It was still dark, it was very cold, the race wasn't going to start for at least another 30 minutes and it was time to give up our extra clothing to gear check. Shuttle buses had brought us to the start of the Canyonlands Half-Marathon, some 12 miles up the Colorado River canyon from Moab, Utah. We knew it was going to get much warmer - and it was also going to get light enough to appreciate the spectacular beauty of the gorge - but right now shivering was making us think twice about why we had decided to run this race in March of 2007.
It was in this condition that we met and talked to a gentleman wearing "The Shirt" - the trademark clothing announcing to fellow runners that he had run a marathon in all 50 US States and the District of Columbia. We were still shivering, but also fascinated by his story, his travel and his commitment to a goal. A seed was planted - and just 13.1 awe-inspiring miles and some post-race activity later, it started to germinate. The idea of completing a 50-State Quest, together and for half-marathons, had enormous appeal. Although working again full-time, I had retired from a 25-year Army career; Karen was a registered nurse, but now home full-time with our daughter. We both loved to travel and we believed we could make this happen. It would keep us in shape, take us places we had never been before and motivate us when we were tired, sore or just feeling lazy. Our goal was to complete all 50 states and the District of Columbia by the time I turned 60. I was 53. It really started here.
We picked the Canyonlands race for several reasons. It was in Utah and not all that far away from home. We love the Moab and red-rock area of Utah, having hiked there a few times. Family could possibly go with us to help with Rachel and to make a bit of a Spring family weekend out of it. It worked well in every respect. We all stayed in a rented condo in Moab and the buses took Karen and me to the start line described above. Once the race started, it was obvious why this was such a popular run that sells out quickly every year. The Colorado River gorge was beautiful - especially with the early light giving the canyon walls a glow. The course really didn't lose much elevation, but did have quite a bit of undulation in it - making for interesting running. The last mile or two - once out of the gorge - was along the highway into Moab and already a bit warm and not nearly as scenic. Despite a mediocre pre-race pasta dinner and no finisher's medal (partially compensated for by nice running caps and shirts) it was a good race - and certainly scenic in every respect.
It was also a really nice weekend with the family (Alan, Jen & kids; Dacia & Joe; Jared and Gavin). We all hiked into Delicate Arch (Arches NP) over the weekend; the guys got in some slick-rock biking (Karen and I both tried it - Karen deciding she liked to walk better and it taking me two practice circuits before I felt it might be worth trying again); and Karen, Rachel, Joe, Dacia and I hiked Negro Bill Canyon before heading home on Monday.
What thoughtful nugget did I take away from this race? Perhaps the realization that I need to be open and sensitve to those random thoughts or "coincidences" that just might make a difference and may have merit. Perhaps the understanding that a sincere, thoughtful and worthwhile goal can inspire a lot of motivation and drive - and, ultimately, significant accomplishment. From small beginnings, take that first step.....and then keep running!