THE JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA – AGAIN
Day 25 (May 25, 2000) – 53.8 miles
It is now 6:00am Thursday morning, on the 25th day of the Journey. Ray and I have already been out for about thirty minutes. We got an early start, as planned, and left at 5:15am. The plan was to arrive at the chiropractor’s office in Liberal, KS at 7:00am, after getting 1-hour-and-15 minutes of running in before the appointment. We had to turn back, though, because we realized we left the directions to the chiropractor’s office on the kitchen table.
The sun is rising now. We awoke to what looked like a fairly clear sky. A half moon, was shining brightly above us. As the sun rose, a layer of clouds due east appeared along the horizon to the south. A solitary jet streaked across the sky to my left, from the north, heading south.
The cloud formations were constantly changing. At the moment, they seemed to promise dangerous conditions ahead. What we learned from the day before is that whatever weather conditions existed at any given moment is subject to change in the next moment.
The word I would use to describe the emotional state we all were in last evening is “spooked”. It was unnerving given the sudden shift from primarily focusing on how many miles we wanted to cover each day to how safe would we be given the weather. Don mentioned that when he booked the chiropractic appointment for today, he was warned that there would be a tornado watch that night.
As we huddled in the motor coach after the yesterday’s run, the topic of conversation was not: “How is everybody doing?” – nor – “How did your day go?” Instead, we talked about what are our plans would be in case the tornado “watch” – issued for when conditions exist for the development of twisters over a broad area – turns into a warning – when a tornado is imminent in a specific area or has been detected on radar. For the moment though, things are calm. Our commitment is to run when we can, with a priority towards the safety of the group.
We decided that the motor coach would pack up early and meet us at the chiropractor’s office. However, we had been expecting a number of shipments: Heart rate monitors from Mike Weinstein back in NY, some shoes from Road Runners for me, a care package from Mary Beth containing almond butter and plum preserves, and protein bars and shakes from Dr. Maffetone.
This meant that we would be separated from each other for most of the day. The motor coach and crew would remain in Liberal so they could pick-up the supplies; Ray and I would head towards Kansas. Once we were reunited, our commitment was to stay in constant communication and close proximity to each other, just in case a storm developed and we could seek shelter together. Another challenge we had was that Don’s cell phone was not accepting service at this time, which left us out of communication for long stretches of the day.
I did have a conversation with Larry the night before. He committed to re-join us by the end of the week – as early tomorrow, Friday – which would give us a third car, and an extra level of security. The third car could be used to scout ahead for shelters and escape routes should a storm appear.
We plan to keep moving as long as the weather conditions allow. I had a shorter than usual stretch session this morning, waiving-off most of my yoga routine and sticking with the Egoscue menu. My energy was pretty good. There were a few areas of my body that could use some treatment: My right foot was unstable, with tightness under the arch and the outside upper portion of the ankle. My right hip and my right shoulder were also somewhat problematic. I’ll see what the chiropractor has to say. At 6:45am, after a little over an hour of running, I stopped, got in the Jeep, and Ray took me to the chiropractor.
The visit to the chiropractor, in total, took 1-hour-and-15 minutes, which was a little longer than we expected. Dr. Haney performed an initial assessment me. He immediately identified the Piriformis weakness in my right side. He stretched it out and did both electro stimulation, and ultra sound treatment. He also applied Bio freeze gel to relieve the pain in my hip and shoulder.
I also got to meet Dr. Haney’s wife and four children. They were wonderful, kind and generous, and very curious about what the Journey was about. I started feeling homesick. Dr. Haney’s family reminded me how much I miss my family back home, Mary Beth, my son Beau, and daughter Mackenzie. I yearned to get back home as soon possible.
Then, Dr. Haney and I discussed the weather in Kansas.
He moved his family from Colorado ten years ago, and had been living in Kansas ever since. Not very long after setting up his Kansas clinic, a tornado appeared out of nowhere and struck the front of his office complex, blowing out the large plate glass window, sending slivers of glass into the desktop. To emphasize how dangerous that was, he pointed to his desktop where the crevasses caused by the glass shards still remained. He said he was lucky that his only injury was a minor cut to his leg.
His wife, also had a terrifying experience. She was parked out front in their big SUV when the tornado hit. She was trapped inside, unable to unlock the doors or drive away.
To my great relief, he also said, thankfully, that it was the only tornado they had seen, in the ten years they lived there. He did give us some words of advice, though: If the sky and clouds become black, and the wind suddenly dies down, get out of the car and into a ditch, and lie down as low as possible. The flying debris is what causes the greatest damage. Also: Do not go under an underpass, because you will get blown out.
By 8:00 am, Ray and I are back on the road. As I look up, the sky has changed once again. Clouds are beginning to cover the sky, with ever darkening swirls to both the north and south. I find myself avoiding wearing sunglasses because it makes the sky appear more ominous than it may actually be. The sky has a kaleidoscopic quality to it; with each successive glance the sky seems to take on a different shape; new patterns appear with almost every blink of the eye. I feel as if my head is on a swivel; I am constantly surveying the sky for signs of imminent threat and danger, and the surrounding landscape for “sturdy buildings” or a ditch we could all jump into.
