onto Route 4 after having added a few miles necessary to make this run 200K. Route 4 was getting busy as our group made its way to our next stop.

My feet are killing me and as we make it to the support vehicle I lay down on the pavement. Brent mentions getting me a chair and mom acts quickly. They set it up and I sit down, anxious to stay off of my feet. They are beyond sore. It feels like someone is digging a knife into my plantar fascia. "This is indeed awful" I keep repeating, but there is nothing I'd rather be doing today. I sat in the chair and ask for some chips. I hear that the triathletes eat them to keep their feet form hurting. I've been eating chips off and on for over 26 or 27 hours now.. and I can honestly tell you that I think they are all full of crap!

Every time I sit down and get back up, I have to start the process over. I get up and begin to walk gingerly down the road, pick up the pace to a brisk walk, work it into a trot and find a way to start running again. As we reach the Route 4/108 intersection, Brent leaves us and heads home to retrieve his family. I was in great spirits, mainly in knowing that my professor took the time to come out and be with me on my adventure. I'm certain he has very little idea what I am going through physically, but I know full well he understands what I am going through mentally. I'm inspired by Brent. I'm inspired by my classmates and friends. We continue to push on. Along the sides of the highway are many fertile fields, used for hundreds of years to gather hay for livestock. I am amazed how different the farms are here as opposed to the western portion of our state. There the farms are rockier and more rugged. Here, farms rise up along the salt marsh shores and Hay is rolled up into giant wheels and left in the fields for retrieval. We make our way into Emery Hill Farm which is right across the street from Wagon HIll Farm. You can't miss either of these places while driving down Route 4. I sit down on the back of the vehicle and ask for a PB&J. As I begin to eat it I feel sick to my stomach. Nothing tastes even remotely good anymore, and the PB&J wants nothing more than to come back up. I do my best to swallow it as I know I need the energy. Nothing about this run is getting any easier. Only the fact that the end is getting closer, not many steps left to run.

Still Running
My crew is being very supportive. They are in amazement that as the sun came up on this day, I am still running on this pavement. The further along we get the more I can feel the pull of the end. I'm still running at a good clip, maintaining a comfortable speed and haven;t lost much speed at all since leaving Concord. I feel solid, sore, but solid. My quads feel no fatigue. My chest and ribs hurt from the shaking they receive with each pounding of a footstep. I am not sweating, exhausted but no longer sleepy. I'm just running. We run over bridges and see the waters of the Great Bay shimmer in the sunlight. Trees line the shores and their colorful reflections make for a perfect seaside scene. I really feel like I've seen everything New Hampshire has to offer at this point. Lakes, rivers, streams, foliage, mountains, the ocean, crazy drivers, farms, and even a few massholes. My friends appear to be getting a bit tired, but they have been reluctant to complain in knowing how far I've run to this point. We run into Newick's Restaurant, a local staple of fine seafood. The girls visit the bushes and I take another break to get off my feet. I sit on the back of the vehicle again and strike up conversation with my crew. Josh asks, "What do you need?" "Nothing" "Then lets go, get up and out of here!" They were right of course. I rose to my feet and we continued on our journey. The wind was whipping across the bay as we made our way over the Old Route 4 Bridge.

Once we crossed the bay we turned down and ran through the industrial section of Newington, NH. Just beyond the trees are where huge barges ride up the bay to unload huge shipments of various cargo. We run past the Newington Energy Plant, Westinghouse and then there they were. Brent had returned with his family and they were on a tandem bicycle. Brent and his wife Beth peddled along while their son got a free ride in a small tow behind carrier. We make our way out onto Woodbury Ave and the traffic is almost overwhelming. It was ok when I was out on Route 9 and the cars came whizzing by, but after the night alone on Route 4, the quiet streets of Durham.. the hustle and bustle of Portsmouth was starting to make me a bit anxious. Just as we had to make it to EMS in Concord last night.. I needed to make it to EMS in Portsmouth this morning for sometime after 10am. We rolled into the parking lot to a mighty fine round of applause as I blasted ahead of my running partners at a clip that i'm sure made them wonder how I did it. 114.4 miles into this run and I've still got plenty left in the tank. "You're flying!" Josh said. People snapped photos and I noticed new runners were ready to join our party. My manager Jason came out and shook my hand. The store was collecting donations for us from those looking to run, and they had set up a make-shift aid station complete with Water and Gels. I ate a banana and entertained those that had come out to see us. As I got up close to my fellow co-workers and started answering questions, I noticed that my vision was starting to get blurry and a bit clouded. My speech was becoming slightly slurred and exhaustion was beginning to really sink in. I've never been here before, it felt weird but I knew what task lay ahead. I was beyond happy to see that Nate had come back out to cheer me on. It was weird seeing him and knowing that he's not running this anymore. But he knows what I've been through if anyone here does. We joke around and pick right back up where we left off. I knew he was disappointed, but I was so glad he came out to help me get the job done. I have 9.89 Miles left to run... and my journey across NH was to be complete.
(Continue to the final Part 3)

