Best Run Ever
Bill Gentry, Grottoes, VA

My buddy Bob and I traversed the Greenbrier River Trail, a 77-mile rails-to-trails park that runs from Cass to Lewisburg in West Virginia. Here are a few of the highlights:

The crunch-crunch-crunch of a couple hundred thousand footfalls. The simple solitude of the Greenbrier River, at times a roar but most often a silent companion. Peaceful views across a land largely untouched by time.

A trail so canopied by trees that we could have gone shirtless without sunscreen and not picked up a burn. Two cool tunnels and 51 bridges. One lone town, Marlinton, directly on the trail, so what an amazing blessing to have Bob’s work friends driving all over Hell’s Half-Acre with our aid.

The interesting self-reflection that happens when you spend the first 30 minutes and then the final hour of the same run in darkness. The funny tricks your brain plays on you as you try to do simple math involving the following: a 77-mile-long trail with a stone marker at each mile, but with the markers labeled from Mile 80 to Mile 3. The amazing success we had with a 7-minute run/3-minute walk routine that kept us strong and steady the entire time.

Fighting back just a few hours of mid-afternoon stomach problems and having to take a half-dozen potty breaks because Friday night’s kielbasa/onions/home fries mix ranks as the dumbest pre-run meal I’ve ever consumed.

Finding a golf ball in the middle of the trail in the middle of nowhere around Mile 30. Wanna guess what the brand name was? Ultra. Spooky, huh? Yeah, I still have it. Good luck charm, I figure.

Seventy-seven miles. 17:17:16. 17 rabbits. 14 deer. Two new friends. Lots of gravel. Lots of laughs. Having a cold beer while flat on my back with feet propped up at trail’s end, beaming with the joy of effort well spent, a plan well executed, a long day out of which we squeezed every ounce.

Bill Gentry

Bill Gentry


Body Heat

Kristina Garcia Wade, Free Union, VA

During my freshman year of college, three friends and I went on a winter camping trip in the Appalachians.

I assumed my friends (all guys) knew what they were doing. They brought the tents and the stove and the food. All I had to bring was myself. I borrowed a hat from one friend, a jacket from another, a pair of canvas army pants held up with twine… you get the picture.

To top it off, I brought a three-season purple sleeping bag, which was fine for the camping I did in September, but with nights at minus twenty, it might as well have had Hello Kitties cavorting along the zipper. On the first night, after the sun went down, I started shivering uncontrollably. A friend finally took pity on me and swapped his sleeping bag for mine. I slept like a log. He wrestled with that bag all night. When he finally woke up, all he could say was, “It’s purple.”

On the second night, we decided to beat the cold by sleeping all together in one of the two-person tents. All settled in the tent, I rolled over…well, I turned my head at least—I couldn’t actually roll over without displacing the shoulders of the two people lying next to me—and asked, “What time is it?” The answer?

Seven p.m.

We spent eleven hours in that tent, unable to sleep, the tent walls perspiring with condensation, giggling at every interval. Someone was snoring. Someone’s hair smelled like wet wool (mine, probably). Someone was eating beef jerky. Ah, wild Spring Break memories. But not once did I ever think: I could have gone to Cancún.