“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”
~ Akira Kurosawa
As all runners know, sometimes the only time sanity can be found is when we are running. There is a therapeutic effect that only running can bring. Call me a mad dreamer, but I have such lofty goals for Girls With Sole, and running a marathon in every state of America is part of my plan to reach them.
Spending even the shortest amount of time in the Mad River Valley quickly affirmed that I am also just mad about Vermont. The Mad Marathon was a crazy-challenging and insanely hilly course, but be it mad cow disease – or simply my mad passion for running, the great outdoors, and raising awareness for Girls With Sole – I’m nuts over the 19th state I have completed for 50 States for Sole!
My trusty “side-kick”, Tattoo Liz, was along for the ride once again, and with the addition of a new traveling companion, named Jihad, we started our drive to Vermont on July 4th, 2014. Jihad is an 18-year-old high school graduate and amazing photographer who was sent by the producers and director of the documentary film being made about my life, called “Finish Line” in order to capture the trip on film. We were happy to have him along, and I think by the end of it all, he was happy that he went as well.
After many long hours in the car, by evening we were in the Adirondacks and decided to stop for some dinner at a pleasingly amiable Lake Pleasant restaurant that accepted cash only and hadn’t been updated in anyway since the Kennedy Administration. It was perfect! We bellied up to the formica boomerang counter top on three stools and got smoked out by the grill while waiting for our burgers and admiring the kitschy 60’s mountain decor. It was like a veritable slice of Americana on our nation’s birthday!
Sitting on the stools and chuckling, we tossed around the possible comedic value that could be had if the three of us jumped up on the counter and belted out our best rendition of the song “Problem.” Tattoo was going to be Ariana Grande, I would take the part of Iggy Azalea, and Jihad was going to do his best Big Sean impersonation. Since we were all pretty hungry, didn’t want to get thrown out or arrested, and because none of us knew the words to the song (not to mention not one of us can actually sing) we decided against it.
Almost immediately upon leaving our dinner spot, we crossed the bridge into Vermont. It was extremely exciting to have arrived, and to begin the winding, mountainous part of our journey.
I was behind the wheel, as my Kia Sportage made its way up the densely wooded and cloud covered mountains in its best “Little Engine That Could” style. I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind that if a car is having trouble climbing these mountains…what would running them be like? That’s when a mama moose and her two little babies stepped out of the woods to cross the road in front of my car! Luckily we were barely chugging our way up, so it was easy to stop and watch them cross. We were all so excited and awe struck that the three moose on the loose made their way to the other side of the road and into the dense trees before any of us could snap a picture of them. I guess they will forever be our own private Snuffleupagus – but like Big Bird – we all knew they were there and enjoyed the site of them while we could.
We continued to climb and rounded a few more sharp turns, deciding amongst ourselves to drive to the area near the Sugarbush Inn where we had reservations to stay the night before the race. Since we had no plans or hotel reservations made for our first night in town, it made sense to spontaneously find something in the area and crash out. This will probably sound mad, but as we rounded yet another sharp bend on our ascent, it was as if someone took the wheel, and completely outside of my own control, sharply turned it to the left, abruptly steering us into a small, scenic mountain overlook. None of us expected it, and although I think we were all surprised to be there, we welcomed the opportunity to get out of the car and take in the scenery.
Ears popping, and feeling dizzy from the altitude, all three of us basically tripped and stumbled out of the car as a man and a woman in a convertible pulled in and parked next to us.
The woman had a very kind smile and as she flashed it at me, while eyeing the magnet on the side of my car, she asked what Girls With Sole was. I told her about Girls With Sole, and she smiled even brighter. We all introduced ourselves, and told them that I was running a marathon in all 50 states for Girls With Sole, which brought us to town for the Mad Marathon.
The woman’s name was Joanne, and her husband was named Greg. As luck would have it, they asked us where we were staying for the night, and when we told them we were looking for a place, they let us know that they owned a Bed & Breakfast and invited us to stay there.
We piled back into the car and followed them to the most blissful and magnificent place we could have ever asked for. The room was a beautiful, spacious and open loft space. Upstairs, it had a living area, bed, and a bathroom on the lower level, overlooking the Green mountains and the beautiful land that constituted Joanne and Greg’s backyard. The most amazing part about the whole thing was the name of their B&B. Of all the crazy and coincidental things, it was called Anam Cara, which is Gaelic for “Soul Friend.”
I was blown away by their kindness, the sacred mountains that Joanne explained to us in detail, and certainly by the name of the place! Joanne told us much about the sanctity and sacredness of the lush green hills, and about the Green Mountain Monastery, located within them. She made it clear to me that if you want to create an intention and make it come to fruition, this is the land to do it on – so I did. I made my intentions for Girls With Sole known as I looked out at the mountains, and as I ran in them during the marathon.
I left Anam Cara feeling refreshed and ready to run. The hills no longer scared me, and I knew that I would be uncomfortable at times, but I would have the strength and energy I needed to run the race- happy and unafraid. It would be the most sane form of madness that a group of people could come together to do.
There were about 281 crazies who ran the full marathon and 366 who ran the half marathon. The marathon Expo was rather small, and the shirts were just okay, but what was lacking in those departments was made up in great volunteers, plentiful aid stations, majestic beauty, and enough quaintness to choke a Vermont cow.
We started the race with balmy temperatures in the low 70’s at the Mad River Green in central Waitsfield Village, and ran for a bit on route 100 before turning onto the first secondary road and through a covered bridge…on yes, Bridge Street. At the beginning of the race we were at 600 feet, and as we ran, we climbed to a little over 1500 feet! There was a 7 mile uphill stint, made more easily digestible by the breathtaking views of charming backcountry lanes, farms, barns and exquisite homesteads.
Along the amazingly beautiful course, I happily ran past two little brown cows, and two giant, untethered bulls -complete with huge, white horns! They stood there- completely still- with the swish of their thick eyelashes as the only indication that they were real and not some very lifelike statues. One of the little cows had a white marking in the shape of a heart on his forehead, and I wanted to run over and kiss it – but thought better of it with the two bulls standing there. Taking in their majestic beauty, I conceded to being happy with the fact that, like the little cow, I too am mad about Vermont, and “heart” it as well.