Running Log

Running time: 28 minutes. A thin layer of frost covered the cars outside, and ten minutes into the run I knew I'd underdressed. Instead of nylon shell pants and zip up jacket I wore my usual shorts and light tee shirt. It was cold today. Whew.

Today's running thoughts centered on my planned thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail to begin in March 2006. Last night I spent until midnight reading the trail journal entries ( of a south-to-northbound hiker nicknamed Tucson, a young woman who kept a daily hiking journal with a daily trail picture. Her entries are like my running log. Her walk began in March, 2003 in Georgia. I've read her journal entries place up to the point that she's in Pennsylvania, where the trail becomes rocky and boot-unfriendly. The AT is 2100 miles long, and it takes normal hikers like me six months to cover it. Her journal entries are unvarnished: she has good hiking days and bad, and she discusses her motivations and fellow hikers, as well as what's good and what's scary about the hike. Her daily logs are a no-bullshit account of life on the trail. No book I've seen gives this sort of on-the-ground description. Ah, the wonders of the Internet.

These pitiful few miles I run now are nothing to the long trail that is the AT. Even the 26 miles I'll be running in October will be nothing. This puts running into perspective. More importantly, it actually makes running easier. Today while running I kept thinking of life on the trail, day in and day out, in bad weather and in good, just like Tucson has chronicled. The running I do every morning is a small taste of what trail life will be like.

I'm not sure what it is about middle age that causes one to desire a certain amount of discomfort. My friend Jim wanted to reinvent himself, so he signed up for three years of privation in Djibouti, Africa. A week after he leaves, I decide to do the AT in two years. (He'll be finishing up his tour of duty close to the same time I'm coming off the AT.) It must be the realization that we don't have many more years to accomplish some of the grand challenges we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger, so we'd better get the lead out and get off our asses, shake things up a bit and overcome the inertia of middle age.

The family's good with all this. We will be empty nesters by then. My youngest of two daughters will be off to college, and the older one will be a nurse by then. The older they get the more pleasure they seem to get watching me put myself through the misery of such quests. They're tough girls, the kind that say "suck it up, Dad." I love them dearly for that, because I have seen in their own lives their adamant refusal to feel sorry for themselves during the hard times. My wife will manage finances and perhaps be a trail companion on brief hikes during stretches in Virginia. She's been the original inspration in this whole hiking thing, having been a trail guide in the Rockies during the summers of our college years. When she came back from Colorado she'd have a beautiful tan, fit legs and a glow about her that said volumes about a life close to nature. She's almost as excited about this walk as I am. She knows I need this.

Friends have been good too. When they heard of this silly plan to hike the AT many offered to spend a day or a week on the trail with me. That will be great. Although trail life is anything but lonely - hikers usually sync up with fellow hikers going the same pace - by two or three months into the trail I will be ready to see familiar faces and hear how work, the industry, politics, etc. is going in the real world.

If any of _you_ would like to join me for sections, that would be great too! I'll expect NotFabio, Johnny, thefez, borgo, allseeingeye, and doyle to join for at LEAST a mile or two and a nip or two. It'll be an adventure. Just catch me after I've gotten a proper shower, not after a week on the trail when hikers tend to get a bit ripe. And bring a book you think will enlighten me. I'm always looking for enlightenment.

Must not lose focus of the October marathon. But now it's become a means to an end.

I wonder what life will be like after the Trail?