The Running Road to Appalachia
In 67 days, I shall line up on the track at Appalachian State University with several hundred runners and begin a grueling 26.2 mile run through the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina as part of the Grandfather Mountain Marathon.
I’m anxious about this race. We only have 5 1/2 hours to finish as our event coincides with the start of the Scottish Highland Games, and we will climb approximately 1,000 feet throughout the run. In other words, there are very few relaxing portions of this run.
Maybe I’ve over-thinking this particular exercise, though, as The Country Music Marathon (CMM) covered 1,000 feet of elevation as well. There’s something about running in the mountains, though, that feels intimidating. Of course, this is one of the main reasons I’m running this race. I never doubted I’d finish the CMM, but I have no idea how this race will break.
There’s something about the uncertainty of it that excites me.
The other reason I’m running is because I want to be there to witness the Highland Games. I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life writing and talking about Appalachia, the home to my family for two hundred years. Yet I feel distant from my home. I have spent too much time away from it.
When my friend told me about this race two years ago, I made a pact with myself to run it someday. At the time, I was still smoking and just coming off my first year of sobriety so I wasn’t sure when – or if – I would keep that promise.
For the next 67 days, I’m dedicating myself to making sure I keep that promise in as grand a fashion as I can. I’m not angling for a personal best, nor am I setting my sights on qualifying for the Pike’s Peak Ascent. I’m going to pack my camera and record my journey. I’m going to talk to all the volunteers along the route. I’m going to enjoy the scenery of my Appalachian home.
I have no idea when – or if – I will cross the finish line. This race isn’t about that for me. It’s about a journey home. It’s about re-connecting with the mountains.
It’s about Appalachia.