About a week and a half ago I took part in a cross-country relay (the longest continuous running relay in the world!) called the One Run for Boston. The effort was organized by three Brits who, like most of us, were completely horrified by the bombings in Boston and decided to take action and raise money in a country-wide collaborative effort. The relay started in Los Angeles almost three weeks ago, and a baton (named Miles) is slowly making its way to Boston, carried with the sweaty hands of runners from across the States (I think Miles is currently braving the Ohio humidity).
Jamie, one of the Brits, contacted me via the blog and asked if I would be interested in running a stage in New Mexico. I enthusiastically signed up despite some initial apprehensions. I convinced Aaron and my dad to sign up for the other stages surrounding mine in the rural (and wow, was it rural) Northeastern part of New Mexico.
Considering the heat and the location, the New Mexico stages were difficult to fill even though places like Death Valley and shady Indianapolis neighborhoods filled pretty fast. One night I was browsing the facebook group, and I noticed a post from a Mainer stating that if someone could help transport him to rural New Mexico, he’d buy a plane ticket to Albuquerque and run 45 relay miles for the cause. After doing a little bit of facebook stalking, I decided that Mainer (his actual name is Ty) was a legitimate running person (no apparent signs of an ax murderer), so I volunteered to drive him from Albuquerque to our stages. (I should note that I probably wouldn’t have volunteered to pick up a complete stranger had Aaron not been driving up with us. I am far more trusting of distance runners than any other group of people, but I also have a personal goal of living a kidnap free life).
After some back and forth, Will, a runner from Fort Collins, CO was actually more available than we were to pick Ty up from the airport, so Aaron and I met them for lunch once Ty landed in Albuquerque. They drove up to Las Vegas, NM after lunch, and Aaron and I followed after work. My dad drove up separately, and camped out in Mills Canyon so he could be close to his start.
Will’s 15 mile stage was scheduled to start at 3:00 am, and we were planning on supporting him through his later miles and then continue to support my dad who would take the baton from Will. When we went to bed at 9:30 pm the relay was right about on schedule, so we figured our 4:00 am departure time from Las Vegas into the land of Middle of Nowhere (about an hour and a half drive) was pretty solid. But I woke up at 3 am to a text message Ty had sent at 1:00 am letting us know that the night runners had sped through and Will was starting over an hour ahead of schedule. Oops.
We met Ty at 3:45 am in the hotel lobby, and started down the long road to Mills, NM where my dad was taking over Baton duties from Will.
After a slightly nerve-wreaking drive that included possibly 20 various deer/antelope run-ins, we made it to the transfer point where Danny and Kate, aka the evil British masterminds behind the relay, were waiting with my dad. We spotted a blinking light in the background, and since there was nothing else on this road at 5:15 am, we knew it was Will, triumphantly completing his bout with Miles.
In a very non-ceremonial move, Will, quite tired from his 15 mile stretch, handed the baton to my dad who wasted no time in starting down the road. Aaron joined him about 8 miles in.
Throughout the day, Kate, Danny, Will, my dad, Ty, Aaron and I switched off running, supporting (aka stopping every couple of miles to provide water/food/loud music, and general encouragement to the current runner), peeing in compromising situations, and in general keeping Miles moving through New Mexico at a respectable pace.
We dealt with 100 degree temperatures, snakes (both dead and alive), tarantulas, cows, horses, llamas, curious cowboys in pick-up trucks, actually just curious people in general, and some itty bitty towns called Roy (where nothing was open), Solano (home of a post office), and Mosquero (with the best building murals around).
We also got to explore cultural differences. The Southwest is different from Maine (we talked a lot about the lack of rain and lack of trees and general vegetation). We explained to the Brits what a “baby mama” is, and the difference between dry heat and humidity. They explained to us what an “Essex Girl” is (sounds like the British version of Jersey Shore), and told us all about bog snorkeling…Danny is the world record holder!
I will be the first to say that I’m not a very “Kumbaya” type of person in general, but participating in this event made me come pretty close. It was amazing to meet Kate and Danny who are literally living out of a rental car for a month in an effort to support runners without overhead costs, Will who donated frequent flier miles so runners could travel and took a week off of work to run empty stages and provide support, Ty who put his general safety in our hands so he could run stages, and the amount of cheers and support we got from our fellow relayers.
During our stages, we really took a “no runner left behind” mentality, and I was happy to see that no egos got in the way. Our goal was to get that baton across New Mexico, and we took that to heart instead of worrying about pace times or total mileage or completing stages on our own. This wasn’t about us and our running talents. It was about being part of a movement to support the running community and give back to the people of Boston who support us during the marathon.
And, despite those initial apprehensions, it turned out to be quiet peaceful running along the open road. We were even surprised with some amazing views that we might have never know about if we didn’t make the trip.
I was truthfully sad to hand Miles over at the end of my run. Those 10 miles were the longest I’ve run since Boston, and the quietness of the rural New Mexico morning gave me the opportunity to reflect on life and discover a renewed gratefulness for my ability to run and take part in such a widespread movement.
I know each group of people will claim that theirs is the coolest. I’m sure Trekkies, photographers, bird watchers, etc. all find inspiration and companionship within their communities. But in my biased opinion, an event like this really shows how strong of a kinship runners have not only with each other, but also with the people who support us and cheer us on, and I am honored to have been a small part of it.
I shared more (better) pictures of the New Mexico stages on my facebook page here.
It is also my understanding that a live feed will be airing this weekend when the Baton hits the last stage from Wellesley to the Boylston St. Finish Line (which has something like 1000 runners!) on the One Run website.