The night before my 30th birthday, I turned to my wife Becky and told her that I was going to run a marathon at Kesling Park the next morning.
I already had one notched in my belt from three years prior, but I wanted to run one on my own. She looked at me and didn’t seem that surprised. Her lack of astonishment didn’t come because I am some avid marathoner, she was just accustomed to my spur of the moment decision-making.
That night, I wrote a list of 26 things that were important to me or I was struggling with at the time. Each of the 26 items would serve as tribute to the 26 laps I needed to get in to complete the mini-adventure. For every mile, I would become mindful of each item and contemplate it throughout each lap. I figured this could serve as some motivation during the more difficult parts of the run. If you’re wondering about the 0.2 miles I need to officially run the distance, I figured the steps in the parking lot linking the end of the trail to the beginning probably made up for the quarter mile in between the 26 laps.
I chose Kesling because it’s probably the safest place to run in La Porte. Really the entire town is slowly becoming more runner-friendly. With the addition of bike lanes and the Chessie Trail, La Porte is etching its name on the map as a runner’s destination. However, Kesling has a place to park so you are never more than a half mile away from your car, and most people out there keep their dogs, a.k.a. my nemeses, on leashes. I figured I could keep water and food in my truck and never be too far away from the sustenance which is required to run such a distance.
The morning of the run the weather was completely terrible for April. I’m talking full on wind gusts of 40 miles per hour, snow, sleet and rain. I threw a box of Granola bars and fruit snacks on the front seat along with a gallon of water and drove off. When I arrived at Kesling, the parking lot was empty. I threw on a wind breaker over my long sleeve shirt, put my list in my pocket and started the run.
Now I certainly do not remember every detail or thought of the feat, but I do recall a conversation with myself that took notice of the changing skies. Every lap finished offered new views of the same sky. Whether it was a darkish blue and purple cloud formation lumbering above, or wispy clouds moving at high speeds ushered by northern winds. I thought of the wonders of time and how it is perhaps the most persistent force in our comprehensible world.
During that four hour-and-some-odd-minute run, I felt like I was one with the elements. My beard and mustache had frozen mucus dangling from it. My feet were wet from the sleet and snow that penetrated by shoes, and my skin was so wind burned that I felt like I had spent an hour in the tanning bed. The run was something I will remember forever and I’m glad I did it.
You can not beat the scenery and tranquility at Kesling Park. I would wager a few dollars it is the most visited park in the county with the exception of the Dunes National Lake Shore. The openness of the park offers endless possibilities of wonder if you’re into staring into the abyss like I am.
As for the list, I’m fairly certain it fell out of my pocket and blew away around mile 12 or 13. I had to reconstruct the list in my mind which, luckily, I had plenty of time to do. Release and contemplation is the beauty of running, and I am not alone in that thinking. Out of all the races I’ve covered to date, I typically ask participants the question, “why do you run?” Some do it for stress relief, some for health, some for something on a more spiritual level. All are reasons that are on similar trains of thought.
So if you and your family and dog are out at Kesling Park one day, be on the lookout for what would by now be a rather decrepit piece of paper, stained by nearly four years of time. You can shoot me an email or find me at a race to tell me the other reasons why I initially chose to run that day. Obviously, I know that probably won’t happen but that’s OK. Many of the items I was struggling with then have been vanquished by time, where the more important items like family and good health are things that will always remain.