Running for the Water

It was 3 a.m. when we stepped outside.  A slight chill was in the air and the stars were brilliant in the cloudless night sky.  My friend Jon and I were about to attempt something we had never done before to raise money for clean water wells in third world countries.

It was 3:05 when we took the first steps of our 39 mile run to Portsmouth, NH.

This all started several months back when one of us thought it would be a good idea to run from Chester, NH, to the seacoast.  That idea snowballed into a fundraising event we called “Running for the Water.”

The idea was pretty standard.  Come up with something crazy to accomplish, ask people to support our chosen charity (World Vision in this case) and then perform said crazy task.  So, Jon and I met, planned, set up a donation website using www.active.com‘s free charity service and started spreading the word.

Our friend Jason offered to act as a member of our support crew.  He started the run with us.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather, a crisp and cool 52 degrees to start.  We talked a little and cruised along the empty country roads.  As the sun began to rise, the night sky rolled up like a blanket until the warm oranges and pinks of a NH Spring morning dominated the horizon.

Jason and Jon run in the early morning sunlight.

We continued on through Southern NH town after Southern NH town, taking walking breaks every 10 miles or so to refuel and regulate our heart rates.  Food consisted PB&Js and energy gels.  The scenery was beautiful, with many rural farm fields stretching out under the morning sun, as if just waking up.  A light fog hovered above the ponds.

The fields stretched out as if just waking in the morning sun.

We kept to our regular training plans as we prepared for this run.  Jon ran the Cox Rhode Island Marathon in May and he and I ran as team mates on a Reach the Beach Relay:MA Ultra team.  About a month before the run, we began sending out e-mails to our friends and family asking for support and they began to give generously.

The week before the run I started to prepare mentally.  I tapered off my miles and developed mental strategies to help cope with the fatigue of 39 miles on the road.  One last e-mail to our contact lists brought in a fresh wave of donations throughout the week.

Our second support runner, Don (see his appearance in my RTB Relay article), arrived with his van around mile 22 and switched places with Jason.  It was great having our two friends running at our side.  They provided the encouragement and conversation we needed to push through.  Shortly after Don joined us, we came to Ocean Blvd. in North Hampton.

Running with Don

We hit the 26.2 mile mark just after turning onto the coastal route.  With a half marathon left to go, things started to get difficult.  In addition to the mental and physical fatigue setting in, we faced a vicious head wind and colder temperatures.  Clouds rolled in to hide the sun’s warmth.  It also felt as if our heart rates were spiking, so we took walk breaks every two miles to help get them back under control.  We kept grinding out the miles.

A marathon down, a half marathon to go.

The day before the run, it was all I could think about.  What would I need?  Buy energy gels.  Pack.  Then came the anxiety.  39 miles is a long way, can I really run that far?  What if I can’t do it?  I tried my best to push those thoughts to the back of my head and then headed to Jon’s house for a couple hours of sleep.

2:30 a.m. comes quickly, especially when you don’t fall asleep until nearly 10:30.  I had dressed the night before, so I grabbed a bite to eat, put on my reflective vest and arm warmers and laced up my shoes.  It was go time.

Things got better once we reach Odiorne State Park.  The road veered away from the water the trees broke the wind.  These two factors raised our spirits.  A group of other runners passed us.  We slowed for one final breather before picking up the pace and heading into Portsmouth.

A view of the seacoast shortly before the clouds rolled in.

By the time we reached the outskirts of the city, the downhills made my quads throb and stopping or slowing to walk was downright painful.  The old residences and brick buildings of Portsmouth’s historic downtown were a welcome sight as we finally came into town.  One last turn onto Congress St. and we were home free.  We stopped just outside the Runner’s Alley store.

High fives ensued and we tried walking for a few minutes to stay loose but quickly made use of the benches in front of our breakfast destination, The Friendly Toast.  After eating a hearty breakfast, we gingerly loaded our smelly selves into the van with Jason and Don and headed home.

Exhausted but happy, Jon and I collapse onto a bench.

When all was said and done, we raised over $1,000 dollars for clean water wells in third world countries!  A huge thank you goes out to everyone who supported this endeavor.  To learn more about the need for clean water, check out the World Vision website.

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