They do not sell GU at the Circle K: Running the Truck Route Trek


Mike Baker,


The Truck Route Trek is a 27 mile run from the Oak Valley Publix at North Monroe and Capital Circle to the Killearn Publix right after Capital Circle turns into Thomasville Road. Last year I ran it with Liz, Kelsey, Mason and Dustin. Liz was the race director last year.

This year I volunteered to lead as no one else volunteered and there would be no Trek if some poor stooge didn’t step up. I have no race science or show science. I used to book little punk shows in town with amazing bands like Grabbag out of Jacksonville or Lincoln Brigade out of New Orleans.
No one would come. Or a few people would come and no one would pay to get in. I would put the out of town band last. One time I let a band tune up for 30 minutes and the entire audience walked out. I enjoy chaos too much to look after anyone else’s good time. I have no race science.

People asked me for stuff regarding the Trek, things to make the race safer, things to make the Trek more accessible to new shorter distance runners. I declined. I said, “We’d run slow as the slowest runner but you better be able to finish.” I said, “Otherwise, bring a credit card and a cell phone.”

It didn’t help that nothing is appealing about the truck route. It’s an ugly road that people use to avoid going through in-town traffic. You run mostly on concrete and asphalt, picking through construction dirt, pieces of rebar, chicken wire, bits of wood and nails, cigarette butts and dirty mud.

It’s littered with garbage and gravel, lined with drainage ditches filled with green sweaty muck. We found abandoned t-shirts and underwear, lots of tossed beer cans and a broken toy knife that I kept as a souvenir.

You spend the trek eating out of gas stations and all the restrooms smell like the industrial blue cleaner that was used to clean them. This presupposes they’re clean. There is no shade. There is no sag wagon or drop bag station.

I bought a new bladder for my W*l-mart hydration pack. It was cleverly designed out of ice pack material for hot days so empty it weighed 4lbs. Its weight plus the pack and 2 liters of water had me carrying 12 pounds of weight. I ditched the pack near Southwood.

I subsisted, for the last 13 miles, on drinks at gas stations and convenience stores. Wasted from carrying a hiking pack full of gear a half marathon I began power slamming caffeine which made me profoundly sick. I mean “can’t hold down water” sick.

That lasted for the next six miles. There is nothing as endearing as stumbling into a small euro-styled café yammering 100 mile an hour but unable to walk and bumping into your lawyer or an in-law. The Trek is fun like that.

I nearly quit back at mile 13 where I ditched the pack. I nearly quit at mile 15 hunched and twisted by a lamp post waiting for my guts to decide if they were staying inside me or not. It was only at mile 25 that I thought I had any hope of finishing.

The Trek ends on a mile long cement hill climb that breaks down whatever you have left and punishes you on the way to the bottom, one heel strike at a time, forever trying to climb it in the first place. The finish is an unceremonious Publix sign and your vehicle. You don’t get a t-shirt for showing up.
You don’t get a medal for finishing. You don’t even get a number that says you’re doing something real. I was not surprised that at 7am that morning Mason was the only other fool to show up. Kelsey had just finished a full Ironman and Liz lives in Georgia now.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a great time. I got to hang out with Mason and do something I love. The Trek was a thing worth doing. Let’s call it that. It’s like running to St.Mark’s for a few beers at Christmas or shotgunning a beer to run a mile.

It lives somewhere between racing and training. It’s the long distance running version of stuffing your friends into a phone booth. It looks fun on paper and someone is definitely going to put an eye out. It’s the road that circumnavigates our city. It’s the damn mountain you climb, why? Because it’s there.

Okay. I think there’s a point here somewhere…

I write a lot about Death. I sometimes wear skulls, bones and such when I race ultras. It helps me remember that Death comes for us all. I also think it’s funny. I think Death is funny. Here’s this thing that is the ultimate time clock. It goes off and the game is way over.

Death is so present in our lives, in fact, that we often forget its even there. That is a horrible, horrible mistake. We all know that 5k where we came around the corner and saw how close we had come to a PR but also knew we couldn’t cover the distance to the finish to get that PR.

I almost graduated with honors. I was one exam grade which translated into one point off my GPA, from graduating with honors. Bill Hillison asked me if I,”… was really just one A off”, implying there were a few grades off the mark. You see the race clock and in your heart you know all the things you didn’t do to get that PR.

Dustin, who ran with us last year, passed away. Dustin was an awesome ultra runner. He hadn’t done anything big yet but he was headed that way. He had a new born son, a beautiful sweet wife and a promising career. One day he was running and then one day he died.

I hope I speak for Mason when I say we ran the Trek for Dustin but also to remind ourselves to inhabit our own lives. I get 50 state marathon runners. I get people who do Tough Mudders. I get how most people reading this probably think I missed my own point by wasting a day doing this.

I get that too. I’m not saying you should do this. I’m saying, do something. Have your adventure right now because tomorrow is promised to no one. It was a cold day that got real hot. It was a long way to go to get nowhere in particular.

It was the Truck Route Trek, foul conditions, no support, no problem. We were running up the hill to the overpass, near the very end, and passed a couple headed in the opposite direction. They said it was all downhill from there. They had no idea.

It had been downhill since we started and as we rolled into the Publix parking lot, we were sprinting, hooting and jumping for, seemingly, no reason at all and every reason you could imagine. We dropped our bags in his truck and went into Publix.

They had sample stations out for all the holiday treats runners normally avoid: pumpkin ice cream, eggnog, apple pie dripping in hot caramel. I drank a gallon of water and I got the biggest jug of watermelon they had. I inhaled it.

I took a shower when I got home, changed and went out for tacos. My day had only just started and I had already run around the city. I had grocery shopping to do with Mrs. Baker, maybe a movie and dinner out. I had to see to my dogs.

I think that next year everyone should run in costume. Or maybe like a Burma Shave sign, everyone’s t-shirt with have a phrase, one after the other as we run along. No t-shirt, No fee and no whining. We’ll need a third runner and that last part would be a lie. There’s always whining.