RR: The Run Across New Hampshire Part 1


In The Beginning
Its a very cold morning on the western-most edge of the Granite State. Fog has encased the land and we are encased in the sea of dew. Its dark here aside from the few lights illuminating the Vermont Shore just across this vast river known as the Connecticut. The route 9 bridge looms above to my left, Nate is back at the van feverishly getting ready so we can start on time. I stand on the shores of the Connecticut and watch the water flow on by. Flow by as it makes it way to the ocean. Its way to the ocean as will I over the next day and a half. I hear a splash in the water and imagine what creatures lie beneath. I hop off of the river bank and stand on the rocks along the waters edge. I take out two vials, bend down and collect water into both. One vial is to be placed in the support vehicle and the other will be carried by me on this entire journey.

I return to the van where Nate is just about ready. I quickly assemble my gear and fill up my bottles. Nate looks like a Christmas Tree with all of his reflective gear, I'm only wearing reflective ankle bands. We look at the watch and see that we might start late; so we hurry along and get onto the bridge somewhere in the middle. We turn around and start running east. Sarah tries to snap a photo with the camera, but its temperamental with the lighting. It takes a few frustrating tries, but I was NOT leaving here without a picture of us starting this great adventure. After a few "re-try's" we finally got one that sounded descent and we were off. We ran off into the darkness, heading east from New Hampshire's Western-most point to its Eastern-most point. The fog engulfed us as we disappeared into the night.

Nate has trained well for this run, keeping his miles up throughout the summer, focusing on this monumental challenge that lay before us. There is no doubt in my mind that he is physically ready for the challenge and I have high hopes for his success. Myself, I've run 15 miles in the last two weeks leading up to this run. I nursed an ankle injury during that time and I was plagued in August and September from the effects of an Anemia scare. My surprising time at this years Vermont 50 was my last long training run, and I even felt underprepared for that. Yet here I was, putting one foot in front of the other on the hard asphalt of New Hampshire's Route 9 and heading East. Though I haven't run much pavement since March/April; I am relaxed, I am focused and I am engrossed in this adventure. For many years I have dreamed of one day running across the state of New Hampshire and as we ran up the first hill on Route 9, tears began to stream from my eyes. I was overcome with joy in knowing that I was once again living my dreams and daring to push my limits.

Nate and I crested the first series of hills in no time at all and with little effort. We immediately sank into our normal routine of conversations, catching up with each other on our lives happenings. These runs are so much more enjoyable when you are with someone who might actually understand you. As we crested the first few hills, we watched as the sun illuminated the sky and slowly rose to illuminate our surroundings. We had run above the fog and was now descending back into it as we made our way to our first aid station. Here, our support vehicle anxiously awaited us with our two dedicated volunteers Amy and Sarah. They would act as our life support for many hours to come and we are truly thankful of their hard work.

The first major city/town we are to run through is Keene, NH. As Nate and I continue to crest the ridges of the Monadnock Region on the outskirts of town, we say hello and give thanks to the Adopt-A-Highway folks out picking up the trash along this stretch of highway. We glance down the road to see that the sun is shining brightly on a turn ahead. The air is warming up nicely since our 29 degree start time temperature and we're thinking of de-layering in town. As we turn the corner and run between the granite ledges long since blown clear to make way for this road, we see it. Keene's last remnants of morning fog are rising from the valley below and burned away by the suns glorious rays. In the distance is Mighty Mount Monadnock, the most climbed mountain in the entire world. We run in amazement as if we are a part of post card photograph and make our way downhill and into the valley we know as Keene.

