Today I began my 7 marathon in 7 day segment of the MS Run the US Relay. I woke up at 5am to a beautiful pre-sunrise glow in the clear desert sky. It felt like a good omen to me.
I hugged and kissed my wife and daughter and started to run under the MS Run the US Start Banner on the exact spot where Chellie finished her segment two days prior. I was off! The journey was begun! Whoa. I stopped fast. At the last minute I saw the cars that I was about to run in front of in my excitement. That was close. And I was off again! Whoops. My phone bounced out of my pocket bounced on the ground and slid loudly across the asphalt in the middle of the road. I turned and went back for it. 50 feet into 182 miles this was not going well.
Fortunately despite the inauspicious start, the day went as well as I could ever have hoped. I switched off walking and running through the surprisingly hilly Barstow streets, feeling good, enjoying the glow of the low-lying sun and just settling into an easy, sustainable pace for what I knew would be a long day. Ashley, MS Run the US Founder and Relay Director/Organizer, met me at what was to be my only turn of the entire day. That behind me I had about 22 miles of straight road to go. Or so I thought.
I came under a bridge and saw the official MS Run the US car waiting, Ashley standing beside. As I ran up she said, “There’s a military base, we can’t go through.” What??? It was nowhere on the map. Thanks Google! Yet again I was stopped. A glance at my watch showed a mere 5.75 miles covered. Ashley showed me our alternative: backtrack in the car and then apply the mileage I’d run to a different road. “That just sucks,” I thought. I like the purity of covering all the miles by foot in one steady progression. But as I thought throughout the day “You have to play the hand you’re dealt.” No one asks for MS, but if that’s the hand you’re dealt, what can you do but play it as well as you can? After a look at the map, I saw clearly that we had no other options. Even for me to run cross-country to the other road I needed to be on would require crossing a river and an interstate. I asked Ashley to confirm with the Marine guard that this other road, once we finally got there, would actually go through since there were numerous bases around. When she returned she asked me, “Are you up for an adventure?” Isn’t that what this whole Relay is?!? I knew what she was getting at. And I liked it. Good thing she has a trailrunner on this segment I thought. I was more than happy to get off of the asphalt. She pointed to a dirt road, right past a sign that said “Government Property. NO TRESPASSING ” The guard had told her I could head back on that road, cross the train tracks and then follow “Golf Course Road.” Don’t look for it. The guard assured us that it’s not on the map. And now that I’ve been back there I can assure you that I was WAY off the map. I think I told Ashley that this was “Awesome.” We high-fived and I giddily ran past the No Trespassing sign, over the tracks and into…?
Once I got back there I saw two “roads.” Both had very intimidating No Trespassing signs at their entrance. It was one week to the day after the Boston bombings. I was running behind a military base and I was wearing a very odd looking vest with two bottles of liquid on the front. So, yeah the guard at the front gate told me this was totally cool, I swear. Was I supposed to tell them that AFTER they shot me? I kept headed away from the base on a non-tresspassy looking dirt “road.” Then I saw truck tracks in the sand. I guess this is the “road” I’m supposed to take. This was not a road by ANY definition of the word. It was loose sand that I assume the Marines drive around to have fun. So, I ran. Running through deep sand is really, really hard work if you’ve never done it. But it was gorgeous back there. And very peaceful. I loved it despite all of the extra energy expenditure. I just kept trekking through the desert, vaguely heading east with somehow no concern about finding Ashley. After about 2.75 miles I stumbled onto what I realize WAS “golf course road.” It was a nicely packed dirt road. Oh well. What I did was more fun. Ashley was waiting right at the end of this road. Perfect.
After dumping about a gallon of sand out of each shoe, I headed back down Route 66, 17 or so miles to go. From there everything went smoothly. I just kept moving down the road, seeing Ashley every once in a while and enjoying the various oddities along Route 66. Why is there a recliner in this big dirt field? Am I supposed to take a rest? Nah.
The slowly changing perspective of the mountains was a bit mesmerizing. Over my left shoulder I could see that the mountains that had been in front of me were now fading behind me and the dark mountains to the right, that had seemed so distant were right now right next to me. And way off in the distance I could see much bigger mountains. I’m pretty sure that’s where we’re going. Wow. Watching these huge objects come and go, so slowly and yet perceptibly was an amazing confirmation that, though moving slowly, I was moving forward inexorably. And I think that’s what any journey is, that’s what life is: just continuing to move forward. Somewhere, way past those high mountains is Las Vegas. And slowly but inevitably, I’ll get there.
Each day I will run in honor of someone. Today’s 26.2 was in honor of Becky Blyth, a good friend from Chicago who was recently diagnosed with MS. I also thought of my mom and the 2.1 million others living with and fighting this awful disease. A cure is the goal and slowly, but certainly, we’ll get there.
On the one week anniversary of the bombing, I could not but think of those in Boston and around the country affected by the tragedy. I know many events were planned today in honor of Boston. I ran for MS, but I was still happy to run 26.2 on 4/22. I ran with Boston in my heart too. I was doing good in the world and moving forward, and I think that’s very important.