125 miles…that’s about two hours on the interstate. Enough time to listen to “Exile on Main Street” by the Rolling Stones and “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd in their entirety with a few minutes to spare. On a bright and blistering 85-degree day, the Beast called from the banks of the Erie Canal in Lockport, dangling a challenging distance that I had never personally attempted before, much less accomplished. It was the 10th annual “Running of the Beasts” complete with a running costumed bull, sombreros and red kerchiefs in the swag bags.
With my drop bag ready and a new pair of Brooks’ Transcends on the dogs, I ventured out the door at 7 AM.
I first met Denise in the registration line …a woman whom I was told was running the same distance as me; she would help me out and have my back today. If I didn’t know how to pace myself, hydrate properly or ready the nutrition for the day, Denise was the “man.” (thanks Eva). Andy was a legend who lived up to his status. His calm, informal, but Yoda- like demeanor comforted my pre-race jitters. Gary and Lisa, the dynamic duo of the ultra-run. A relationship borne not of two halves to make one whole, but two wholes that equal one strong-hold. Jim and “Russell”—always a barrel of monkeys—loosened the environment and reminded me, without words, why I was here: to run with a smile on my face.
The first mile was awesome—a community two hundred (+) strong of positive energy, accompanied by Jim in the bull costume. Andy asked Jim if he were to “drop ‘trou” to relieve himself, would it be considered “bullsh*t”…just what the doctor ordered! This was not a herd of people, it was a clan of individuals.
Along the first leg, the benefits of the run—meeting total strangers who are as fascinated with your stories as you are with theirs—were obvious. My wife’s stories came to life…the pirate ship slide, aide-station watermelon and the world-famous “chicken” made the new seem familiar to me. After reaching the second aide station, I proclaimed (Okay, gasped) “Next year, I’m going bigger” only to be tempered in enthusiasm by the end of the race. Enthusiasm slightly diminished, maybe, but not the desire.
On the second leg, the kindness of strangers kicked in. “Need anything?” “You look like you could use some ‘S-Caps’” and “I have some Gatorade stashed in the trees up ahead” helped to cement what I had come to learn that day: this is a special group of individuals. People who know that there is more than this. Without sounding too cliché, these folks are the real deal. The ones you are honored to call friends. I become one of them—if only for a moment—and began to glimpse into the world that my wife has become a part of. Everyone I spoke with knew my wife. Knew her story. Knew of her spirit. Doors opened wide once I stated I was "Eva's husband".
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” “Be badass.” “The voices in you head are WRONG—you WILL finish.” Familiar quotes on hand-made signs plastered on the bridges and trestles along the way—from Lockport to Gasport to Middleport and back along the run. It’s funny how these words ring more true on the days when demons and doubts are in tow. It’s funny how passion and desire can change things—even things that seem insurmountable.
Upon reaching the finish line, the announcer bellowed—“Congratulations, Eva’s husband!” Those in attendance cheered. Her impact is felt far and wide. I was as proud of my wife as I was my own accomplishment. I received a “Beast Coin” for my victory—completing 25 miles—a personal best. I waited for Denise to cross the finish line, handed her a tambourine as arranged before the race, as the band whipped into a frenzied, tambourine-friendly blues number. We shook what was left of our groove things with reckless abandon.
125 miles. By the way, Eva ran 100 of those miles that day. Three hours north, in Barrie Ontario, she finished the “Dirty Girl” at the exact same time I crossed my own personal finish line. Jim received a text as I crossed to confirm this uncanny moment of serendipity. 125 miles…shared experience across the miles. Thank you Tiggs.