Running with Henry - In company of a century runner for a cause

4:13 PM

Henry put out a call on Facebook a week ago regarding his Run Fundraiser for Addiction Treatment for those in need.  
Henry sent me a DM inquiring if I was going to be around next Thursday.  He continued, "I hope you can make it".

I responded an hour later with some trepidation, "If I'm in town I'll come through and run with you for a spell".  

The trepidation was there because my work requires me to travel quite a bit.  But within minutes I discovered within myself the courage to step out.  I checked my calendar.  Checked my areas of responsibility.  Checked his fundraising site and looked into the organization and I immediately decided I would take Thursday and Friday off to join him on such an epic adventure. 

Why because with one direct message, I was inspired.

So let me explain how epic this is.  24 hour runs aren't a joke to begin with.  But Henry is dedicating a full day's time to a belief he has to raise money for a real cause.  ALONE!  

He had zero clue if anyone would show up.  There's no defined course.  There's no "aid" stations.  No medics on hand. 

This was a man who decided that this was of such importance he was willing to strike out on his own; ALONE.  With all the associated uncertainties.  In August.  In Phoenix!

Shit I'm hyped up just writing this narrative.  

First a little background.  I met Henry last year while checking in for the Javelina Jundred.  He was in town for the 100 miler.  I'm there to tackle and face my first 100K.  
We exchanged greetings, had some small talk, introduced him to my moms, and we parted ways.  

I saw him a few times on the course, but kept up with him on Facebook and Instagram.  Oh the love of the trail running community.  

Fast forward to Thursday morning.  Alarm goes off at 3:45am.   Only got a couple of hours of sleep.  The gear is ready and prepared.  So I dress quickly on the bicycle by 4:25am for a 6ish mile ride to the start location.

I do not know if Henry has support or others who have decided to join in to help him on his journey so I'm a little nervous as it get's closer to 5am and I have yet to arrive.  

Bike is locked down at Marina Heights and I'm off on my own little .5 mile jog to the park (didn't know if there was bike racks near the park entrance).  Silly me should have planned better.

As I cross Mill Ave, I notice Henry in the distance.  He's there.  No one else.  With a big ass pack.  This is bad ass right here.  It is as if I'm seeing an old friend.  Big smiles and hugs.  We snap a quick selfie and he begins to tell me that others are arriving soon.  

Before long there are six of us.  The official get Henry started morning crew.  

Officially we begin at 5:04 am according to my watch.  We heading west towards Priest Ave.  We pass the pretty blue lit pedestrian bridge.  I'm in awe as these folks are holding a sub 10 min mile pace.  So I fall to the back and maintain an easier pace for myself.  I'm no speedster and I make no apologies.  I'm here for emotional support and as such I know others can keep up and I can do what I can just by being present.  

Somehow, I manage to hang on out back with a 10 min mile pace as we loop back east to Rural Road.  The sun is beginning to make for a new day as we cross Tempe Town Lake heading south.  The crew stop on the bridge to snap some shots of the rising sun, I use this moment to make some distance on these speedsters I'm in the company of.  They'll soon catch up I tell myself.

Heading back west, we near the completion of our first loop as a little over five miles are ticked off the meter.  Several folks say their goodbyes to start their work days and leave three of us to continue the fight.  

I've jogged around Tempe Town lake hundreds of times.  Hundreds!  There's a mosaic section on the north wall with plenty of images and symbols on it.  I'm fascinated that I see Tiger and Winnie the Poo, while Lisa and Henry officially begin the shenanigans with the chasing of Pigeons.  

Two laps completed and these next level folks I'm with decide to go all the way to the top of A mountain!   Unfreaking believable.  I, thinking of my own health and athletic abilities, stay down at the base and go on Facebook live to call these two beasts out.  I'm impressed, but I'm no fool.

As we begin the third, the need for tea with some caffeine begin stir.  So we set our sights on the Starbucks back at Marina Heights.  Which, the morning shift folks are also apparently in need as the line is waaaaaaay too long for our patience.  So we're off to the little cafe across the yard, where we are captivated by the sight of bacon on the monitor as we enter.  

I can already tell that this morning is going to be like nothing I've experienced before.  

The heat from the building on the trail leads the crew to decide to head to Tempe Town Center.  Lisa can pick up some salt tablets, which we never do.  I think the whole objective was to cool off in the Splash pool there.  

I'm game, as we're 18 miles in at this point and it is getting quite a bit toasty.  

We refuel some, I discover a Starbucks in Barnes and Noble, and we're back off heading west to meet up with another brave volunteer.  Tracy. 

Tracy joins the crew officially as we cross McClintock.  She keeps me company as I'm holding down the rear.  Shenanigans are had as the heat piles on at the art center.  

It's a sad moment for me, because I know it is time for me to depart.  Say our goodbyes and I head back to my bike where I'm going to have lunch at Marina Heights.  

21 miles in and I'm with an old associate eating my heart out!  Ham, Potatoes, Scrambled Eggs, and Toast.  I'm a little loopy and the caffeine has me a little hyper, but I'm glad to be out of the sun.  

