Appalachian Trail Running AdventureFebruary 22, 2012
By Noel Paine
“I get by with a little help from my friends” — John Lennon/Paul McCartney
My legs had felt OK at the 20-mile turnaround point but felt more like heavy, waterlogged wood and screamed in protest as I descended the mountain path. All I could think about was how long it had been since I’d got out of my friend Rich’s jeep.
In July 2011, I found myself beside a good friend popping across the Canada-U.S. border and down to Vermont to run a section of the Appalachian Trail. It had all started when I heard a friend was running the Vermont 100-miler. I had made an attempt to find a way down to help him but managed to get close but not quite; but did manage to find a drive down to Vermont with a friend who happened to live close to the Appalachian Trail. So I couldn’t help out with an ultra-marathon but decided I’d tackle a few miles of the famous trail.
This blog is about a long run and the good friend that made it possible. Family, friends and spouses are often the unseen support behind so many runners’ foolish (foolish part open to debate) weekend adventures.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is perhaps the most famous hiking trail in the world. It runs from Maine in the north of the United States to Georgia in the south. The trail is a 2,174-mile (3,500K) marked hiking trail that was an idea that was started in the early 1920s. The well-maintained path often runs up and down the spine of a few large hills and mountains and is tackled every year by walkers, hikers and a few foolish runners. Long Trail is a section of the Appalachian trail that was created between 1910 and 1930 by the Green Mountain Club in Vermont.
The Appalachian Adventure
Jodi Isenor, my ultra-marathoning friend and organizer of many trail and ultra runs on the east coast, was the catalyst that got me thinking about running more than the marathon distance. Rich Gower, my older friend, a retired Canadian Forces Major and his jeep were what made it possible. After some great help from the Green Mountain Club in Vermont I planned out a 40-50 mile section of trail to tackle. I was unsure of the difficulty and had plan A, B and C and would be carrying fluids, food, first aid kit and gear with me as I ran. My planned route would take me up and over Stratton Mountain and its fire tower, out towards another mountain and then I would turn around and run back.
Rich is a good friend of mine. We are separated by a few decades of time in age but get along fabulously and share a love for books and conversation. Rich is a grey haired, moustached friend from when I was in uniform who is easy to spot in a crowd, as he is one of the few who still wears a hat with his suit and tie. Offering the passenger seat of his car and opening his house to me Rich became a much closer friend over the span of a weekend. By the time Rich dropped me off at the trail-head in his crotchety old jeep in the early morning hours in Vermont; I was at the start of an adventure and knew I had deepened a friendship.
Back to the trail
At 5 a.m. the trail was quiet and cool and I slowly made my way up a steep, rocky path towards the top of Stratton Mountain. A quick spin up the wooden fire tower at the top had me testing my uneasiness with heights but then I was soon off and into the woods. The trail was diverse and had rocks and roots, mud, switch-backing dry trail and spots where it was more hike than run. The July warmed up quickly but the tree cover overhead kept me cool.
The run ended up being 40 long miles, ending with a quad-destroying run back down the mountain. Rich found me running down the dirt road back that led to the trail-head. It had been a great run, I had managed to spot a moose, ran up a fire tower, scavenged cold water from a spring on the run back and realized hiking trails can make for fun and adventurous running, but slow running.
Running is more about the experience, and very often about the people we meet and run against. It is the people and experience we remember, running is just how we get there. Friends make getting there a whole bunch easier.
See all of you on the roads or in the blogosphere.
Tell me about yourself or someone else I should profile.
Anyone interested in running the Long Trail should get hold of the Long Trail Guide - great and very well-written hand-sized book for planning and for your backpack.