Running across Rhode Island with Keith Tomaselli William J Campbell, Kristin Harkins, Anthony H. LoCicero III, Neil Brecher, Dave Maver, Johanna Reade Goode, Justin Relkin, Meggles Kelly, Rachael Harr, Kelly Payne, Jennifer McConaghie and Elka Easter at Newport Beach, RI.

Running across Rhode Island with Keith Tomaselli William J Campbell, Kristin Harkins, Anthony H. LoCicero III, Neil Brecher, Dave Maver, Johanna Reade Goode, Justin Relkin, Meggles Kelly, Rachael Harr, Kelly Payne, Jennifer McConaghie and Elka Easter at Newport Beach, RI.

When I talk about distance running, the reaction I usually get is: “Don’t you get bored?  Isn’t that repetitive and tedious?  Don’t you get tired of being alone? Doesn’t that hurt?”

  1. Repetitive.  Tedious.  Solitary. Painful.  This is what people think of running long distances.

On October 18th, 14 FBR runners set out to prove those assumptions wrong. It started, fittingly, at a cold, snowy beer run to McGillins in the winter of 2014.  Justin Relkin & Dave Maver…for reasons unknown to us all…approached me with the question “why don’t we run across a state?” Absurd as the idea was, that question was the problem: it appears there is no valid “why not”.   If you can run across a state…well, you probably should. Once Rhode Island was selected as the state, and an October date was set, the logistics of the run faced a few challenges:

  • The point-to-point nature of the run requires not only interested runners, but a dedicated crew to help drive cars and support the runners.
  • Rhode Island is a state of many bridges…and while the main bridges have pedestrian walkways, they do not allow pedestrians.  Any route would have to be somewhat indirect.

At the end of the day, concern over the logistics was for naught.  We did better than recruit a crew: we recruited an enthusiastic group of runners who were happy to divide their time between support, and running significant sections of the course.  Everyone would be a participant. The final route was somewhat arbitrary, but was the best we could come up with to avoid major bridges and complete the run at a beach on the Massachusetts State Line.  To do this, we would run approximately 20 miles east from the Connecticut State Line, and then turn southeast until we ran out of land.   The run was broken into 4 legs of 8.5-11(ish) mile stretches to allow for easy rendezvous with cars, and the opportunity for runners to switch off. We could not have been luckier.

The weather on the morning Saturday, October 19th was extraordinary: mid 60’s and sunny most of the day, with scenery highlighted by vibrant fall colors.  We found parking along the side of the road within eyesight of the “Welcome to Rhode Island” sign, nervously completed our preparations, and sent off the first batch of runners. Throughout the day, we ran through rural, wooded communities, parallel to the highest point in Rhode Island, up & down numerous hills, along somewhat busy local highways (with nail-bitingly narrow shoulders), into the outskirts of a city, through Providence, RI, across the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design, into residential RI, along a pedestrian/bike pathway overlooking a bay, and eventually down a forested community street to a (small) beach. At all times, we boasted a group of 8-11 runners, most sporting FBR shirts, running together when we were able, breaking down to our own paces when needed, and stopping to support each other at every major turn.

RI - Starting out

When all was said and done, the venture took around 8.5 hours (including a delay in Providence to allow a rainstorm to pass, as well as multiple breaks and stops) and added up to 38 total miles.  My persona highlights of the day:

  • Watching Keith Tomaselli run all 38 miles to complete his firstUltra run with energy to spare – despite committing to the run only a week or two earlier.
  • Rachael Harr & Meg Kelly each finishing the longest runs of their lives, with Rachael finishing the whole shebang (38 miles), and Meg running 22 miles.
  • A surprise crew stop around mile 33: without the runners knowing, the crew team decided to meet us before the final 5 miles. The unexpected friendly faces recharged all of the very tired runners when they needed it most.
  • Jeremiah Jancik, who was intending to bike the course instead of running, took a tire malfunction in stride, and ran back to his car instead of calling for backup.  That’s one way to roll with the punches!
  • The stranger who asked runners around mile 37 what they were doing, in their matching shirts…with the only reply to be given that “we…came up from Philadelphia…and we’ve been running since Connecticut…and we’re running to whatever is at the end of your street?” Said stranger gave us the best cheer of the day as we passed his house a few minutes later, a mere half mile from the end.
  • Neil Brecher & William J Campbel running through a break, and then an extra quarter-mile when the rest of us were done, just to make sure they got in 20 miles.
  • The complete absence of complaints through a long, unpredictable day of running and driving, and the constant smiles on the faces of everyone both crewing and running.

After the run, Keith noted that,  A year ago I was training for a marathon…something I wanted to do, but never thought I actually would.  Again the whole ultra-marathon thing was something I wanted to do but never thought I would actually do; but here I am an ultra-marathoner and I really mean this when I say it: I would not have done this, or the marathon if it wasn’t for you guys, and FBR as a whole.  I really can’t put into words what this run meant to me this weekend, and it kind of happen in a blur for me.” And that’s the thing about distance running: you think it’s an individual sport, until the day you learn that it’s really about the people around you – the people running with you, training with you, cheering for you, and supporting you. To the theoretical person I began with:  I might not be able to refute that it can be painful.  But the rest of it, I can dispute: if it is boring to run, go somewhere interesting.  If it is tedious and repetitive, try exploring.  If it is solitary, find fellow travelers.  Make an adventure out of your running, bring along your friends, and you may be surprised by what you can do.

Fourteen FBR Runners made the trip to Rhode Island: Justin Relkin, Rachael Harr, Keith Tomaselli, Johanna Goode (the whole shebang – 38(ish) miles), Anthony Locicero (29.4375(ish) miles), Meg Kelly (22(ish) miles), Neil Brecher (20.6(ish) miles), William J Campbell (20(ish) miles), Kristin Harkins (15(ish) miles), Dave Maver (12.5(ish) miles), Kelly Payne (10.5(ish) miles), Elka Easter & Jennifer McConaghie (9.75 miles), Jeremiah Jancik (8.5(ish) miles + biking)…and many collective miles of crew& support.

RI - full crew