As we made our way into the streets of Keene, We heard a few voices come at us from behind. It was one of my classmates Chris and a female companion. Chris isn't much of a runner but he can certainly ride a bike. Early in the morning a car whizzed by us with a few folks hanging out the window, arms raised and cheering us on. I thought it might have been Chris and was happy to learn that it was. Chris was taking on a similar challenge of his own, inspired by our idea to run across the State, Chris decided to ride his bike on the same route. He caught us in Keene, and I would later learn he finished in just over 13 hours. We made our way to the Super-8 Motel where we de-layered and prepared to enjoy the warm rays of sun as the day would wear on. We thanked the ladies and continued through the streets of Keene, along route 9 until we began to climb out of town.

Into The Hills
As we began to leave Keene and venture into the longest section of solitude and remoteness our run had to offer, Nate was beginning to get into a funk. His stomach was upset and he needed food and some electrolytes. He started to look at his watch and the gears started turning. Nate felt an immense sense of pressure to get to EMS in Concord on time tonight given the fact that the radio station was there and people were waiting for us. I knew the store would stay open late and wait for our arrival. I could understand his angst given that this was after all a fundraiser, but I also thought to myself, "So what if we're late, where the hell are all those people gonna go?" As the crew came by us, we stopped them and Nate got some food. He was very irritable, cranky even and I continued to walk slowly up the first of many long hills. I began to think about the run and remembered what I wanted it to be. Since I came up with the idea, the purpose of the run was simply to see New Hampshire from a different perspective, to experience it, to see it, to hear it, to smell it. And even though we had some kind of obligation to get into Concord between 6-9pm... not only did I just KNOW that we would get there on time... I truly didn't care at all. I didn't care about times. This wasn't a race. There is no buckle, there is no cut-off.. just man and earth. Running... running across New Hampshire.

We continued our journey down Route 9 by running along side an amazingly gorgeous river. The leaves on this side of the state are past peak now and beginning to crumple and fall to the earth. As the earth cries in colors, the waters trickle down carrying the leaves away much like many of our dreams and desires flow from our souls. I couldn't help but admire the natural beauty. The sound of the babbling brook, the rustling of dying leaves in the wind and the fresh smell of homemade pumpkin pie wafting from a nearby colonial farm house. Locals are out raking their leaves and preparing for winter, their tractors scrape the earth or are placed away to hibernate until spring. The local people look as weathered as the stone walls lining their lands. We walked many long hills leaving the Connecticut River Valley, ascending and descending the many ridges of the Monadnock Range even crossing the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway.

As we climbed what seemed like never-ending hills I knew we'd need to keep a pretty good pace if we were to indeed make it to Concord on time. I didn't want Nate to stress so I did my best to ensure that we made up some time. I also really wanted Nate to enjoy this run for its intended purpose. As we walked along the highest point Route 9 has to offer, I took many deep breathes, enjoyed the sunshine and glanced off into the the vast landscape that is Western New Hampshire. The leaves were beautiful and the hills were laid out in a way that I never really appreciated them for. I was reminded of Western Pennsylvania, where as you drive down the highway you feel like you are in no mans land. The hills stretch into the distance for ever and ever, tiny farms peak out of the trees and rock walls line properties of times long ago. New Hampshire sure is a beautiful place. We're only a mere 26 Miles into our run and I've all ready seen more and experienced more of New Hampshire in one day than I think I have in any other part of my life. My run was perfect.

When Men Were Men
We meet up with our crew and are surprised by a happily decorated van for all to see. Yes, yes this is a fundraiser and we're running on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of NH. Fundraising during current times is no easy task. My initial vision was that people would come out from far and wide to join us on our run. They'd pay us by the mile they ran with us, enjoy our journey together, help out our cause and return home. At this point in our run... it was still just Nate, Myself and our crew. I was pretty disappointed but we had talked about how lame my idea might have been and how much was the idea really going to raise money? We live in such a lazy society and I really wanted to inspire others to GET OUT. I thought about this alot as I glanced at the many stone walls that travel through the woods. At one point in time in our state's history, Hardened men would spend day after day tilling their land to ensure it is fertile enough for farming. When they found a rock (this is the Granite State so they found many) they would have their ox drag the rock to the edge of their land in an effort to mark their property. The building of walls around an entire property sometimes took 2-3 years to complete, yet these men worked with their hands, their ox and toiled the earth. When men were men.... what are we now?

