|Patrick Sweeney - Credit: Stan Evans|
And just like that, both runners took a first step in a running journey too great for most people to even fathom.
As ultra runners, we sometimes have to deal with the awe and amazement of others when they discover we run distances of 50, 60 or 100 miles. Last Saturday, the one in awe was my own self. I’d traveled overnight to get to Boston to run the very last 50K segment of their epic adventure, to cheer them on and to witness something truly unique; the last step the two friends would take, this time in the Atlantic Ocean.
I stood there all jittery in Hopkinton, at the Boston Marathon starting line, staring at Jup Brown with a million questions bouncing around in my head. He, on the other hand, just sat there and smiled, relaxed, sharing some anecdotes that happened on the road.
“One night, I wanted to sleep in a little park kiosk just like this one”, he said. “It was at some church, so I really thought it’d be OK. Well would you believe it’s the only time I was refused to spend the night somewhere, and it wasn’t even inside! And the guy had the audacity to tell me ‘May God help you in your journey’. I told the guy *he* was supposed to be the closest contact I had to God!” he said, laughing.
|I was Sweeney's breakfast surprise|
Saturday morning :)
“I don’t do all this for the sport, you know”, he added. “I do this to meet people like you guys, fellow humans I wouldn’t meet otherwise, and share part of the journey.”
In my opinion, Patrick Sweeney and Jup Brown are heroes. Not because they accomplish incredible human feats, but because their attitude, their outlook and their values raise the bar on all of us. Two guys performing an act of endurance beyond any comprehension, but insisting that what really matters in the connections they made with people all along the voyage and the kids they run for.
|Start of the Race Across USA|
Two more friends, Shacky and Vanessa Runs, offered to join in as the official crew for the long road ahead, volunteering the famous Summit Seeker they live in as a mobile house and aid station.
Somewhere along the way, their run morphed into Run with us America, in a more intimate setting following a route of their choosing. The two friends would run the rest of their adventure on their own, at their pace, sharing some of the segments and parting during others. And, of course, always running for the kids.
|The Run with us America crew : Jup, Vanessa, Shacky, Sweeney and Ginger|
|Kara Lubin, 100 Mile Club|
|Sweeney totally thought|
I was a Wellesley Girl
Last Saturday morning, however, you had to look very hard to find the heroes in our little group of runners. Both guys are so humble and unassuming, that every time we’d cross someone and tell them what was going on, they’d ask “So, which two guys are doing this?”. Sweeney was his usual, joyful self, joking around and playing his invented little games, such as “Crap found on the side of the road that isn’t fecal” which garnered an old lady’s wig, a porn centerfold and a skull-shaped fence segment, among others.
As the miles passed, I couldn’t help but notice how both Jup and Sweeney, even after putting their bodies to such extremes, looked healthy and solid. Aside from the obvious wear-and-tear, neither runners seems to suffer any particular damage, nor fear long-term effects. They noticeably covered the distance with incredible ease and good spirits (it’s 50K after all, a distance for which most people would train over substantial time and still be nervous about), smiling along and stopping to chat up passersby.
I told them both how I’d feared for them at first, when they announced their crazy journey. My only point of reference was Marshall Ulrich, who suffered terrible physical consequences from his transcontinental run, including some freaky permanent damage. Now, all I could notice was that both of them seemed to have become rock solid, zen and happy… while I was hobbling along with a bum knee, feeling half-broken and sorry for myself.
|Our happy little group - Complete with little K-taped |
ugly duckling in the back
We finished the Boston Marathon course under a blue sky and a shiny sun, and simply kept going a couple more miles until, as Sweeney put it, they would literally “run out of country”. We meandered through downtown from Boylston street to Boston’s Long Wharf, through a neighborhood that much reminded me of San Francisco. At the end of a long street, finally, a beautiful patch of deep blue appeared.
|Two happy, happy kids|
Two of the kids took their shoes off and unceremoniously walked into the ocean, then dove in. Something about their smiles, however, hinted that this little dip might have had some special meaning, maybe. Jup Brown opened a second little tube, filled it with ocean water and then mixed a drop of each into the other tube.
Both kids walked back on the beach, we opened the long-awaited box containing tequila-soaked water melon lovingly prepared by Robin, joked around and rejoiced for a little bit, then Sweeney and Jup simply said “Let’s go for a beer.”
|Celebratory Sunday-morning mimosas, the day after|
Patrick Sweeney and Jup Brown ran across the United States to raise funds for the 100 Mile Club. If you liked this story and are inspired by their adventure, please consider making a cash donation by following this link.