This blog is a chronicle of what is, and most likely will remain, my longest trip – six months in South America. Ten years ago today, my wife, as a member of a team of 20 runners, began a round-the-world relay, called the Blue Planet Run, that is, and most likely will remain, her longest trip. They started at the United Nations, ran to Boston, flew to Ireland, ran across the island, boarded a ferry, ran across Wales and England, boarded another ferry, ran to China, took a plane to Japan, ran up that country and then flew to San Francisco where they proceeded to run to New York. They were divided into teams of four with each runner having 90 minutes to cover 10 miles each day. Each runner would get one day off in five. It was grueling and beautiful. I was fortunate enough to follow the group for their path through the United States.
The run was set up by the Blue Planet Foundation, an organization that sponsors programs to bring clean drinking water to areas without such access. Water is, obviously, of crucial importance to human survival and the ready availability of clean, potable water is a treasure and blessing westerners have come to take far too much for granted. The run was co-sponsored by Dow Chemical, for whom Mary worked at the time. I don’t recall the particulars of how they got involved – something about their having developed a polymer that facilitated the production of water piping that was cheap and robust for use in areas without significant infrastructure.
Unfortunately, I could not find the old run webpages where each runner had a bio and a blog. Mary’s blogs were amazing. She is an incredible writer. For instance, she would have written the previous two sentences such that they were not so simple with trite adjectives. She once won an iPad with her writing. Seriously, they were great blogs. At once deeply philosophical and wildly scatological. I think I have them saved somewhere as word files but I cannot now find them.
The run was a staggering feat of endurance. They were all outstanding runners and probably could have ticked off the miles without much issue. What did cause them problems was the travel. Because it was a relay, they did not stay in one place more than a few hours. So, they would complete their shift and then face a long drive hundreds of miles ahead in, and occasionally under, a cramped van for their next shift. They stayed in some unbelievable places in Siberia and Mongolia. I was very envious of her time in Mongolia, a place I long to go. She would get an excel sheet with directions for each run and I usually had a chance to look at these. You know, “run to the corner of 4th and Main then turn left”, that sort of thing. In the Gobi she had directions to run “down a lane until it disappears and then continue straight until you get to a camel’s skull. There veer right.” Sure enough, she found the skull.
It is very hard for me to describe the run because a) I didn’t run and b) I wasn’t there for most of it. The part I did see was fantastic. The runners ran through some gorgeous scenery and some of the pictures, below, of Mary running through strange lands are some of my favorite pictures of her. It was an accomplishment and experience that are certifiably once-in-a-lifetime. Along the way we made some lovely friends and it has been too long since we’ve seen them.
So, congratulations and warm wishes, Blue Planet Runners, on the 10th anniversary of the start of your run.
The team with Blue Planet founder Jin Zidell and run organizer Dill Driscoll.
Mary and friends
Finishing a run outside her hometown. Her brother joined her on that leg. Sunil Jayaraj to the left.
Mary knocks Simon Isaacs over with her mind.
At the end of a brutal climb with David Christof, Shiri Leventhal and Emmanuel Kibet.
It was eleventy hundred degrees at the end of this run. She and I hit a grocery store after this and I lost sight of her. I finally found her wandering aimlessly and incoherent near the honey. I put her to bed in the Annie Oakley motel and knew she was tired because she made no comment about the state of the room upon our arrival.
Taking the baton from Paul Rogan.
Two of the runners got married in Niagara. The rest partied. Save the poor guy who had to go out and run. (L to R: Will Dobbie, Jin Zidell, Victor Lara Ricco, Mary, unknown guy in hat (was he a runner, I don’t recognize him (sorry if I know you)), Richard Johnson and Laura Furtado.)
Reaching the Yellow Sea with Laura.
With David and Laura.
With Taeko Terauchi, Laurel Dudley and Laura along the shore of Lake Baikal.
One of these is the most beautiful woman on the planet. The other won two Academy Awards.
Dancing at the handoff with Emmanuel.
“You will bring me clean water. Now.”
We all look at Heiko Weiner like that from time to time.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years.