relayImage by matsugoro via FlickrI talk a lot about the most interesting parts of life being where things connect – where seemingly distinct topics run into each other.  Not so much that they abut, but in their doing so, they reveal or allow tendrils of overlapping elements to lap out to one another.

This past weekend, I filled-in on a team that was running 92 miles across the state of New Jersey, in the 13th annual River to Sea Relay.  The day was the embodiment of connecting:

  • Each 7-person team came together through any number of connective threads – around family, work, geography, life, death, marriage… (one team was called “Runaway Bride” – I guess this was their idea of a bachelorette party).  We were the “Village Idiots”, and while we could easily have passed for the sister team to one called “Beauty and the Beasts” (we had plural of the former and singular of the latter) I think our name served us well.
  • Each team handed off to their next runner with a swipe of the hand or high five (or waive across a busy road) – connecting step-by-step, and hand-off by hand-off from the western border of the state, on the Delaware river – to the beach on the eastern side of the state.
  • Every runner ran two of the 14 legs that comprised the course – getting back out there after having a few hours to stiffen up on their way to their second leg, while chasing and supporting their teammates.  Since most of us don’t run twice in one day, each person connecting their two runs provided a unique opportunity to see how it feels and to realize that you can in fact do it.
  • A hundred separate teams came together around one “basic” objective (and many unique ones), and greeted each other with competitive spirit and supportive friendliness.
  • At interchanges, people from different teams discovered they knew each other through someone else, had gone to college together, had worked at the same place, that their daughters are in the same singing group at college – that they share another common element (and a swig of water, thank you, or directions at a turn…) besides just being a nutty runner/adventure seeker.

When you take a trip like this, as I did with these six women (yes, my wife knew – in fact she was one of them) who made up the rest of my team – a 29 hour adventure, including a road-trip, hotel stay, dinner out, sleepless night coupled with a really early morning, countless switching back and forth between chase cars, 14 back-to-back legs of running with all the interchanges and support encounters, a finish at the beach, something to re-nourish yourself at the end, and the trip home – you discover you’ve gained, (groaned), learned, (ached), enjoyed (maybe griped).  I won’t repeat what I heard one runner say, because you get to say things out there knowing that they won’t be repeated – “honor among nut-jobs” and all.

Everyone worked hard – really hard, dealing with the heat, sun, each other, silence (course rules prohibited use of music players), rain (on two legs, the sky opened up), lightning…  As the race director summarized, “Despite a short howling storm that raced through central Jersey at around 12:30pm ( thunder, lightning and ferocious rain ) for about 20 minutes,100 stalwart teams-of-seven successfully navigated [the] 92 mile course from Milford on the Delaware River to Manasquan at the Atlantic Ocean. Teams started [on a staggered basis] from 6:00am to 10:15am…”.  The fastest team (not ours) was going at a clip of 5:18 per mile!  Teams took anywhere from eight- to fifteen hours to finish the course.

People connected – with each other, with each others’ ideals, with group and individual goals, one border to another – town-by-town and county-to-county – even connecting with elements of yourself along the way.

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