Wednesday, October 22, 2008

RR: The Run Across New Hampshire Part 1

PICTURES


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.

Keene
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.

Hillsborough
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)