This odyssey would not be possible without the complete and
total psychological and physical support of my husband, Jim O’Neil. When I
succeed in reaching Mt. Katahdin this summer, he deserves as much credit as I
Our two ultra running Labrador retrievers are part of the
family and will be included in The Run.
And I hope some of my running friends, including runners I
haven’t met yet, will join me on the Trail along the way.
So I’ve decided to refer to our adventure run team as “Runtrails &
Company” since it’s a GROUP endeavor!
I can’t do it "my way" alone. Even traditional
back-packers often have some help along the way.
MY TRAIL NAME
Most AT thru-hikers use “trail names” to refer to
themselves during and after their long journey. Some choose their own monikers,
as I have. Others wait to have a name bestowed upon them by their peers after
they begin their hikes.
Some folks come up with very clever names, like the older
couple I met on the Trail when I was running recently: they are "The Meanderthals." I love that one!
Two AT runners had very appropriate names. David Horton became “The Runner” because that’s what the
hikers called him early on during his 1991 speed record on the Trail. Regis
Shivers, from Ohio, went by "Buckeye" and his wife/crew was "Buckeye Babe."
(Ohio is the Buckeye State.)
Since some hikers end up with less than flattering trail names when
they let other people choose based on personal characteristics or an “incident”
(usually embarrassing) early in their hike, I decided to pick my own name!
I’ve used “runtrails” and “runtrails1” for my e-mail
address the last nine years, so I figured it would be appropriate for this trek. I tried to come up with some other names, but the
best ones have already
been taken by hikers or are current e-mail addresses or nicknames of ultra
Jim doesn't have a trail name yet, but I think he needs
one. Any suggestions?
OUR "TEAM" LOGO
I sketched a "team logo" (see bottom of this page) to
possibly use on labels to put in the trail registers that are situated all along
the Appalachian Trail. The logo represents our passion for ultra running and is
a take-off of the design on our wedding bands (photo above).
Before we got married, we looked in jewelry stores and art
shows all over the country as we traveled to races and just couldn’t find unique
rings that symbolized our lives together.
Then we heard about a gold jewelry artist right under our
noses in Billings, Montana, where we lived at the time. Mark Somers’ web site
intrigued us enough to make an appointment to see his designs. We knew we’d hit
the jackpot when Mark told us about a “story ring” he’d designed for a couple;
included symbols of the day they met (something about a VW Bug and a picnic, as
Bingo! We told Mark about our passion for running mountain
trails, about running day and night, about our trail dogs. He started drawing
mountains, trees, a river, the sun, moon, and stars, two runners, and two dogs.
After we approved the design, he made a cast and soon the rings were ours. We
love them! He even has them featured on the “story ring” page of his web site;
follow the link on his home page at
www.gold-arts.com. (Mark took the photo on his site, and I took the one
on this page.)
Jim has known about my dream to run the AT since we met
several years ago. It was right there on my ultra listserv bio (www.run100s.com)
for all to see under the category of “long term goals.”
Back then, it looked like a long time before we’d be able
to do the trek, since Jim would have to be retired, too. Now that he’s been
retired for a year and we’ve had time to adjust to our new lifestyle and new
home on the other side of the country, it’s time to get this show on the road (er,
It’s great to be married to another ultra runner. When I
was married to a non-athlete, I was envious of the supportive relationships of
the “running couples” I knew. After I got divorced, I deliberately chose a new
partner who understood why I’m so addicted to trail ultra running – and with
whom I could share the joys of training and traveling to races.
(Yes, there is more to our relationship than running. We
both know we’re but one injury away from never running again, so we have other
important interests and values in common, too.)
Jim and I train together as much as we can, but he has
always been faster than me. Most days we run alone and just see each other "out
the trails. Some days one of us runs and the other rests or cross-trains. We
encourage and support each other’s goals and help each other get out the door on
crappy weather days when we’d rather stay inside. We enjoy spending time
comparing notes on our training, deciding which races to run, and traveling
around the country in our camper to run and socialize with our ultra friends.
It’s a great life, and one I dreamed of for many years.
"CREW" = CRANKY RUNNER /
Crewing for each other at long ultras, particularly
100-milers, is a lot of fun. Jim and I often run different 100s so we’ll have a crew
and pacer. Neither of us is dependent on having a crew or pacer - it’s just more
fun that way. We’ve crewed and/or paced each other at more than a dozen 100s (plus several 50-milers
and 100Ks), so we know pretty well what is needed to assist the person running
For example, I've learned to just roll my eyes (but act
sympathetic) when Jim informs me at mile
75 in a 100-miler that he’s “never going to run one of these again!”
This crewing experience will serve us well during the AT
adventure run – except Jim’s going to have to crew and pace for about FOUR
MONTHS, not just one or two days! That’s a big responsibility.
This trek is a lot more complicated than any ultra race
we’ve ever done. There’s no race director to provide a marked course, crew
directions, place for drop bags, or aid stations. WE are the directors of this
adventure run. We have to determine on a
daily basis how far to run, the location of accessible trailheads morning and
afternoon, where to park the camper, what food and drink to carry, etc., etc.
It’s all up to us. I LIKE that!
JIM'S HUGE ROLE IN THIS
After Jim drops me off each morning at a trailhead, he has
several options. He can run with me then or choose to wait until afternoon to
run in to get me from the pick-up point. Some days he won’t run or hike at all.
I’m hoping he’ll have time to visit some nearby historical sites since he’s a
Every couple days he will have to find a laundry and wash
our clothes. On rainy days, there will be additional laundry (dirty rugs and dog
towels and bedding, e.g.). It rains a LOT along the Appalachian Trail. That’s
why it’s so green! (I've mentioned that, what, in about six prep pages already??)
Since the refrigerator and freezer in the camper are small,
we’ll need to restock food frequently. We go through lots of perishables now –
wait till we each need 4,000-6,000 calories a day! Jim will be shopping for
He will also be primarily in charge of paying bills on the
handling phone calls and e-mail correspondence, coordinating folks who want to
run with me, putting my journal on our web page after I write it, buying more
supplies and gear, deciding where to move the camper next, maintaining the
camper and truck, and taking care of one or both dogs while I’m on the Trail.
I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting just now. Jim’s going
to be one busy guy, and I’m gonna owe him BIG time! Right now, running this
easier than crewing for it.
MORE THAN JUST RUNNING
Of course, I’ll do as many of those things as I can in the
evenings and on rest (“zero”) days.
Although my primary goal each afternoon will be to clean
up, eat, and rest, I can’t possibly expect Jim to do everything. He’s a good
cook, but I’ll help prepare meals and choose menus. I’ll also need to maintain
my gear and supplies, write my journal/edit photos to put on the web site,
correspond with friends who write or call, feed and groom the dogs, and assist
with many of the decisions that need to be made as we travel north.
When this gets overwhelming, I’ll take some time off to
re-group. We plan to return home periodically for one or two days to take care
of business there. We want to see some interesting places along the way and take
time to socialize with friends and relatives who want to see us.
I want this adventure run to be more than just running from
Point A to Point B. It is not a race.
I want memories
to last the rest of our lives. I want us to have FUN and not get too stressed
out about having to be somewhere at a particular time (except July 16-17 for the
Vermont 100 race).
It's very important to me that Jim
not only has fun along the way, but that he gets the credit he deserves for
reach Mt. Katahdin.