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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 road."
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 weary transients.
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.