There’s so much I could say already, from the beautiful views, to the hospitality of so many people, to the daily grind with miles, to my top ten steps for blister care. But in this first post since starting the run, I’m going to talk about two things.
The first is about what happens after the start of a journey. There was a lot of excitement in the months and weeks leading up to this run, and the first couple steps out of the cold Pacific Ocean were filled with adrenaline and anticipation. And I think the excitement and anticipation wasn’t so much about starting the run as it was about finishing. When I daydreamed about this journey, probably half of my thoughts turned to running through New York and seeing Coney Island come into view with some friends cheering me on and/or running with me. Even though the estimated end date of August 18th was eight months away, it seemed so close. Now after six days of running, it seems so far.
And that’s because we’re no longer in the beginning of this journey, which prompts vivid thoughts of the end, but we’re now in the middle. And the middle of a journey, while it still looks forward to the finish, can bring feelings of dread and discouragement. I’ve only gone 250 miles, and I feel this sore. How am I going to make it 2,700 more?
The solution? Small victories. Breaking things down into smaller checkpoints what will carry me through until August. Sure, we’ve barely made a dent into the United States, but I’m more than halfway across the state of Washington. Just make it to Idaho, and you’ll be fine. Sure, it’s mile 20 and I’m already tired but have at least 20 more miles to go for the day, but I’ve got breaks coming up. Just make it 5, then 3, then 3, then 2 miles. Then after a long break there are only 7 more for the day.
The second thing I will mention briefly is a particular setback that happened on day 1, and it’s something I’ve wrestled with ever since. If you have been following the “Where’s Kyle” page on my website, you may have noticed that there were two runs posted on the morning of June 6. The day before, we were taking our afternoon break in a gentleman’s driveway and were chatting with him about the run. Right away he asked, “Well, why are you going this way? This road isn’t navigable with a trailer, especially if you don’t know where you’re going. Your best bet is going back to the Willapa Trail.” About 20 minutes later a neighbor stopped by. His input was, “Nah, you’ll be fine. Just watch out for the bears and cougars.” Our anticipated ending point would have been in the middle of the woods without any phone service. Ultimately we decided to backtrack and pick up the Willapa Trail. But the question became: where do we start from? We had gone about ten miles down this road we were no longer taking, so do we drive ahead ten miles and start from there, so as not to waste essentially 20 miles on the first day? Or is that cheating?
In the moment we decided that it wasn’t cheating and drove ahead and finished our day. But this decision weighed on me all afternoon and evening. My thought process was, It’s not about the miles; it’s about crossing the United States on foot. If the routes aren’t connected, then what’s the point? I could run 3,000 miles on a treadmill and say I ran across the United States. Besides, we probably should have just stuck with our original route.
The next morning, after receiving advice saying that it’s not worth questioning your integrity, especially on day 1, I told my parents I wanted to go back and connect the runs. We did, and looking it turned out to only be five miles of trail that needed to be connected. Even though I knew it was the right decision, while I was running I kept thinking, These miles count for nothing. You’re wasting your legs. In essence, we have about 12 “wasted” miles. And it was a difficult second day making only 41 miles of progress but technically logging 46. But looking back, what’s 12 miles in the grand scheme of things? If I end up finishing this run, I don’t want to question its legitimacy over a couple of miles.
So we’re back on track, dusting ourselves off and continuing to press forward, navigating the obstacles and taking things one step at a time. And that’s all we can do.