When the writer John Steinbeck was in his sixties and disillusioned with America, he decided to take a cross-country trip to see parts of the United States he had never seen before. He knew that he’d need to talk with people so he took along his dog, Charlie. He wrote about it in his book called, Travels With Charlie.
Recently I took my own dog, Saphira, on a trip to Brookings, South Dakota for their 40th Marathon. Don’t get me wrong, my dog can’t run a full marathon, but having the misfortune of travelling by myself, I took her to likewise talk to people. My travels with Saphira took me to a wonderfully fun marathon. A well organized event in a unique town in the Dakotas. The main street has a feel of contemporary and the past. Visit The Ram, one of the restaurants hosting a pasta meal for marathon participants, and see the old turn of the century safe as you talk with people ready to run from all over the State. Arguably one of the smaller marathons around with only 165 marathon finishers, 233 half-marathon finishers, and 30 relay teams – still the event catches you up in the spirit of the runners and numerous volunteers.
The run itself is not an easy one with many hills, and if you’re shy of turns this may be a problem; added to the difficulty was the amount of wind that came up. Wind itself is unpredictable and was a lot worse the night before the marathon; and just to note, actually died down the evening after the race. But live music following the run and free hamburgers all added to the post race atmosphere in little Pioneer Park. The run does take you through the town, out of it, through it, out of it … so on and so until you’re done. Yet somehow it is a lot of fun along the way.
Part of the charm of this run and this town of Brookings is the old architecture with houses that exude a sense of wholesome family life – a kind of Midwestern simple life values of a era some may have known when they were yet children. Yet what stands out the most for this traveller with Saphira was the running community itself. It turned out, while I value her company, I need not have had Saphira along. I saw the running community that included five runners from Winnipeg so embrace everyone.
Let me tell you about Jill Moncur, the woman from Sioux Falls who won the woman’s marathon category. She had made the hour trip to Brookings by herself and was alone when presented with her award. Well quickly good old Winnipegers befriended her and celebrated with her that afternoon as though they were old acquaintances. And for myself, the running community embrace me in their celebrations as well. Whether it was a pasta meal, during the run, or following completion there was always a friendly runner to talk with and with whom to enjoy their company.
Sometimes one must travel alone, with or without their dog or those they love, but the great thing about the running community is that it always welcomes people in and shares the love of the run. Steinbeck found from his travels that he did not need to be disillusioned with America. My travels with Saphira to Brookings, South Dakota Marathon confirms for me the enormous privilege it is to share the road with some great people. Brookings is only about 6 and half hours from Winnipeg and worth taking the trip.
Enjoy the run wherever it takes you.