It was. Our daily
routine quickly developed into one of rising at dawn, pressing resolutely
through our two-to-five hours of running while the day was still relatively
cool, and then resting. If there was luxury in what we did, we took it during
the many stages of recovery. Immediately upon finishing, we sat or lay in
postures as far removed from running form as possible and soaked up liquids.
Scaff had to keep upping the order for Primo beer until it leveled off at 15
cases a day, or an average of 10 bottles a runner.
Once hydrated, we
passed into a stage of ravenous hunger, consuming sandwiches and fruit and
juice and soft drinks until the day's one large meal, trucked to us from
Honolulu, arrived in the early evening. The first night at Mokuleia we kept
eating through dinner, through what was supposed to be the next day's
breakfast, and the next day's lunch. "There's nothing to eat until
tomorrow's truck," said Scaff, who estimated we each were burning 5,000
calories a day. "And, uh, there's one other thing. Tomorrow there's no
You can't drive
around Kaena Point, the dry and desolate northwest protrusion of Oahu. So after
we had run three miles on our second day, the vans gave us one last drink and
turned away for the 50-mile drive down the flat center of the island and back
up the west coast. We had to take care of ourselves for six miles of we knew
not what and as many more miles as we would run before the vans found us on the
other side. We were to finish at Waianae Regional Park 18 miles away.
We ran cautiously,
in little groups, scouting the rutted sandy track, dodging crumbling lava
outcroppings, sidestepping holes as big as bathtubs, as big as swimming pools.
As we passed the point's lighthouse, we mounted a rise and were dazzled by the
whole Waianae side of the island, its steep green valleys running back between
dark, sere cliffs. Waves burst up at us from the rocks below. "Now this is
country," said Henderson with dismaying vigor. "A man could make a hard
race of it the next two times through here."
When we regained
paved road, Henderson trod on it with distaste, but Jeff Jones, 33, a math
teacher from Westport, N.Y., shot ahead. He had hidden his competitive
intentions well, having said to Henderson the day before, "Please don't
ever change your shorts. When those black shorts cross the road, I cross the
road. I plan to focus on them in my trance for 300 miles."
Henderson and I,
knowing we faced a hot 23 miles the following day, let him go and tried for
that elusive rhythm in which every running muscle is working just as hard as
all the others, so that you wear out evenly. We cruised into Waianae town 48
seconds behind Jones. Right behind us were John McCormack, a 29-year-old
fireman from Brooklyn, and Doug Peck, 24, a cross-country skier and
ultramarathoner from South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Things were sorting themselves
out in the competitive division.
We sat on a log,
drew on our Primo and reflected upon where to put our tents. "Looks shady
under that thorn tree," said Henderson. As he pointed, cars full of kids
screeched into the parking lot behind us, their occupants springing out before
the cars braked to a stop. There was a high school across the highway, and it
seemed to be emptying. Kids were running past us, shouting, trembling in the
cold grip of adrenaline. They gathered under the same kiawe tree Henderson had
thought attractive. Two brown young men stripped to the waist and purposefully
set about trying to kill each other, the sound of their punches carrying with
disturbing solidity. There must have been rules, because whenever one choked or
kneed the other, the crowd separated them. As their faces and chests ran with
blood and still the blows landed, we sat there, cavalier and defenseless,
unable to imagine getting up the energy or the hate to work such destruction on
another. Then, suddenly, some sort of arbitrary conclusion was reached, and the
crowd broke and flowed around us, going back to school, taking no notice of
All was peace
again so quickly that we wondered whether we had not had a communal dream.
"On second thought," said Henderson, "I think I'll set my tent over
here in the sun."
Then we heard
Shultz. "Hey, does the laundry take out burrs?" he shouted.
We turned. Harvey
was covered with crusts of mud and coagulating blood.