By 10:21am, the cloud cover is nearly complete. There is no blue anymore in the sky. The sun is completely hidden. The wind is gentle, though still a headwind – certainly nothing like it was yesterday. We are about 12 miles into the run. I see storm clouds starting to define themselves due east where we are headed. I am wondering if today will be the day we first encounter a major storm and are forced to shut down. Only time will tell.
I feel more confident about how to handle our Kansas journey, now that we were educated on what to do in case of a major weather event. Tornados and fast-moving storms that may be regular events on the western plains, were not part of my living experience in NYC or San Diego.
We did receive some really great news today. Once again, the destiny of the Journey will not be solely determined by my running ability, or the crew’s effective handling of the day-to-day challenges we continually face. The Journey’s success will also be will be a product of the contributions and support of individuals who believe in our mission, and are working, on their own, on our behalf.
A great example of this is what Bill Sanders was able to accomplish. Bill, is handling a lot of our support needs out of his office at the Sanders Group in Kentucky. He has set up massage therapy appointments for me along the route, and arranged delivery of a case of the Spanish olive oil I like. He also has been scouring the country for running shoes for me, which has been a major problem.
Apparently, he spoke with a woman named Kelly, in the ordering department at Brown’s Catalog. Kelly was so enrolled by the conversation with Bill, that she communicated our situation to Randy Brown, the owner of the company. Bill informed me that that Brown’s Catalog will now be supporting the Journey the rest of the way. What a great example of how seemingly out of nowhere, an individual member of a supportive community can make a difference in the outcome. The take-away is: Commit wholeheartedly to your mission, keep working at it, get the message out, and something remarkable can happen.
Brown’s Catalog will supply me with a variety of shoes to try out. Once I select the ones I want, they will provide a steady stream of them throughout the event, as well as supplying appropriate equipment, such as rain gear, which I currently do not have. Thank you, Randy Brown and Kelly, and Bill Sanders for this outstanding contribution to the Journey Across America and the Crusade for Kids.
At 4:35 pm, Ray and I are about 36 miles into the run. The afternoon has gone well; I have been able to maintain a fairly steady pace. Some of it edging over the four-mile- per-hour upper limit I have been keeping. The work with the chiropractor this morning seemed to have evened my hips off. There are times when I actually feel some spring in my legs, and I am amazed at how much energy I still have. My physical state, though, may no longer be the main factor of how many miles we can cover each day. Instead, the hours within which I can run safely may be the limiting factor.
Ray, the rest of the crew, and I have been spending most of the afternoon looking at the sky, and listening to the weather reports. The sky continues to be very ominous and threatening especially right behind me. Yet the weather reports can be frustrating because they can change dramatically hour-to-hour. It is important to stay informed, especially as it pertains to severe thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings.
We had a fairly long interview with a local ABC affiliate today. A reporter and a cameraman followed me in a car for over an hour, interviewing me and taking pictures. In the course of the interview, I was more than once asked what motivated me, why are we doing this, and what do we hope to accomplish. What came out was: To create a nation-wide community committed to the health and vitality of America’s youth.
We also seem to be inspiring change: To simply walk more and drive less; drink more water and less soda; eat more vegetables and less fried foods; or use the stairs instead of taking the elevator. We have been receiving emails and telephone calls from people who have been following the Journey, expressing how our story is causing them to rethink their own habits, and to begin incorporating more life-sustaining strategies in their own life, whether it be exercising more frequently, eating healthier foods or spending more time with their loved ones.
At 6:14pm, I am still in a pretty steady groove, already having moved past the 40-mile mark almost 30 minutes ago. I am having visions of a double marathon today if I can hold it together.
Literally, one minute later, at 6:15, a tornado watch was issued until 12:00 am. The sky suddenly turned black; it was both awesome and frightening at the same time. We all got together and made a plan to send the motor coach ahead to find some shelter for the evening. I am feeling sprinkles and resigning myself to the fact that today may be a day where I don’t reach my goal because of the weather. It is out of my hands now. I commit to myself to just keep plugging away until the sky opens up, and then I will get in the car and seek shelter.
At 6:25pm, less than 10-minutes later, the entire sky, black and ominous, passes overhead and moves in front of me. It is amazing how quickly the patterns change. Perhaps I will get to complete a full double marathon today, after all. I am approaching 44 miles. We are in the town of Fowler, Kansas, and I see a sign up ahead for Minneola 11 miles out, which I don’t think we will get to today, but I’m confident we will get close.
Ray and I stay on route 54, passing through fields and isolated homes, feeling very vulnerable and constantly searching the sky for signs of imminent danger. Motivated by a combination of anxiety and fear, and with my nervous system operating at a heightened level, I ended up picking up the pace considerably and finishing with 53.8 miles for the day, even with the 1-hour-and-15 minutes that we took off for the chiropractor in the morning. As it turned out, we ended up one mile outside of Minneola.
At 8:08pm, I am now in the motor coach looking out the window, watching the sheet lightning flash. The entire sky lights up every so often, making visible the other RV’s and structures around us. We huddle by the radio listening for any changes in the weather forecast. If the tornado “watch” turns into a “warning”, we will leave the motor coach and go into the motel, which is about 150 feet away, and shelter in the bathroom. It did not take very long to get a taste of what it’s like living in Kansas during the tornado season.