Trail Run, U.S.A., and My New Pseudo 90-in-90

I’m sitting in at my living room desk, gear surrounding my feet, a binder of information sitting next to me, and Brad’s U.S. Trail Running Adventure Google Map open behind my blog.

In less than two weeks, I’ll leave Muncie behind for the summer and set about my journey to Austin, Texas, where I’ll be putting the finishing touches on my house in order to finally place it on the market. When it finally sells, the last remnants of my drinking life will finally be behind me.

Brad@40 will be in full swing. More importantly, I’ve finally figured out what I want the next few years of my life to look like.


I grew up camping with my family. Not the primitive, backpacker camping where you disappear for days on end. We went in big groups with family friends, exploring the Appalachian region (without my parents ever really telling us that’s what we were doing) and getting away from the house.

I was frightfully bored as a kid when we’d do that. I had no idea how to keep myself interested most of the time. There wasn’t anything but woods, water, and paths.

I was a child of the country suburb, wide open spaces filled with other kids about my age. We could entertain ourselves quite easily, and when we ran out of options we’d gather to watch television or play console games.

Still, my parents insisted upon taking us out to the country for years even as we upgraded from tents to pop-up campers to a full RV.


I swore when I grew up, I would leave the country in my rearview mirror.

I was finished with the bugs, the humidity, the boredom, the emptiness, the ignorance, the slow days, the lack of culture, and a never-ending laundry list of what  I wouldn’t miss about country.

I fled to Austin, San Francisco, and Boston – places where I thought I could escape all of those things I hated. (I couldn’t escape my town, though. For example: Cincinnati Freedom, the famous escape cow got loose while I worked at Wired.)

Instead, I found places that lacked the basic charms of my hometown. There is an impersonal nature to the cities, the kind of walk-on-by that comes from being crammed on top of 700,000 people. You must ignore them if you are to create the illusion of private space.

Names and faces turned over as people moved from job to job, from place to place, from city to city. And worst of all, I found an institutional loathing – not overt mind you, ingrained beyond recognition – for the world where I grew up.

Somewhere along the way, I began to long for the very thing I swore to leave behind.


Today, I live in a small town nestled about halfway between Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne. I say small, but there are close to 50,000 people living here. That’s a far cry from the hundreds of thousands in Boston, Austin, and San Franciso – each which has in the neighborhood of 800,000 people.

It’s been a wonderful lace to get sober, something that’s taken up quite a bit of space on this blog.

In the last year, though, I’ve started preparing myself to return to life amongst the general population. To do that, I’ve tried to cultivate very good habits. I stopped drinking (obviously) 3 years and 13 days ago; I quit smoking 1 year, 15 weeks, and 4 days ago; and I started running 1 year, 14 weeks, and 4 days ago.

As I type them, they sound very small. As I lived them, they have turned out to be very big.

That dichotomy: learning to embrace the very small as important in very big ways is something sobriety has allowed me to do.


In two weeks, I’ll begin a trip from Muncie to Austin very much like the trips I have taken scores of times since 1995.

This time, however, my trip will look different. I’ve decided to go slow, stopping at State Parks along the way, taking in trail runs recommended by Runner’s World, Backpacker, Outside, Competitor, and Trail Runner: One Dirty Magazine. (As an aside: as soon as you folks create an App for the Android Tablet, you will have a subscriber.)

I’m doing this because this year I want to take my running seriously. I am never going to be an elite athlete. I’ve damaged my body too much over the years for that, but I am less concerned about the destination these days.

I’ve done two marathons in the past six months, with one more coming up in July. I’ll likely sign up for at least one more before the end of the year.

It’s hard to explain why to people who don’t run. There is simply something out on the road that reminds me that I’m alive. I lose all sense of perspective when I am running, the problems and fears I have about life slip away. The Zen Coaching I push on my students becomes quite real to me as the path underneath me flows by.

I am a runner now, but I am not yet where I want to be. There is more to explore. And I think the place where I need to do that is somewhere not on roads and streets. It’s not on paved roads, near centers of population, nor in the shadow of buildings.

I think it’s out on the trails, away from the casual runners and closer to those who have taken the time and the effort to seek out the remote-ness that nature offers.


Which brings me to the next 90-in-90 Challenge.

I’ve decided for the rest of this year (see, not exactly 90-in-90), I’m going to write about two things: education and running, with the occasional divergence into writing or technology whenever those two ideas intersect with education and running.

This is where my life is right now. This is where my energy and efforts need to be. To bring a focus into my life, a clarity of purpose, I’m consolidating and simplifying.

I’m not sure where this particular journey will go. I’m not entirely sure I’m worried about that as of yet.

I just know that in a few days, I will head out across America in search of something on the beautiful trails of the South and Southwest. I’ll worry about the rest later.

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One comment

  • Pwsmary May 26, 2011   Reply →

    Those numbers of quitting those unhealthy habits as this say they are big as in BIG! I salute you you have a great discipline under your nose. Horay

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This newsletter is the outgrowth of The Downtown Writers Jam podcast. What that means is I will collect information about the authors I interview, book happenings around the Web, and other literary events that I find interesting. Without you, I'm just a crazy guy sitting in his office furiously screaming on the page for no reason.
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