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From Here to There, from Now to Then

Matt Cavanaugh

Running’s simple. It’s transportation. Getting from here to there in space, from now to then in time.

But how? How do I get from here to there? How do I get from now to then?

It’s not only a philosophical question. It’s pretty practical. I’ve begun training and I have a long way to go. Not figuratively. Literally.

Each event of the 4 Deserts race series features the same format, more or less. Six stages over seven days, 155 miles (or 250 kilometers, if you’re so inclined). I don’t yet know what my times will look like, but if the weeks go well, I’d imagine I’ll run about 25 to 30 hours each week.

Recently, as my training crossed the one-month mark, from January 10 to 14 (Monday to Friday), I ran about 54 miles over 7.5 hours. That’s an average of an hour-and-a-half a day, about 11 miles each day, for five days. Sounds like a lot, huh? (And entirely in the dark—my wife’s out of town for work, which means I’m doing it all before 6:45am when the kids need help getting ready for school.)

But that weeks’ worth of workouts was barely one-third of a 4 Deserts race. I’ve got less than three months till I’m running triple that in the world’s oldest desert (over 55 million years old to be precise).

Did I mention I still haven’t run with my mandatory 25- to 30-pound pack yet? (That’s next week.)

Did I mention the Namib is just the start? I’ll do four of these races this year to earn the Grand Slam—two in traditional deserts, one in the mountains, and one in the world’s coldest desert, at the very bottom of the planet?

So how? If I can’t take a car or a caribou, a four-wheeler or anything that moves on all fours—how am I going do this? How to get from here to there, from now to then?

Bear with me here, but I do see at least one asset.

Faith. Not religious faith, though that helps too. This is a different kind of faith, a simpler one. Gut-level, heart-deep, that it’ll all work out, as imperfect as it might be, as hard as it might be. The faith that I’ve done hard things before, that I’ve done years and years and years (and then four more years) at a 120-mile, six-day stage race in Colorado’s rough Rockies and climbed 20,000 feet of elevation gain each and every time. When I did the Trans-Rockies Run for the first time I didn’t know how it would turn out. And over the past couple years, by my sixth and seventh races there, I’ve become one of the top finishers overall.

And more faith. I’ve also got a coach for the first time in my running life. Never had one before. He’s as good as it gets. Jason Koop, a guy about my age who’s done about all there is to do in the ultrarunning world. He’s put runners through this race before. I trust he’ll do the same for me. I put my faith in him.

So when I look in the mirror and ask—how do I get from here to there, from now to then?—it ends up being pretty simple.

Faith.