Nate and I started seeing directional signs advertising how far away Concord was. "Concord ^ 35 Miles" and immediately after seeing this sign we'd see a mileage marker for Route 9 from where we started... "Mile 29". OUCH! We kept moving forward as we only know how to do only instead of our usual conversation, we engaged in silence. Nate was struggling to keep up with me on the hills and he was getting quite irritated by it. For some reason he felt embarrassed and inadequate. When he told me this I had no idea how to take it.. I was just moving at what I felt was a moderate to relaxed clip, trying my best to run when I could and be the master of these long hills sometimes 2-3 miles in length. I felt great but also felt myself slipping. As we made our way into the next aid stop, I slipped into a funk for the first time of the trip. I was proud knowing that I made it over 34 miles on good energy, but upset that I let myself slip. Nate jumped right out of his funk and was ready to go. He had new motivation and no longer worried about making it to Concord on time. We had made up quite a bit of time on the last sections. I went into the rest area to use the facilities, and while in there made a mistake of looking at a map which had a push pin inserted into our exact location. "You Are Here"... this humbling feeling overwhelmed me. Concord is a LONG way away... and nevermind Concord... the ocean. I went back outside with my head down and ate some food.

Back To Civilization
As we left the Rest Area and continued on, the traffic began to pick up. As much as I enjoyed the solitude of the western portions of our state, we were now entering into the central region. The closer to Concord (and I-93) that we got, the more people there are. We continued to run along an incredible landscape into the town of Antrim. The hills are still relentless here but less frequent. As we made it to the crew at the Antrim FD, I was feeling rather tired. In fact, I was actually starting to fall asleep during the last section while running down the road. I've been having a hard time sleeping these last few weeks and it was catching up to me on the run. I ate what I could at the Fire Department, and ordered a Mountain Dew for when we entered Hillsborough. Nate seemed to still be feeling great. By now he has some minor blister issues starting to fester in his feet and I begin to worry about how his run will turn out. I try my best to help Nate achieve at these long distances, I try to share what knowledge I have. I really feel at times like there is an age issue though, you know... I'm the young kid... what do I know. I joke about this with Nate all the time, but I can't help but actually feel it. I noticed that he has quite a process of how he does things during these runs. He had a GREAT plan at the VT100, during this run I felt like he was a bit jumbled. I watch in amazement at the number of different pairs of shoes he has for our run. Shoes, socks.. "its amazing he can even find anything," I laugh at Sarah. I truly believe there is a simplification to this process and I hope Nate can figure it out.

The hardest part about this run was the fact that we wanted to run it together. It is extremely hard to run such a long distance with someone by your side. We were definitely feeling the effects of this as we made our way into HIllsborough. We'd been experiencing it for a few hours now. When Nate was bonking I was rocking. And when I was bonking Nate was ready to finally take off and run. This delicate balance between two men at war with their bodies, trying to traverse land was by no means easy. We expected it though. I decided as we made our way into Hillsborough that we still each need to run our own run. If Nate felt good and wanted to run ahead, he should do so and vice versa so long as we keep each other within eye site or within about 5 minutes given the duties of our crew and proximity of our gear. I made a decision about the run that I knew I had made before I even started, but continued to reiterate to myself all along the way, and in these fragile moments outside of Hillsborough, I reminded myself. As much as this run is to raise money for an amazing cause.. this is a dream I've always had. To run across NH. I needed to enjoy making my dream come true, I needed to enjoy the run for what I dreamed it would be and what I wanted it to be. I am so glad I could share it with my best friend, but we were definitely on different wave lengths, we had different motives, we had different views and the effects were starting to stretch beyond what our bodies could accommodate let alone our minds.

