Doing the dance is better than sitting it out:

Whispering Pines 50k


Mike Baker,


We all get so hung up, sometimes, on knowing the course so that we might understand what’s being expected of us, know what we’ll have to do to say when we’re finished. It is a shame we care at all. Runners are worse than those boys who put boats in bottles, if people still do that sort of thing, because putting a man-o-war in a bottle is perhaps slightly more meaningful.

The man-o-war in the bottle has some sort of historical significance. You can say, look at my man-o-war in a bottle. It fought at the battle of (insert any 18th century sea battle). We can say we ran and then we’re immediately asked, what were you running from? Bears? The police?

I like to say that I am running from my mother-in-law who is most certainly, out there somewhere, stalking me, like the dark angel of my demise but more likely I run for some innate reason that relates to our genetic programming but I am secretly afraid it doesn’t matter.

If it is some deep seated child-like imperative to play, to be free, then it is a form of madness akin to your great uncle Lenny out in the streets of his neighborhood fighting Germans house to house in Stalingrad. I say, so be it.

The human race is fraught with madness. Running is harmless compared to the real insanities we are capable of but it is, at its best, an irrational desire to do completely unnecessary thing for reasons not ever worth trying to explain. We run.

Last weekend I went to Dade City and saw some old friends from college. A quiet evening rehashing past glory turned into a full blown house party with a fire pit, 2 or 3 fist fights and many declarations of love ended with the ubiquitous phrase, “I swear it isn’t the beer talking”. When I woke up at 4am, they were still drinking as I was headed off to run a 50k in nearby Inverness.

The race was a disaster. The course was unmarked which didn’t matter much since we weren’t permitted to use the park and were asked to hide our race numbers. I ran six laps progressively slower and slower, being pretty much inebriated when I got there. I ran with everyone who showed up that day (26 runners or so).

I ran with a few fast people from Tampa and two brothers from Mexico. I can’t say that any of them ran the exact course but they ran it fast. I ran with two guys who were running their first ultra. They beat me by the way. They were not drunk. I ran with the Frenchman that did win. I think he was drunk.

It was like a Keystone movie, everyone running in weird mixed up circles, crossing paths occasionally to ask which way was the right way and no one really caring what the actual answer might be.

My second to last lap was walked with three ultra-runners in their 70’s. We didn’t even power walk. We moseyed. It was so nice. I heard my favorite quote, “Sometimes the Devil is right, not because he is the Devil but because he is old. And he’s the Devil”. Jerry, one of the 70 year olds had run his last Ironman a few years before. They were so sweet.

I ran the last lap with a lady who was, to say the least, a might bit peeved by the circumstances of the race. She was mad at her friends for dragging her there. She was mad at the RD for the enormous catastrophe of the event. She was a little mad at me for being guilted into running one more lap. I think she missed the point. I think she would say the same about me.

I would have run the lap anyhow. It doesn’t take much goading to get me to do things like that. I love running. My wife says I’m just too dull to ask why but she qualifies it by saying I was dumber in my 20’s. We ran 31 miles, pretty much, and called it a day.

There was medal but it was more like a sea shell you pick up at the beach. It isn’t the ocean but it reminds you of the pretty girl you saw, the way the cold water felt on your legs, the blown out feeling you had all day afterward and into the next morning.

I run because I can’t think of anything else to do that will get my friends to show up on the regular and listen to me pontificate about running. I run because I own three pairs of running shoes and what else would I do with them.

Yesterday, on that ambling mess of a run, my running partner told me about this ten mile trail in Quincy. It’s all gnarly greasy single track. I can’t stop running it in my head because I just want it to be next Tuesday. I just want to run.