By Bill Gentry
[To read about the Greenbrier River Trail, go to the trail Web site.]
The crunch-crunch-crunch of a couple hundred thousand footfalls. The simple solitude of the Greenbrier River, at times a roar but most often a silent companion. Many, many peaceful views across a land largely untouched by time.
A trail so canopied by trees that Bob Ring and I could have gone shirtless without sunscreen and not picked up a burn. Two pretty cool tunnels and 51 bridges. One lone town, Marlinton, directly on the trail, so what an amazing blessing to have Bob's work friends Thomas and Jerry driving all over Hell's Half-Acre with our aid. The realization that without bloodhounds like Thomas and Jerry on our side, this would have been an entirely different, exponentially more difficult trek.
The utter good fortune to have a 46F start, a low-70s day with no wind and no rain and a 54F finish to a mid-July run. The interesting self-reflection that happens when you spend the first 30 minutes and then the final hour of the same run in darkness.
The funny tricks your brain plays on you as you try to do simple math involving the following: A 77-mile-long trail with a stone marker at each mile, but with the markers labeled from Mile 80 to Mile 3. The amazing success we had with a 7-minute run/3-minute walk routine that kept us strong and steady the entire time.
Giving an A-minus to the experiment of going that whole way without any solid food, choosing instead to go with Equate meal replacement drinks, Fusion bottled smoothies, green tea, Red Bull, water, and ginger ale. Fighting back just a few hours of mid-afternoon belly problems and having to a half-dozen potty breaks because, well, Friday night's kielbasa/onions/home fries mix ranks as the dumbest pre-run meal I've ever consumed. Being glad that I solved that mess and that it didn't really detract from the fun. Knowing that stuff is going to happen during a day full of forward movement that starts with a 3:30 a.m. wake-up and ends with a midnight bedtime, so dealing with it brings great satisfaction.
Seventy-seven miles. 17:17:16. 17 rabbits. 14 deer. Two new friends made. Lots of gravels. Lots of laughs. Maybe being the first ones to ever run the whole enchilada in one shot. Feeling tired but not all that uncomfortable at the end. Having a cold beer while flat on my back with feet propped up at trail's end, beaming with the joy of effort well spent, a plan well executed, a long day out of which we squeezed every ounce.
A run I will remember forever.