Nate and I were both feeling great as we meandered into Hillsborough. I had just gotten off the phone with my sister who was updating my family via e-mail and I got a call from a reporter from the Fosters Daily Democrat. This reporter really got on my nerves because of his supreme lack of ability to listen. I told him on Friday what we were doing, "124 mile, around the clock, run from Brattleboro, VT to Rye, NH. It would take 30-36 Hours." So on Saturday afternoon when he called me on my phone to ask if I had reached Rye yet, I was pretty pissed off. In speaking with the guy on Friday I knew he had no idea what we were doing. Reporter: "So when does your marathon start?" Me: "its not a marathon, its a 124 mile run." R: "So obviously there is a chance that you are going to fail, how will that make you feel?" M: "Well, when we get to the Beach there will be an overwhelming sense of accomplishment." I wanted nothing to do with this guy after that last question he asked on Friday and after his call on Saturday... I was done with what I felt was either ignorance or a sheer lack of understanding. He follows up on Saturday, "So you guys are going to have to find a place to stay tonight?!" Me: "Nooooooooooo.... this is AN AROUND THE CLOCK RUN. I AM RUNNING THROUGH THE NIGHT." I had to hang up.. this guy was driving me bonkers.

"Hello Josh! Want to hear a joke?!" Josh Robert is a local Ultramarathon runner living in Hillsborough, NH. He and his girlfriend Loni stepped forward willing to help us on our adventure. Being a crew member is a crappy job.. it HAS to be. But these guys stepped right up to the plate. I was amazed. As we entered Hillsborough, there was Josh dressed and ready to run. He caught us at the perfect time. Nate and I were back into being our usual selves, obnoxious dudes on the run, pissing each other off and playing practical jokes. Josh just shook his head in amazement at how fresh and lively two guys who just ran 44 miles of pavement were. We were definitely starting to get sore, but we knew what we signed up for.

We make our way into the Blue Canoe Irving in downtown Hillsborough where a group of motorcyclists caught us coming in and they all stood from their bikes and gave us a round of applause. This was truly an inspirational moment, how did people know besides our crew vehicle. Then the girls told us that we were in the Union Leader that morning and quite a few folks were following us online. While we received aid, refilled bottles and all that jazz, a gentleman came over and gave us a $20 donation. "Well all right!" I was feeling GREAT! We were making others think. We were making others feel emotion and we were still raising money. I was happy to see my brother had shown up with my niece Haley. They also live in town and its always nice to see some family. My brother asked how I was doing.. "My feet are sore man... its going to be a long run. My feet are started to kill me." He wished me well and we continued our "adventure" through downtown.

As we ran down main street we saw a few folks walk out of a local ice cream parlor. As they sucked down their cones of frozen heaven, I couldn't help but admire their figures. One of the females said, "Thats what WE should be doing instead of eating this!" It amazes me at how people think. Yes... yes you should be running instead of eating ice cream... so what's stopping you? Will you go for a run later to work it off? Maybe you could have run before hand to make it a reward? I was truly dumbfounded by the comment even though we hear it all the time... "Well... this is mile 46... and we've got 78 to go!" As we reached the end of HIllsborough and were about to re-engage ourselves with busy route 9, I ran into the woods for a break while Nate and Josh moved ahead. At the end of the old off ramp Josh ended up waiting for me while Nate decided to run ahead to the next stop so he could address an issue he was having with his feet. As I caught up to Josh, we started walking and soon got back into a trot and then a run, cruising down route 9 on our way to Henniker and our next aid station. I could see Nate up ahead, wondered where the fire was as he was WAY up there... all I could do was hope that he'd get his feet under control. I really started to worry about him and this adventure. It has been a very long day so far and we're only 50 miles into a 124 mile adventure. I could only think about him rallying it together and making it to the end.

The Sun Begins To Fade
Henniker is a gorgeous town, and as it should be. Its the only Henniker anywhere in the world! Josh had run 10 miles with us and was now a member of the crew as We ran through this quaint little downtown area. Tiny shops and country homes, we headed off into local farmlands. We ran past the local soccer fields while children played their final soccer games of the season. So nice to see parents watching their children laugh, be outside, getting dirty and being active. The sun began to sink lower into the sky and created the pre-sunset glowing effect on the hill sides and trees. The view of Pats Peak was simply stunning. THIS IS WHAT THIS ADVENTURE IS ALL ABOUT. The suns orange glow creating this masterful hue along the land. Large maple and oak trees cast long shadows and the air began to cool. Night was coming, and the complexity of the run was quickly going to change. For now, we enjoyed the scenery.

