I’d never heard of him until recently. I’ve only been familiar with a handful of legendary runners over the course of my life, and paid attention to some of them during the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. I remember watching Joan Benoit crush her opponents in the first ever Olympic Women’s marathon, amazed that anyone could run that far. I’d say she was the first runner to inspire me–but not enough to get me actually running. (Remember the drama between Mary Decker and Zola Budd? Jackie Joyner and her fingernails? And if you don’t know who Bruce Jenner is you’ve been living under a rock.)
This morning I ran six and a half miles with my friend who has never run more than a 10K until today. She’s had some issues with her knees, and even though we stopped a few times for her to stretch them, she insisted on completing the 6 miles we had planned and then some. To me that’s inspiring.
(From our run this morning, on a path I hadn’t explored until today.)
So earlier this summer I learned of Scott Jurek’s attempt to break the speed record on the Appalachian Trail. Since then I’ve been following on Instagram and Facebook, and reading updates from Runner’s World. Just the other day I learned that he was on track to finish his epic journey today on Katahdin in Maine, and if he did break the record it wouldn’t be by much. Since I got home from my run, I’ve been obsessively checking his progress via Twitter and Delorme (good thing we already decided to wait until 5pm to go to Mass), and sending up prayers: St. Peter and St. John, go with him. St. Padre Pio, go with him. (Padre Pio helped Pat Castle, the founder of LIFE Runners, finish the Pikes Peak ascent a few years ago.) St. Francis, lover of the outdoors, go with him. St. John Paul II, go with him. Joseph and Mary, go with him. And I can’t help but offer up prayers for him as I pray the Rosary.
I have an app called “Simple Rosary Companion,” and each mystery comes with ten little reflections that form a narrative of that particular event in Jesus’ life. As Jesus ascends the Mount of Olives with Mary and the apostles, I think of Scott ascending the last few miles to the top of Mt. Katahdin, with his wife and support team and who knows who else by his side. “What jubilation there must be amid the angels of heaven at the triumphant entry of Jesus.” The celebration that will follow Scott’s epic finish today will pale in comparison to that party in Heaven! I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen Scott on the last part of his journey. And this: “As Mary enters heaven, the entire court of heaven greets with joy this masterpiece of God’s creation. Mary is crowned by her divine Son as Queen of Heaven and Earth.” Scott never saved anyone from their sins or bore the Son of God, but he did work long and hard for this. Being crowned King of the Appalachian Trail is a pretty cool feat, I’d have to say! Earlier I was having a conversation on Twitter with someone about how great it would be for someone to capture the last moments of Scott’s journey on video, but for Scott it’s probably the last thing he wants.
(Chris and Nick and I walked a tiny section of the AT last week. We’re hoping to hike another, hopefully less tiny, section tomorrow.)
On Friday, members of LIFE Runners learned of the death of Ed Heigl. Ed was voted LIFE Runner of the Year award a couple of years ago. I was always amazed and inspired by his perseverance, how he kept on running despite being in the advanced stages of cancer. He offered up his suffering for the unborn, for the mothers and fathers who were considering abortion, and for healing for those who are affected by abortion. I had hoped to meet him last September when the LIFE Runners converged on the Air Force Marathon in Ohio, but health issues prevented him from traveling. Recently he went to Lourdes, and I looked in awe of the photos of Ed praying, smiling, and laughing with the people he loved. Talk about inspiring!
Scott is only a couple of miles from the top of Mt. Katahdin, and he’ll probably finish before I’m done with this post. My heart is pounding, and my stomach is in knots. And I really secretly do hope someone captures it on video.
Ed Heigl, go with him.