One thing that convinced me that a transcon run would be worthwhile was reading James Shapiro’s book ‘Meditations from the Breakdown Lane‘. Shapiro ran from San Francisco to New York in 1980 with a backpack. No cell phones, smart phones, social media, GPS, yada yada. More than a simple recounting of his adventure, his book is pretty profound. It has been compared to ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ and one reviewer on Amazon calls him the ‘Bob Dylan of Journey Running.’ I’m really looking forward to reading it again.
I’m bringing him up because I think it is a great book and I’ve wanted to recommend it for a long time. The second reason is because I’ve decided to try running with a backpack like James. Why? Primarily because running with the jogger over broken shoulders midst increasing traffic has been making me question the safety of this trip. A backpack frees me, but at a cost of creature comforts.
With Sarah and Mike
I’m now a few miles into Indiana after a couple days off the road, but Illinois was a lot of fun and my spirits have lifted thanks to friends and family. It felt a little like coming out of the wilderness. The roads didn’t dramatically improve, but I had company for the first time in ~1700 miles. As I came closer to Chicago I was put in touch with several active running communities; it was great to run with members of the Nitro and Coyote running groups. These runners (some a little crazy like me) took time off from work, helped shuttle me into the city, brought me food, and ran with me through some pretty wicked temperatures and terrain. It’s hard to thank them enough. I ran with Sarah Olson Garman and Mark Smirz in the countryside, and later with Craig Haynee and Larry Swanson. All of them have great stories and definitely rank as hardcore runners. Larry Swanson’s stories of running Boston in the 60’s, Western States in the 70’s and finishing the Leadville 100m in his 60’s is simply amazing. Not to mention the Leadbike 1000 buckle. Wow. Go go go.
I ran with Larry and Craig to the Indiana Border.
Amazing food and company
Sandwiched between these runs, and skirting around the southern ‘burbs of Chicago, I was shuttled to and from ‘the trail’ by my long lost friend Dan Price. The last time we had seen each other was when we were 19 on the Appalachian Trail where we had walked over 500 miles together. When I first met Dan on the AT, I asked what his name was. He said (very quickly in my defense) ‘It’s Dan’ and then I called him ‘Stan’ for a week or so before things were corrected. My view* is that some old friends truly belong in the past. For whatever reason, you were friends then and that is great, but times have changed. When you reconnect with them you can only discuss the past, finding little in common with current or future events. Different from this are really good friends who never get old; here you start right where you left off. What can I say? It was a blast. Riding vintage Schwin bikes in the in Chicago streets trying to beat the thunderstorm, incredible food, drinks, laughter, staying up to late, conversation about the past, present, and future. Nichole Sellon from Seattle came to town and we met up with Dan for yet more good times. Thanks Dan. I will be back to see your studio, Seattle should steal you, and I hope we’ll meet up at Rainshadow Running’s Orcas trail run. Nichole, I won’t make an issue about how you made me run on a ‘rest day’ around the Chicago Lakeside to see the ‘Bean’. No one else needs to know about that. But it was a lot of fun to spend time with you and I’ll see you in Seattle.
When I stayed with Dan I had the option of ditching the jogger and running with some bare essentials since I would be shuttled back to his place from my stopping point each day. There is a huge difference between doing a ‘supported’ run across the country and making your own run. Of course every run is supported in some sense, but of ~271 documented crossings on www.usacrossers.com, only 28 have been unsupported single runners. To be sure, supported runs are no easy feat and most have involved crazy daily mileages – but unsupported has always been more interesting to me and also more feasible.
Dramatic Weight Loss.
Struggling a bit with whether any of this mattered, I realized that it gave me the opportunity to try running with a backpack like James Shapiro. I’ve used a 33 liter Osprey Talon backpack to hold the majority of my gear from the start. This pack sits in the main compartment of the jogger, the same place a child would sit. It’s a pack that I have used in Seattle for literally running errands and I also used it to fast pack the Annapurna Circuit in 2011 with buddies Rich White and Scott Railton. It’s also been partway up Everest. In short, I love the pack and think everyone should have one (I have no connection with the company). So I ditched the jogger and filled the pack with the bare minimum and I ran for two days with it bouncing on my shoulders a bit. It felt dumb running with gear I knew I wouldn’t need that night but I wanted to be sure that it would be a good switch and I also felt that it fulfilled the spirit of being unsupported since I could theoretically get by with the stuff on my back if all hell broke loose. The freedom was amazing. We ran on terrible roads filled with suburban highways where the shoulders were nonexistent or covered with shattered glass. With my pack I could go everywhere and over anything. By the end of the second day my shoulders were completely tenderized but I was smiling. If James Shapiro could do it, so could I. After reaching the state line with Indiana, accompanied by Larry Swanson and Craig Haynee, my cousin Margot and her friend Spike helped me ship the jogger and 40 pounds of asocciated gear to my aunt Mimi in Ohio. I should be there in 12 days – enough time to test the backpack idea. Thank you Spike for an amazing Sushi dinner! I’m sorry I don’t have a picture with the three of us.
I know I am missing some people, but a huge thanks also to cousin David, Sophie and Ben for helping me get back to the trail yesterday and to Shannon LeMaster and Paula McNerny for new shoes. Between the two of you, I should be well heeled till the Atlantic. And thanks also to those who have donated since the last post. I’m still $550 short on my Dana Farber goal of $2000. The Sherpa School fund still has a long way to go with only $360 raised. Please consider donating, even $10 helps. Donations since Wyoming include (more on the Thanks page): Anne Johnson, Benjamim, Jacobson, Brian, Beardsley, Brian Carl, Dawn Cline, ErinAbu-Rish, Mary Robson, Matt Fisher, Nichole Sellon, Nicole Cunningham, Pablo Trejo, Teresa Isabella, Yating Yeh. And for the Sherpa Fund: Suzanne Schreiber, Alysha Greig, Huong Nguyen, Rebecca Rich, Leslie Hannay, Rob and Meghan, The Earlywines, Nigel Bush, Tania Gavidia, Nigel Bush, Aaron Kite-Powell, Edward Stevens, Jason Kittle, and Kelly Fox. Sorry if I overlooked anyone. Much thanks again.
Ben, Sophie and Cousin David shine their light on me
Sophie considers a run with me
So that is where I am out. Over2300 miles done and less than a 1000 miles to go. It is still a lot of course. More pictures are on picasaweb.google.com/wolpinWith a back pack it is a new journey and a new game. So far so good. I hope the same for you.
* This observation about good friends was completely stolen from my friend Chrissy Thomsen.