Sue, Jim & Cody on the 14,433' summit of MT Elbert, CO - The highest peak in the Rocky Mountains


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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March 13

“A joy that is shared is a joy made double.”   Old English Proverb 

Our wedding bands

Crewing at the Leadville 100

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 do.

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.


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 runners.

Jim doesn't have a trail name yet, but I think he needs one. Any suggestions?


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; it included symbols of the day they met (something about a VW Bug and a picnic, as I recall).

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 (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 ( 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, trail).

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 there" on 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.


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 the race.

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!”

Yeah, right.

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!


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 history buff.

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 groceries frequently.

He will also be primarily in charge of paying bills on the internet, 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 event sounds easier than crewing for it.


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 helping me reach Mt. Katahdin.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater


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 © 2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil