Running Progress Report

Running time: 17 minutes. Weight: 225 lb. Lungs: Some annoying rumbling phlegm at the bottom of the lungs came clear halfway through the run. Legs: Left knee still sore but good enough to run. Brisk temperatures, calm air. A sliver of the moon hung over the morning horizon. I ran in darkness until about 6:15, when glow of daybreak sky began to illuminate the ground.

I saw an indie movie on mountain climbing yesterday, and that preoccupied my thoughts during today's run. Touching the Void was a film documentary of two British mountain climbers who summitted one of the Andes peaks for the first time. Siula Grande, a 21,000 ft. peak in the Peruvian Andes had been scaled a number of times, but never summitted until 1985 by Brits Joe Simpson, 25, and Simon Yates, 21. Simpson broke his leg on the way down, in a horrifyingly painful manner. He was dangling over a snowy cornice attached to Yates by a 9-mm rope. Yates, who was slipping down to the edge, thought his partner had died, and cut the rope to save himself. Simpson fell 150 feet into an icy crevasse but managed to crawl to safety over snow and rocky moraine over the next four days, dragging his shattered leg behind him.

My morning running, although primarily in support of an upcoming marathon, serves as useful cardiovascular cross-training for weekend hiking. I am slowly getting sucked in to the idea of through-hiking the 2100 mile Appalachian Trail in a few years. Every weekend hike is, in a sense, a test for the rigors of the seven month AT hike.

One step at a time, that's how big hikes are done. Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods makes clear to me that the AT through hike is done by ordinary people with ordinary athletic skills. The dominant requirement is the willingness to commit to the time it takes to do this. I think I can do this.

I am fascinated at the possibility of a mind cleansing, mind altering experience. Joe Simpson was able to travel miles down the summit by focussing on only the next few yards ahead. My running experience is the same: I focus on only short distances ahead. I can't think of 26 miles yet. That distance is too daunting; I cannot dwell on it because it's too discouraging. But I can do this ten yards, and after that, the next ten yards, and so on. I can always take the next step.