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November 19th, 2012
06:08 PM ET

Letters to the President #1400: 'On a little traveled road'

Reporter's Note: President Obama has been on the move, and I have too…in a different fashion.

Dear Mr. President,

I hope your travels have been going well. They certainly seem so. I’m not entirely sure why you felt a trip to Myanmar was the most important thing to do at this time (we still have that whole fiscal cliff thing going on here, in case you were hoping it would just fade away in your absence. And I am assuming you've heard about what is happening between Israel and Gaza) but I’ll trust your wisdom and assume that the journey was worth it. Or will prove to be, over time.

Of course, I tend to have faith in such things.

This past Saturday I ran my latest ultra-marathon, the Stone Mill 50; which was, in actuality, 51 grueling miles through the Maryland woods. And let me tell you, if ever there was a trip that seemed to have no purpose that was it. I was in no way ready for the race. As I told you, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon a few weeks ago to get tuned up, and it was disastrous. My pace was all wrong, my legs ached like Aunt Betty’s back, and it was excruciatingly clear that too many late nights covering the election instead of training was costing me dearly. I came across the finish line looking like a refugee.

As a result, I was not even thinking right about this ultra. I kept changing my mind every other day about whether I would start. Even the night before my wife was asking, “So are you going to go?” I did. Up at 4:30 in the morning for her to drive me out there (yes, she is a saint,) jumping into the pre-dawn cold with a headlamp, and trotting off into the trees. For well over the next twelve hours (almost thirteen) that was my life; up hills, down gullies, following rocky, rooty stumbling trails. Except for the fast people, the rest of us ran “dark to dark” meaning that the sun was well down before we finished.

I’ll not avoid the truth: It whipped me and whipped me hard. My legs remained relatively strong, but I wrestled with a nagging knee for a good twelve miles, blisters the size of Rhode Island, and some chafing that is better not discussed in polite company. On top of which, I ended up as sick as dog on Sunday. Wiped out the whole weekend.

But I met some absolutely great people out there. The volunteers along the course were magnificent, whether ladling out soup, or offering Band-Aids. They smiled, spoke words of encouragement, and generally made us all feel like Olympians even if we looked like something the cat brought in. My wife and younger daughter appeared unexpectedly at one aid station to give me big hugs, delighting me beyond belief. The other runners were terrific too (as only ultra runners can be) cheering each other on no matter the ability level. I was lucky enough to fall in with a fantastic group, equal part experienced ultra-runners and first-timers. We talked, laughed, and fought the miles together for almost the entire race. Sometimes others would join us for a few miles and we’d share the camaraderie until they either ran past us, or fell behind. It was great.

So I guess my point is that this is the way it goes: Sometimes you have to make a trip even if the reasons aren’t apparent, because maybe the reasons are the very thing you’ll discover along the way. Hmmm…sounds like a fortune cookie. But you get me point.

Hope all is well. Don’t call now, however. The fees from over there must be atrocious. But a postcard would be nice. Btw, did you notice that this is letter 1400, and you still haven’t responded to one? Hint.

Regards,

Tom

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