Aside from hyponathremia, in this book appears another mortal risk: sleep running.
my routine consists of 200 push-ups, 50 pull-ups, and 400 sit-ups—twice a day (p.214)
"Why couldn't Pheiddipedes have died at 20 miles?." - Frank Shorter, 1970
"I swear, I'll never do this again." - Unknown
Just as a race-car driver pushes his vehicle to the limit, or a pilot tests the “edge” in an experimental plane, I wanted to see how far I could go. What I now realize is that the way other people seek physical comfort and blissful well-being, I seek extremes. Why run 10 miles when you can run 100? Moderation bores me. The obvious question I’m frequently asked: “Doesn’t it hurt?” “Yes,” I say. “But it’s a good hurt.” At points it’s excruciating, but ultimately it’s restorative. Not unlike electroshock therapy. Still, most people can’t imagine the levels of pain one endures running long distances. Most of us have run at some point in our lives and know how much it can hurt. And I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t get any less painful the farther you go. Quite the contrary. If running 10 miles hurts X bad, it might be tempting to think that running 50 miles might somehow hurt less than 5X bad. How else could someone put up with the pain? Truth is, running those 50 miles hurts more like 10X bad. Or worse. The pain at mile 40 is much worse than back at mile 30, which hurt a lot more than mile 20. Every step hurts worse than the last. How can the human body withstand it? I like to tell people that my “biomechanics” are “genetically favorable” for running long distances. They scratch their heads and nod, even when they don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. In truth, I don’t, either. I have no idea if it’s true. But people seem to need some explanation, because it doesn’t seem fathomable to run for forty-eight hours straight. There’s really no mystery to what I do, however. It hurts me just as bad as anyone else. I’ve just learned an essential insight: your legs can only carry you so far. Running great distances is mostly done with your head . . . and, as Benner taught me twenty-five years ago, your heart. The human body is capable of amazing physical deeds. If we could just free ourselves from our perceived limitations and tap into our internal fire, the possibilities are endless. My three companions kept up with me as far as Exchange 19, a relay point for team runners on the far side of Ocean Beach. Scotty invited Valerie and Neil back to the bar for celebratory Bloody Marys. I would have loved to join them, but I still had some unfinished business to attend to. We bid farewell, and once again I found myself alone on the open highway, the Mother Ship trailing not far behind. The road turned inland, and the temperature began to soar. Making matters worse, the highway was heavily trafficked along this stretch, and a thick layer of exhaust clung to the road. Breathing in the noxious fumes was unbearable. Sweat oozed from every pore in my body; even my feet sloshed in my shoes. The mid-afternoon sun was becoming unforgiving. Then, as if sensing my despair, the heavens parted, and an angel’s hand reached out to me with a miraculous offering. “Here, take it!” my wife hollered from the passenger window of the Mother Ship. It was a bottle of Pedialyte. I downed the whole thing in seconds, and she handed out another. Pedialyte is the secret sauce of electrolyte-replacement beverages. Designed for dehydrated children suffering with diarrhea and vomiting, it is the most effective isotonic sports drink known to humankind, the next level after Gatorade.
I’m on the brink of destruction, and all you’ve got for me is a bad joke?
forty-six hours later I was still standing. In the world of Team Dean, it’s as good as it gets. Until a delivery truck nearly ran me down. “Look out, you crazy-ass runner! Watch where you’re going!” the driver shouted out the window. But I was in a crosswalk. I just smiled, however, and waved, incapable of anger. My blood-endorphin level was too high for me to be irritated by something so minor as being run over by a truck. [...] With a mile and a half left, the road intersected a popular footpath above the beach. It was crowded with beachgoers, dog-walkers, tourists.
I’d moved well beyond runner’s high at this point and casually floated along, beaming at the sunlit scene, entirely weightless from the neck down. How it was that a person who’d just run 198 miles could be feeling no pain was inexplicable. [my note: almost like frostbite?] With 1 mile left, my heart started racing—with joy now, not overexertion. There was no containing my elation, and I began sprinting at top speed. The footpath continued to parallel the beach on the bluff above. Off in the distance I spotted the famous roller coaster of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the amusement park that marked the end of the course. Tearing toward the finish, I wove wildly among the surfers with their boards and the errant beachball or two. People let out small hoots and praises as I blasted by, but their faces were just smiling blurs. The roller coaster drew nearer. I ran toward it. A chute of well-wishers had assembled along the footpath and down to the official finish line on the beach. Other runners studied me quietly, appraising me as I came bounding in, seemingly unsure of how to respond to a man who just spent two days running. “How ’bout a little cheer?” I goaded the crowd. “I just ran from Calistoga.” They went berserk. As I hit the final stretch of beach, my family and Gaylord joined hands with me and we all crossed the finish line together as a team, just the way I had hoped. If my sister could have seen me, I knew that she would be smiling. I couldn’t have been any happier. What had begun as a jog through the Napa Valley forty-six hours and seventeen minutes earlier had ended with a dream coming true. Miraculously, I’d covered the last mile in under six minutes—a pace that I’d find strenuous even on fresh legs. Standing proud at that finish line, I oddly wasn’t even winded.
Someone put a medal around my neck, and they snapped some more pictures of us together. Then the questions began:
A: “Just once, but it wasn’t very restful.” (I didn’t mention that I was running at the time.)
A: “Anything I could get my hands on.”
A: “In the bushes. I looked for dry ones that needed watering.”