Back on the bike, I find myself in short order at Road Runner Sports getting shoes.  Being its a shakedown run for me to test gear for my long duration endeavors later this year, I find a fatal flaw in my go to shoes.  They do not dry out quickly and retain quite a bit of water.  The insoles become sloppy when wet and is a problem.  But these shoes have risen to the top of many that I've tried.  

The shoe in question?  The Brooks Glycerin 15s.  

While I wait for my shoes, I jump on social media to find that the three I left has been to Papago Park to play in the hole in the rock.  And apparently has found time to get lunch at a local restaurant.  Next level I tell ya.  

As I head back west to grab the greenbelt home, I decide to sweep the park to see if they are out and about.  Low and behold I find them near the official start area.  They have just finished lunch and heading east to meet John at Tempe Town Park.  

So I pace them on my bike for a few more miles until we're all wet again playing in the water.  Good luck John.

What an awesome day I think as I turn north to head home.  My body isn't as wrecked as I thought it would be.  I'm short my running goal a few miles, but I'm okay with that.  I officially cover a little over 21 miles on foot and 17 miles on the bike for the day.  

-Can't wait for day two.-

Sleep escapes me yet again and I'm left with only three hours of sleep before the alarm goes off to get me up at 2:30 am.  Same plan.  Bike ride over.  Meet Henry and Mark as they head west from Rural Rod on the Tempe Town Lake trail on the south side of the loop.  

Henry is looking good.  He's 90+ miles in and still able to run at quite the pace.  Mark was with Henry through the night.  I laugh to myself as he proclaims "Let's do that running thing for a while".  Son of a byotch, he's able to hold a mid 10 min per mile pace after 22 hours!  I'm in such amazement and wonder.

As we wait for Rachel at the parking lot, a guy in his car is totally cool with three guys with headlamps casually walking up to his car, we thinking its Rachel.  Something isn't right with dude, but we make fun of the situation for stories to be told elsewhere (not here).  

They share stories of their night together and how they were mistaken for cave dwellers and gold miners by drunk patrons on Mill Avenue when they went there to get some pizza.  Mike played in forbidden fountains, to security guard's amusement.  

After Rachel's arrival, its a quick aid stop and fuel spot on the curb side.  After Henry and Mike take some fuel (dry I might add with water chaser) we're off again for a final loop around Tempe Town Lake. 

I'm sleep deprived and it begins to kick it, but I keep it at bay because I'm in the presence of someone who has had zero sleep.   It is decided this epic journey of Henry would end atop A mountain to witness the start of a new day.  

I'm game this time, because it is all about Henry.  It's what he wants to do, so we do it.  He also wants to crest 100 miles before the end so we take an alternate route to A Mountain to the south of the mountain next to the tram rails.  

It's a slow climb up.  And I'm in awe that Henry is climbing like a champ.  

There's the top of A Mountain, and then there's the top of A Mountain that's beyond an area where the trail ends.  Henry wants to be at the top!  So we climb around the railing and scamper up higher next to the tower.  There's another person already there.  He has his headphones on and watching Netflix.  He pays us no attention and we sit there waiting.  

Henry checks his watch after we settle in.  100.6 miles! 

There are two countdowns now.  One the official end of 24 hours.  Two the rising of the sun.  Henry is able to catch a screen shot of his watch as 24 hours come to an end.  We celebrate amongst ourselves.  Phones are out and we're all telling the world of Henry's amazing accomplishment.  

It's surreal as the moon hangs in the sky, just north of where the sun will soon rise.  

The colors begin to change and display the full spectrum of the rainbow from the black of night to the west to oranges and yellows to the east.  

It's a peaceful moment.  One that I hope to cherish for life.  I exclaim to the group, "this is why I run".  Moments like this.  

I best summed the moment on FB: 
"I got to share a beautiful sunrise on a freaking mountain with peeps I knew and tens of others who sat in pretty much silence as the sun peeped up and changed the colors of the sky these amazing colors. As we felt the cool wind rush in from the east as the neighboring celestial star warmed our portion of the planet which screams through the solar system at an astounding 30K per second or roughly 67K MPH!"
Running has taken me places I would have never dreamed of years ago.  I've seen things in the last few years of my life that rivals the best of words renowned novelist couldn't convey and pictures can't express, nor my memories hold.  

I'm happy to have been part of this journey with Henry.  I learned a lot about him.  Others.  And myself.  

Henry sums up his adventure as such on FB:
"4 mountains, many laps, 5 times to splash park, several splash fights, zero blisters, 12 LBS carried in pack memories and laughs a zillion, 12 new friends, 1toad, 15 praying mantis, 7 petrified donuts, 100 miles covered, 103 temp high, zero miserable miles, zero issues. Trying to wrap my head around what transpired. Truly amazing journey thanks to all the great new friends that helped me move forward!!!!"
Yet this adventure wasn't about him.  This epic adventure that I was able to share in with Henry was to support the ever growing need for Addiction Treatment in America. Runwell helps those that can't afford treatment for addiction get the help they need, and encourages running and fitness as part of the recovery process.

Please consider making a donation. 100% of all funds raised go directly to people for treatment.

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