The Birthday run idea came from a close running friend, Rachel. It is her birthday in March as well as Jon’s. I had thought about trying to put together an organized run with some friends for Jon’s birthday, but when we heard Rachel was planning something, we decided to join birthday celebrations and do one big run together. Since Jon was turning 30 this year, it was decided some brave souls were going to attempt 30 miles in his honor. Shortly before the day of the run, Rachel had some injuries that were not determined – it was believed she could have stress fractures in her leg – definitely not something to mess around with. She decided to back out of the birthday run (for very good reasons!) although she still organized the event and got up early that morning to see us off. We headed over to Maggie and Cory’s house the morning of so we could carpool together out to Hawley, MN – the location of the birthday run. Jerry, an Ultra runner friend decided to join us for the run as well. A couple of new runner friends, Eric and David were joining us from Grand Forks for the day. They had met Rachel through the dailymile website and were willing to travel down for the day to join our adventure. It was nice having some new people to run with – these guys are super nice and encouraging! J So, after they found their way to Maggie and Cory’s house, we decided who was going to drive in which vehicle and headed out to Hawley. The weather was hovering around 10 degrees, which was welcoming compared to the negative temps we’ve had previously. The wind was calm to begin with but picked up after a while. We met at a church just outside Hawley and everyone got their gear ready. We were ready to begin the birthday adventure run!
All seven of us (Jon, Maggie, Cory, Eric, David, Jerry, and I) headed out together as a group. Jerry started singing Happy Birthday to Jon so we all joined in. The rest of the group started out pretty fast, I was trying to reign myself in since I’m not used to starting so fast – I was worried I’d get burned out from the first couple of miles. The original route was a big loop, but since Cory and I were a little worried about being too far away from the truck, we decided to do our own route. I had been battling some ankle tendinitis issues and he had some foot issues that were giving him problems. So, since neither one of us wanted to be too far from the truck, we decided to go out two miles in one direction and then head back to the truck and then repeat that with a couple of other roads, shooting for a total of 12 miles. Jerry wanted to get about 15 in, so he went with the rest of the group – they were all shooting for around 30 miles total. Cory and I were only able to run with the rest of the group for about a mile before their route broke off from ours. Although I was bummed that I wasn’t going to be able to run more of Jon’s birthday run with him, I knew it was the right call. Plus, I knew Jon was in good hands with Maggie. I trust her and know that she can get Jon through some tough miles.
With that, we said our good-byes and good lucks and Cory and I headed on alone. I hadn’t really known Cory all that well before this run, but I was fortunate enough to run with him today. It was really nice getting to know him better. Time flew by and both of us were feeling pretty good. My ankle wasn’t causing too many issues and his foot wasn’t bothering him, either. We cruised along, letting the miles add up behind us. I really found out that Cory and I are a lot alike – we both like to have very concrete plans of what a run is going to be before we head out, whereas both of our spouses like to wing it and put on “bonus miles!” We had a great time chatting about all different kinds of things. I was concerned that I was holding Cory back because I knew he was much better on hills than I, but he reassured me he wasn’t out to break any speed records. We saw a deer on our run (or should I say Cory saw a deer and pointed it out to me – I never would have noticed it!) As we got closer and closer to it, he kept running a little further away – but always in the same direction we were running. Finally, he got frustrated that we weren’t leaving him alone and he darted off into the woods almost taunting us to follow him. On our last out and back road, we were both starting to have some issues. My ankle was starting to bother me and he was starting to feel light-headed. I offered him some shot blocks, which definitely seemed to help. We ended up walking most of the last mile and a half although Cory ran the last little bit to get his mileage up to 12. I had just shy of 12, but was worried about my ankle, so quit while I was ahead.
We got back to the truck right about the same time the group was returning to the vehicles after their first loop of about 13.5 miles. I asked Jon how he was doing – he said he was struggling. I was a little worried that he was struggling already when he wasn’t quite half ways done. I knew that the rest of the group could run much faster and I was wondering if perhaps they had tried to keep the brisker pace that they had originally set out on. Later on, I found out that was the case and Jon had managed to keep the pace with them, but it meant that the rest of the run was going to be harder because he had gone out too fast to begin with. Jon grabbed his bacon sandwich and scarfed it down while the others refueled or switched out some gear. Pretty soon, they were ready to head back out again. Jerry wanted to put in a few more miles before heading home, so he joined them for another mile or so before turning back. The others were in the long haul for about 16.5 more miles.
After they headed out again, Cory and I took turns changing into warm dry clothes. When we were ready, Cory drove in the direction they were headed until we caught up with them. At this point, Eric and David were going further ahead and every once in a while looping back to catch up with Maggie and Jon. Cory knows exactly what to do when crewing for Maggie – I realized I should be taking notes so that I know what to do in the future when Jon needs me to do this for him. He would stay within a mile or so of the runners, either ahead of or behind and make sure he was available if needed. Occasionally, we would refill water bottles, get Powerade out or find some snacks or other gear they needed. Some water bottles would freeze up, so we’d put them up by the heater to thaw out while we dug out a different water bottle for them to use in the meantime. It was fun seeing them out there conquering the hills and putting in way more miles than I can imagine taking on right now. Cory and I found things to chat about and he played around with the new ipad touch he got to try out from his workplace. I had brought a book, but was more interested in watching the runners and seeing what I could do to help them on their journey. It was hard watching Jon struggle – I knew he was hurting but didn’t know what I could do to help. Cory had some wise words for me – just be there for him – get what he needs and that’s all you really can do. He said, sometimes we might know what they need before they do – we might have to think for them and anticipate what they need before they realize they need it. I never know what to say to encourage runners as they set out to do something they have never accomplished before. For a few of the runners (Jon and Eric), this was going to be the longest run either of them has done before. I was grateful for Maggie because she was watching out for Jon and would tell him that he needed to drink more, or that he needed to consume “x” amount of calories the next time he saw us. It was getting harder and harder for Jon to eat. He even refused a nutty bar – which he normally LOVES. Maggie would run ahead a little with Eric and David and then come back and make sure Jon was ok. Jon was starting to walk more and more – especially up the brutal hills. I could tell the miles were taking a toll on him. At one point, I remembered that he had a 5 Hour energy shot in the pick-up and ran out to give it to him. He had forgotten he had it with and was happy to take it. It definitely helped him later on. I knew that I couldn’t have him stop too long at the truck or he would want to call it quits and hop in. At one point, he stopped to get a short rest and leaned on the truck for a while – anything to take pressure off his aching feet. I could tell his body was hurting and his legs were to the point of ready-to-be-done. Maggie quickly reminded him not to rest too long – she knew that he needed to keep moving. I think Jon would’ve been ready to call it quits if I had let him sit down in the truck. The turn-around point was a huge mental break through for Jon – I could tell his spirits improved when he knew he was over half way done and the rest of the way would be a little more downhill than uphill as well as the wind at their backs.
Eric and David finished their 30+ mile run and decided to hop in the back of the truck as we drove behind Jon and Maggie for the last couple of miles. Eric and David were both thrilled to be done – they did a great job! I could tell when Jon saw the church because his spirits lifted and his pace quickened. We all got out of the truck and cheered Maggie and Jon on as they reached the church parking lot. Jon finished strong right after Maggie. I was so proud of him for pushing through the physical and mental hurdles he was faced. We all gave high fives and took some pictures before we hit the road back home. All in all, a great run for all those involved. Thanks everyone for making it such a memorable day!