Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Runner

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Dean Karnazes and the documentary UltraMarathon Man, which chronicles his quest to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.  That's a total of 1310 miles in 50 days.  Last night I watched another documentary that make Karnazes's quest look like a stroll in the park!  OK, I admit, there's nothing easy about what Karnazes did and does, and I don't take away from that, but I think even Karnazes has to be impressed with David Horton.

The Runner follows the 55-year-old Horton as he attempts to break the record for running the Pacific Crest Trail.  The PCT runs from the Mexican border in Southern California, through California, Oregon, and Washington to the Canadian border, a total of 2650 miles.  I won't keep you in suspense: he crushed the record, covering the distance in 66 days, 7 hours, 16 minutes.  So if we round off the 67 days, and take Horton's reckoning of 2666 miles (there were a few off-trail adventures), that would be almost 40 miles a day, every day, for 67 days.  (He did take a day off around day 28, during which he ate and slept all he could.)

I really enjoyed this movie on a number of levels.  First of all, as an introduction to the PCT.  Even though I went to Yosemite National Park when I was 11, I guess I mainly think of California as coastline, cities, and agriculture.  But there are major mountains in California!  (I know, pointing out the obvious!)  The trail  "passes through six out of seven of North America's ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and artic-alpine country" so hikers and runners experience quite the range of terrains and views.  Every scene was absolutely gorgeous.

Second, David Horton himself impressed me.  A committed Christian, Horton teaches health sciences at Liberty University.  Some scenes showed him running with his students in his popular running class.  His boundless energy and love of running infect the students, some of whom become ultrarunners themselves.  He loves to run, and attributes his ability to run long distances to a God-given gift.  Horton's PCT record is but one accomplishment in a long career of running ultras.  He's run all the biggees, won many of them, has run across America, run the Appalachian Trail, and is race director for several ultras.

Third, how about the sheer insanity of running that long for that many days!  Yeah, I've run a couple of 50 milers, but to run 40-50 miles, much at altitude and on rugged trails, every day for more than 2 months is inconceivable!  For many legs of his run, Horton had people running with him.  Even experienced, world-class ultra trail runners who ran with him expressed their disbelief.  They could keep up with him for a day, but struggled to imagine keeping it up days on end.  I love the way he fits in with these ultrarunners: a clean cut, middle-aged professor from one of the most conservative Christian universities hanging out with these hippie trail-running young bucks, and not only holding his own but winning their admiration.

This is a well-made video about a great guy and passionate runner, running on a gorgeous, challenging trail, setting a record and having fun.  I find nothing not to admire about Horton, and, maybe, in the back of my mind, can see myself, someday, following in his footsteps. . . . (In my dreams!)

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