We hop onto "busy" Route 9 one last time and continue our journey East. The cars rush by at speeds sure to kill us upon impact. Tractor Trailers, SUVs hauling sporting vehicles, cars. Its amazing what people do when they drive. I saw someone reading the paper while they drove by us. As each car whizzed by, they brought with them this steady frigid wind that chilled us to our bones. And if the vehicles were big enough, like the big rigs, they'd also bring a tiny little dust storm. Its never nice eating stones while on the run. Nate's phone rang and he answered it as we decided to take a walk break. He's limping a bit now and his foot is killing him. We are unsure what is wrong with it, but the pain is starting to cause a rather large problem. As we walk down the road, Nate takes a few stops to crouch over and attempt to manage a building beast. My phone rings and I give my sister an update on our progress. We're looking great to make it to EMS for 8:30-8:45 and we agreed that time would be perfect. But as I walked leisurely down the road and Nate asked for me to slow down.. I knew things were not going in the right direction for him.

I crossed the long bridge on Route 9 and watched the sun set. The land was now a black and blue. All was getting quiet. The birds are gone, the wind is picking up and the sky is glowing light blue and pink in the distance. There IS no other way to end this that was day 1 of our journey. While the day really is far from over, I am sad to see the sun go because I know just how long this night is going to be... or at least I wish I knew... because what was about to transpire was something I had no idea how to deal with. As we made our way towards our off ramp and out onto the quiet quaint Route 9 that travels through Hopkinton and into Concord, we saw a figure running towards us up ahead. It was Sean Hurley, a talented and kind man who masterfully made a piece on Ultra-running, featuring myself, for NHPR. Sean had his microphone out and he waited for us to get off the "busy" highway and onto the "quiet" highway before he began asking us questions about our journey thus far.

The Foot
We got off the highway and Nate began to tell Sean about his foot pain and not knowing what is going on. I knew the situation with Nate was starting to get serious, but I really had no idea HOW serious. Sean asked both of us questions about our run as we made our way to the aid stop. Loni and Josh were there, Amy had gone home with Sarah and Sarah was to return. We'd see everyone again at EMS. We stopped so Nate could change his shoes, again, and we could get some solid food into our systems. I was amazed at how amazing I had felt thus far on this run. Sure I had a moment back in Antrim where I started to sleep while running, there was one time near there that I got quiet, cranky and hungry... but beyond these significantly minor issues, and minor soreness, I was feeling like a million bucks over 50 miles into the run. I watched as Nate tried to care for himself.. I saw that he was beginning to slip away mentally. He was frustrated, had no idea what to do or even what was happening and his mind was everywhere but where it needed to be.

We rose from our chairs and made our way up the road. Sean started his interviewing me. He had some follow up questions to add to his radio piece before it is aired on Weekend America on NPR. As Sean asked his questions, Nate stopped and hunched over again. "John.. these shoes were the wrong choice dude.. I gotta go back." I told Nate to keep walking as they'd have to drive by us in a minute. And drive by us they did. In fact, Nate was in such pain that when they drove by he had no idea that it was them. I flashed my headlamp trying to get them to stop... but it didn't work. Sean continued with his interview as we moved forward. As every car drove by, Nate stopped to see if it was our crew... I felt so bad for him. I knew they were gone, but didn't have the heart to tell him. I interrupted Sean's interview to call Sarah, "Hey... call Josh and have them come down here. Nate needs other shoes.. he's in rough shape." I also told her to buy some athletic tape so I could tape up Nate's arch. The idea I had was to at least get him into Concord, and re-assess the situation. Then I had to tell him... "Nate.. they've gone by. But they are coming back.. I called." Nate was pissed, demoralized.. I had no idea what to do. I continued going at Nate's pace letting him lead us on. Sean continued his interview and then the cavalry came. We immediately huddled around the car and I began to tape an arch support for Nate's feet. He changes shoes and we start to walk.

Capital Punishment
Sean continues to follow us through Hopkinton so he can wrap up his interview, asking his final questions. As finishes and offers me a gentle pat on the back wishing us well on our journey. I shook his hand and thanked him for his company. I really like Sean.. he just has a way about him that draws you in. Nate and I moved forward trying our best to master the final hills of Hopkinton that lead us into Concord. We're certainly in civilization now. Houses line the street. The smell of wood stoves waft through the air as everything begins to crisp. Its certainly getting cold. A car drives at us from the front and I recognize the mufflers sound. It was our running buddy Adam. Adam paced Nate at the VT100 and we've all done many runs together. He stops, says hello, shakes our hand and then heads up to find our crew, "The car with the christmas light on it??" "yeah.. thats them."

