Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner? We at Fast Tracks have laid that idea to rest. Running as a team sport has also certainly taken hold within the club at the Delaware Marathon Relay and elsewhere.
Last weekend I became part of “Skinny Legs and All” (The name sure didn’t come from MY legs.) as we ran the length of the Green Mountain Range in Vermont. If you ski VT you’ll recognize some of the names along our course on VT 100: Smugglers Notch, Stowe, Mad River Valley, Sugarbush, Killington, Okemo. Did I mention that the course was hilly? Or that it was 200 miles long, over which 12 runners per team would run 3 times. Or that it took our team from Saturday at 8:30am until Sunday at 4pm to fell the monster.
Boy, did I luck out. I joined a team off the website bulletin board and enjoyed every one of them. Not only that, but I was in the good van, Van 1, a 15 seater which gave most of us our own full bench seat. 12 person relays ride in 2 vans; while the first 6 people hand off sequentially in one van, the other van has 4 or 5 hours off, then Van 2 has to drive the 40 or so miles that Van 1 ran. Van 1 was also the good van because my runs were all perfect cool temps: at 9:30 in the morning, then 9:30 at night, then 6 the next morning which was actually an extra because we were one person down, then 7:30 in the morning. Also, that meant that I didn’t almost run into the bear and the moose at dusk like some runners did. The Green Mountain Relay is just in its second year, so with only 24 teams, only 24 people running at any given time, you’re often just out there running, lonely, except for your team van checking on you every couple miles, honking merrily and whooping up tons of energy to their runner at each pass.
My first leg (leg 2) was bucolic, very Vermonty, where I passed a couple runners out on their morning jog. After the anticipation of getting the run underway, I felt much better after my good hard honest run. When all the members of my van finished their runs it was 2 in the afternoon. I had called a best friend from my 20’s last week, “Uh, I’m running past your house next Saturday and will have a 5 hour layover about there. Wanna get together between 2 and 6 in the afternoon?” So Bobbi! It was terrific to see her; she and her husband took us to 2 sets of falls as we headed south toward the van exchange. There we would meet up with Van 2 when they all finished their legs, and we would again pass the wristband in the good van.
The evening rain had stopped by the time I got my 9:30pm hand-off for a short and basically flat jaunt mid-state in the Green Mountain National Forest. I had already heard about the bear scare- apparently the bear was as startled as the runner he just about ran into. The full moon and stars were hidden in clouds, which just added to the serenity of the evening run.
It was almost 2 in the morning when we in Van 1 finished our second set of runs. I settled into my sleeping bag near Okemo Ski area and snoozed (almost) comfortably until my wake-up call at 5:30am. Runner 11 had just headed out; was I up for that extra run for our injured runner? “Don’t try to take it away from me! I want to get my money’s worth.” It was a beautiful downhill, off the highest point of the course in the clear cool morning air. After that 4.5 mile leg, I had a 25 minute break while our first runner ran, then came my rolling 5 mile leg. It was perfect and my part of the relay was over. In a couple hours our van was all done, driving to showers and breakfast in Bennington. At 4pm our eleven person team ran together that last 400 yards to take our last place prize! Skinny legs and all weren’t at all lonely.