Day 29 - Saturday April 9th, 2005,
Ruckersville VA to Leesburg VA
When the walk was in it's planning stages it was very apparent that it would be a long and difficult venture. When the map was laid out it appeared that within the time frame that was required for the walk to be held to that there would not be enough miles covered to make it without transport. It has been a long standing tradition with FootPrints For Peace that all the miles be covered. During the Flame Walk in 2002 Jun San had the same problem and Jim solved the problem with a one day run to that can cover many mails in one day. He instituted the run for this walk in order to do the same.
Jun San later added a walk to Washington DC for those walkers not participating in the run. You can read about it by clicking Walk To DC on the left.
So today we are running about 100 miles. There are 14 runners. In addition to the FootPrints For Peace runners, Meagen Kresge, a veteran of many runs and her friend Tony drove down from Cleveland to join the run. Some of the walkers also joined us. Jason Laffer and Mario were two of the walkers and they had also taken part in the run during the Flame Walk. Representing the International Peace Pilgrimage were Marcus, Inge, KA, Bilbo and Taka. Billie Ledger rounded out the field. All these participants were veterans of many walks and runs so we had a very experienced group.
We circled with the whole group in the morning and then split into the running group and the walking group. We then waved support as the walkers left for their transport to their starting point. We had three vehicles so we divided up into 3 groups. Jason came around an gathered the individual mile pledges and when all was said and done we had plenty enough miles pledged to make it a fairly easy run, most having to do only 5 miles.
We then held out traditional running circle and had ceremony that we always perform before we run. These ceremonys are steeped in Native American tradition and Billie Ledger, Turtle Warrior, performed the ceremony.
Jon was the first runner. He is our best long distance runner and was starting the run with 15 miles. So we formed our lines on both sides of Jon and 5,4,3,2,1 he was off carrying our running staff with great pride and great energy.
After a few minutes of hugs, hand claspes, good lucks and "have a good run - be safe" we all got into our respective vehicles and set about getting to our starting locations.
Now a run is far different than a walk. On a run you are alone. You must muster up your own energy to make your commitment, there is no drumming and chanting or absorbtion of group energy. Everything from the time your feet hit the road must manifest itself from within you. It is a personal experience and only the person who is putting down their footprayers can tell you what went on so the next few paragraphs are my experience. It is all I can offer.
I was excited to be with my running mates again. Jim, my son, Marcus, Jon, Larry, Meagen and myself had been together on so many glorious ocassions, each uplifting my spirits beyond my capacity to define in words. My new found mates from Australia, Bilbo, Inge, KA and Taka have been so inspiring to me, their strength of purpose, their sheer will power, yet kind and loving, with good humor. Jason, Mario old friends from the Flame Walk who both shared their strong hearts with me during that adventure. And Tony who I just met but who is a friend of Meagen's and that makes him a-ok with me. And then there is Billie and all one can say about Billie is that he is a good man and a guy you want along no matter what the ride is going to be.
My excitement didn't last more than a few humdred yards I'm, afraid. I started out running to fast for my own good but Mother Nature slowed me down to a standstill. I found myself short of breath and had to pull up and get my breath back. I felt kind of stupid since I had been on so many runs that I knew better than not to pace myself. So I started walking slowly just to keep moving forward. After a few minutes I felt ok but I still kept walking. The one thing I knew was that I wanted to finish so I thought I would walk for a while to see if I would feel better. After all, I told myself, I had been up driving all night without any sleep and I was tired so just take it easy.
After another few hundred yards I got into a walking rhythm that was comfortable and my mind started to focus on the run. I prayed for the saftey of my running mates and my walking companions who were DC bound. I said some prayers for Holly and Christy, friends of Jon, who needed some spiritual help, I thought about Jeff's son Jeremy who is a helicopter pilot serving in Iraq and little Nickie, son of Heather Russell who is a Marine currently serving in Iraq. I prayed that they would not have to kill or injure anyone and that they would return home safely. I prayed for Jeff and Heather, my wife and kids and a host of others. The time and the miles clipped off pretty good. I had reached a point where I was jogging on the downs and walking on the ups and felt pretty good.
About mile four Mario and Jamie drove by and honked and waved and it was good to know that they had finished their miles and were on the way back to look for Jon. A few minutes after they passed me I was in distress. It was my old friend pain that hit me hard to the point that I couldn't walk very well. But I had a mile or less and I wasn't worried that I couldn't make it so I just shuffled along slowly but surely. I am used to the pain. It always comes along sooner or later. When people ask me why I don't quit I tell them that the more pain I suffer the more strong and intense my prayers are.
As I shuffled up a small hill I took my hat off and felt the breeze in my hair and the sun beating down on my brow. Suddenly my thoughts were on Leonard. Leonard has been with me on very run I have done for the last decade or so. I've never met Leonard but I know him. I spent part of a day back in DC a few years back walking with his grand children watching over them while their father was busy at a rally for Leonard. It got real intense. I was weeping uncontrolably. I was praying, silly prayers, ones that cannot be answered. "Oh dear God, could you not let me take Leonard's place for just one day so he could be here, with his grand kids, and feel the breeze and feel the sun and feel alive just once more, please". But in my heart I knew my prayer would not be granted. But you know what? I think that what I feel, Leonard feels and I believe that my pain somehow dimishes Leonards pain so I look forward to it, the more the better. I know, I'm crazy. I told you the run is personal.
My tears had just about dried out when the van pulled up and Jon and the guys picked me up. I had walked an extra mile and a half for Leonard. It was good. Now all we had to do was get Larry and head home.
So we picked Larry up and started driving to Leesburg. We got just short of Leesburg when we saw KA really burning up the pavement. We honked and she signaled she was fine so we kept going. Just up the road we ran into the rest of the runners who were just waiting for KA. We didn't see Meagen's group and assumed they were finished. After KA got up to us we all loaded up and finished the trip to Leesburg, found our over night location, unloaded and just chilled out. Meagen's group was not there so we called them. They had made a wrong turn and ended up in DC! They made it back ok, as did the walkers and we were finally together.