We stop just outside St. Paul's School and get some more food. Cookies, candy and a PB &J. I place an order for Ramen at EMS. We're going to make it there right on time. We're excited and really begin to rally for the final push into Concord and our thoughts of raising some more money for the children of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Nate and I leave our crew and tell em "See you at EMS!" We run off and start singing songs together as Josh blasts "TNT" on the radio. We finish it up and break into some Tenacious D and The Greatest Song In The World. We were flying. But as we stopped singing Nate asks if we can slow it down. As we make our way towards downtown Concord, I can really see the pain Nate is experiencing with his foot. It was immediately evident to me that he has a stress fracture in his foot. His run is over. But Nate is a stubborn man, and a big boy and he needs to make the right decision himself. I was not about to tell him to give up. In his mind, that was not an option. Unfortunately I knew in my mind that it was the ONLY option at this point.

Nate's pain is growing worse and worse and his pace is slowing so significantly that I'm not sure we actually WILL make it to EMS on time. We start walking through Concord and every once in a while Nate tries to push a run. He stops, hunkers over and sounds like he wants to cry. The pain is unbearable. I try my best to remain focused on the task at hand. I still am feeling great and if I am to continue I still have 56 miles to run, through the night, possibly alone. Nate has been falling apart for miles. He is so far behind on his eating and drinking. His energy plan is out the window. The pain is so severe he can't concentrate on anything else. I begin to struggle with what to do, what to say. I tell him, "Nate.. at EMS I think you need to look at the big picture here. Assess what it going on. Look at the BIG picture. Ask yourself what is worth it. If its not your day its not your day!" Its hard when there is so much pressure placed around the event. I will be the first to admit that from the start of this journey I felt ZERO pressure. I wanted no part of it.. I just wanted to do this run. I was kind of upset that I felt like it was turning into a small circus... I started to get angry as we turned onto Main street and ran past the State House. Angry because my friend was in pain, and his mind was blitzed because of the immense pressure he put on himself.. and I was helpless.

We came up with a plan as we crossed under I-93. Nate would put on a happy face, we'd run the 3 laps around the parking lot (1 Mile) and then we'd sit down and assess Nate's Foot again. We ran down to Ft. Eddy road and cars began to honk for us. We turned into the Shaws Parking Lot, and saw the party. The tents were up in the parking lot, The Smoke Shack had food, music was blasting and then a loud applause filled the air. Nate's daughter ran down to join is, "Nate, Here comes Izzy... hold her hand brother and enjoy the moment." I was so sad... but we put on the happy face as we were delightfully welcomed to Concord AND on time. We let everyone know that we were going to do the laps now and invited anyone to join us. It felt kind of foolish to run around this parking lot 3 times, but it was also kind of neat. We raised some more money, we got people up, out and involved... it was perfect. I felt fresh as a daisy as we ran around.. but I made sure I kept it at a pace that was comfortable for Nate. We were running together.. as we had all day... and enjoying every minute of it.

After the run around the lot we both got to taking care of our individual needs. I saw Nate slink down in his chair and he and his wife Amy were having what appeared to be a serious talk. I felt so bad for him, I knew exactly what torment internally he was going through. On a journey run of my own in the summer of 2005, I was forced to stop due to injury after much publicity. I learned many lessons from that experience, and I knew Nate was learning many now. I said my hello's to my boss, friends, and my father and step-mother. It was really great to see all the folks who had come out to cheer us on. Though we are now past halfway, the mileage that remains is still long and increasingly more difficult with every pounding step against the asphalt. I went inside the store to use the bathroom and on my way out, CJ had given us a case of water. I carried it out to the Cars. Nate came walking up to me and he wanted to talk.

