18 miles is on the calendar for this week’s long run. I was tiring of my neighborhood, and in need of a new venue. Cooler temperatures, lower humidity is slated for Sunday, 9/7. This would be my day for running 18.
Daughter Emma suggested that I join with her running ‘crowd’, who will be running from Silver Spring, Maryland to Old Town Alexandria Virginia. Crossing 3 state lines if you consider DC a state. That sounded far. Point to point. It’s all mental. I needed to re-frame my running distance into smaller fragments.
The BWI (Baltimore Washington International) bike loop became the venue of choice. I started working on this plan. A run that I cannot complete, without Team Sherpa.
By Saturday, the plan was in the ‘works’. My regular workout / running partner Jill was sidelined with a broken foot. Sidelined is a big word which means that we have to find a way for her to exercise without going ‘mad’. We are junkies for endorphins. We rigged her up on Paddy’s CatTrike – where she sat in a comfy chair, and could pedal mostly with one leg. The leg that was in the cast could go along for the ride. All worked fairly well, except that the cast kept slipping off the pedals and banging into the ground. Jill of course does not complain one-I-O-da about her broken foot crashing into the asphalt – but I’ll get back to this in a minute. The bottom line, is that we thought we had this worked out. Jill would be Team Sherpa for my long run – the following day. She would ride the trike, provide water and fuel, and of course comrade support – all with a broken foot!
Sunday morning arrives. It arrived early actually – as I didn’t get much sleep. Probably over-thinking about running 18 miles, I tossed and turned all night. I thought about not running, but then decided that would mean procrastinating. It’s time to move this show along. I was at the BWI loop parking lot – before daylight. 6:10AM it is dark. 6:20AM it is light. Light enough. I start running (solo) and will return back to the car in 7 miles – to meet up with Team Sherpa Jill – with her broken foot, and the trike bike.
The temperatures are amazing. Cool, a light breeze, and no humidity. I am barely sweating and my mood is much lighter with these conditions. I return back to my car after 7 miles – but do not see Jill. It appears that her broken foot…now has a broken cast. Perhaps it dropped onto the asphalt one too many times during our ‘trial run’ on Saturday? At any case, the cast was not a ‘sport model’, and Jill was not able to walk without her cast. Instead, my brother Chuck was on the scene. Team Sherpa reinforcements had arrived. Chuck, and his dog Riley, equipped with a backpack, were on deck, and ready to support.
Chuck and Riley would walk the trail. I would run past them for half a mile, then run back toward them and beyond for another half a mile. With the exception of one 30 minute distance, we were never more than 15 minutes apart. I kept looking for the walker in the red shirt, with the golden retriever, and at each passing I would relay my next game plan. “I’m gonna back track now, I’ll catch you on the flats”, or “I’m gonna run beyond the bridge, I’ll see you on the return”. And he would respond “do you need anything?” or something supportive.
I couldn’t help but to spend the final 11 miles of my run to reflect on my Sherpa du jour. There is no way I could train for this marathon, without the support of my Sherpa team. Each day, each route, each ‘need’ is different. Yes, there is the water, and nutrient role of a Sherpa — to keep me hydrated and nourished when I can’t possibly carry all of this stuff on me. But the mental side is really what gets me to the end of those long runs. Knowing that someone is there. Knowing that I am not alone. Knowing that you’ve got my back. Today, Team Sherpa is my brother Chuck. Always there. Has been with me on ALL of my marathon running events. Thank you Bro – your support means so much.