This article was written by Pavel Cenkl and originally appeared on his Climate Run blog on June 29, 2018. Over 7 days in June 2018, Pavel combined a day-long, 213-mile bike ride south through Vermont with a run north along the Long Trail from North Adams to the Winooski River. He had planned 10 days to complete the entire 500-mile adventure – with running companions joining him every step of the way on the LT – but an injury cut short the run about 80 miles from Journey’s End.
Pavel Cenkl is Associate Dean, Faculty, and Athletic Director at Sterling College in Craftsbury. He has spent the past 5 years working on the Climate Run project – completing endurance adventure runs in arctic and subarctic Scandinavia (and now Vermont!) to help foster dialogue about individual, community, and ecological resilience. Catch Pavel speaking on this adventure at next week’s Taylor Series talk on Thursday, March 14th.
It was getting warm.
We were running a little low on water, and the slope was unrelentingly down and down and down — from the top of one of Vermont’s highest peaks to a mere 350 ft above sea level on the banks of the Winooski River.
This past Tuesday, the 7th day of this summer’s Vermont Climate Bike/Run, I was on this 6-mile descent down the Bamforth Ridge from the summit of Camel’s Hump with Laura Lea, who was pacing me for the afternoon, and I felt what I had been dreading since getting on my bike the week before — a twinge of pain in my lower shin.
A few steps later I knew for sure — the stress reaction in my tibia that I’d suffered in Iceland and in Norway and Sweden had returned.
My thoughts turned suddenly quiet and sullen — at a far remove from the enthusiasm I’d shared on the summit just over an hour before.
Based on similar experiences, I knew that I could either keep going with increasing, searing pain that would eventually lead to a stress fracture. Or, I could stop at the river, reassess and make a decision.
Sitting atop our cooler in the gravel parking lot, and with everyone’s full support, I decided that stopping here — only a short hour-long drive from our home — was the right choice.
There was no need to push through right now. What was it going to prove? and to whom?
I knew full well I could persevere pain like this. I’d done so before for days on end. But I didn’t have to. And postponing the decision to stop could only make things worse.
After a few hours, a shower, and some rest, I felt that I’d definitely made the right decision. I’d covered almost exactly 400 miles on bike and on foot over 7 days — nearly twice the length of Vermont (!!). My leg was painfully swollen, and I wanted to start healing rather than exacerbating an injury that could only heal with rest.
As I made the now familiar rounds to doctor’s office, radiology, and physical therapist over the next couple of days, though, there was something else going on that I couldn’t have anticipated.
My invitation at the outset for other people to join me was to demonstrate the power of interdependence as a way to build community — and a more healthful relationship with the non-human world. More than 20 people coordinated their schedules to help support and pace me during my run on the LT.
But even more amazing is that since I stopped on Tuesday, many of these same people have organized themselves to complete the last 85 miles of the run as a relay over the next several days. Thanks to the initiative of Hannah A., even more people are now deeply a part of this adventure and showing me even more how vitally important strong, interdependent communities are to build resilience.
We cannot build resilience alone — even individual resilience needs the greater community for it to flourish.
After my run across Iceland, I wrote, it is only at the limits of ourselves that we come closest to the world.
That world, I realize more and more, begins with all of us, together.