Stephanie is one of the children we are running for. While we were at EMS doing our thing, I turned around as someone said she wanted to tell me something. I turned around and was engulfed in the biggest hug I've EVER received in my life. I smiled, laughed and hugged her back. All I cold do was let her know that we were thinking of her and we were going to make it to the end for her. She was speechless and tears welled up in my eyes. I sit here today and try to convey this amazing journey across our state into words. Its hard for me to put into words how I feel about running for such a good cause. Steph is by far one of the sweetest young women I have ever met. She deserves everything in this life. I'm selfish. I live a life where I can make my dreams come true.. my wishes happen before me if I want them too.. Steph isn't that lucky. When I thought that I hurt.. I thought of her brain surgery a few weeks ago. I know I take many things for granted even as I sit here and write this report. I talk about what the journey means to me, to see New Hampshire to Help others.. it means nothing. Stephanie is the perfect example of appreciation of others and of life. As she hugged me in that parking lot.. certainly I thought about my dream, my journey my adventure.. but I was overwhelmed by her.. and these kids. Its EVERY BIT AS MUCH FOR THEM AS IT IS A PERSONAL GOAL.

"Dude.. I'm done." I hated hearing it as much as he hated saying it. But deep down I knew he was making the right choice. Our plan was to walk out of EMS and up to the Heights and make the final decision there. I knew Nate was making the right decision, the smart decision.. but also the hard decision. I was hurt for him. I was sad for him.. I was crying for him. I've never seen my friend like this and I still felt helpless. The run was drastically changing for me.. but then again it wasn't. I had many thoughts going through my head.. but the reigning thought was "FOCUS." I was going to make it to Rye unless I acquired an injury of my own. I was confident. I had followed my plan perfectly to this point and I felt like a long distance master. I slugged down some Ramen Noodle Soup, we gave our goodbye hugs, let Steph know that we were thinking about her and the rest of the Make-A-Wish Foundation every step of the way, and our friends applauded us back into the darkness. We rounded the corner at Shaws.. and slowly walked up hill.

The Height Low
Nate and I walked up to the Heights and continued to make our way to the next aid stop. It was quiet for the most part and when we did talk.. we talked about the right decision and the disappointment. It was really surreal to me.. I had no idea what to say or do.. I just kept moving forward as I have taught myself to do with great focus and concentration. I tried to keep the spirit light. I saw a Dunkin Donuts "Mmm... oasis." Then a Papa Gino's "Mmmm.. oasis" Then a McDonalds "Ughhhh... NOT an oasis." We laughed as we moved on. We saw Stephanie and her family at the Dunkins, her father asked how the foot was and Nate responded "Horrible, thanks." His response, "Don't be stupid man.. its not worth it." Such an interesting exchange but the guy was right. Nate slowed down even more.... to almost what I consider a crawl.

N: "John... I'm still moving forward. I think I can do this. You run ahead, get what you need.. and then I'll get there. Then... for the rest of the night, you run ahead and I'll follow slowly."
SJ: "What about the crew?"
N: "Well... you get what you need and then send them back for me. And then when I'm done I'll send them ahead."
SJ: "OK... now that is the dumbest friggin idea I've ever heard. Now you're being plain old stupid."
N: "Ok Fine, I'll just put a backpack on and carry my gear."

I had no idea what to say to that so I just ran ahead. I got to the crew at the Shaws Near the Steeple Gate Mall. As I ran into the lot I saw Amy packing Nate's gear into their Van. I said, "Not so fast.. the dude wants to keep going." The look I got from Amy.. I knew he was done. I sat down in the chair and cared for my needs. Nate slowly walked into the lot with his head down. He stood before me and said it, "John.. I'm done." I gave him a hug and told him how proud I was of him. Running 70 miles on pavement with a potentially serious injury to your foot is no small deal. I have nothing but respect for Nate and his drive, determination and vision. This just wasn't his day and we knew it. "Good Luck John... you can do this.. you are amazingly strong.. I'm in awe."

I got back to getting what I needed. Looked at Josh who had his running gear back on. "What are you doing Josh?" "You need a pacer.. so I'm ready to go." I was all jazzed up. Sad that Nate was leaving but ready to run through the Night. Route 4 was just down the hill and this adventure was no where near done, just getting started. Sure my running buddy was going home and I felt bad for him.. but for whatever reason.. my focus, determination and drive was unpenetrable. I was once again a man on a mission, my eyes glared ahead and Josh and I continued the Left Right Repeat off into the night. 70 Down... 54.4 to go.
RANH 071
(Read PART 2)