Running the Seven Continents: Tales of Travel and the Marathon
“For most of eternity the waves journey across the stones. Once in a while it’s time for a stone to travel over the waves.”
About the Author
Clint Morrison is a professional translator and lifelong runner. Born in southern Illinois and raised in Chicago, he took a job teaching in Japan immediately after college. Graduate school in Ann Arbor, Michigan came next, followed by a return to Japan with a corporate business job that also involved time in Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Together with his wife, anthropologist Nancy Rosenberger, he has lived in Japan, Australia, India and Uzbekistan while also traveling in Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. They have raised three children, and continue to live in Western Oregon. Most days, running means in the parks, hills, or forests around home, occasionally in local races. A part of this life includes writing e-mailed ‘race reports’ for friends that try to focus on the wide variety of sights, sounds, and sensations that can make a race or a run unique. And pestering others to do the same. Even if you don’t see a bobcat or an eagle, or climb above the snow line, or solve the problems of the universe, there is no such thing as a ‘normal run.’ Ask any runner.
The journeys in this book took place at various times and for various reasons between 1983 and the present, each with its own motive and rhythm, time frame and budget, and each different from all the others. The preparation for a marathon is a journey, each training run a journey. Add to that the challenge of a journey to an intriguing destination, and the result is a ‘race report’ that easily becomes a constellation of images, events, and lessons. The race itself may be only one day and one run, sometimes dramatic and sometimes not, but to the thinking runner, or the running thinker, the journey is the reward.
Chapter 1: Eat Here Or We’ll Both Starve
(Yukon River Trail Marathon)
“In a low forested area around mile ten, a simple sign notes that we are in the former site of Canyon City, once a boat landing and river town on the Yukon below Whitehorse and Miles Canyon. This point is also the farthest I will be from home on my journey. Appropriately, for I am running right down the former Front Street and past the site of the landing area, once a bustling hub of stores and houses, in the very steps of thousands who came to escape or discover or get far away from something or closer to something else. None of that remains, and if any of them are still alive they have gone. In a few hundred strides I too will be gone. Southward.”
Chapter 2: Like a Guest
(Lake Kawaguchi International Marathon)
“No Zen master would waste time looking for the moment that my goals changed, or even looking for the goals themselves. The proper way, this cold morning in the mountains, is simply to act. Ha! The marathon is not in front of me, it is one and the same with me. I am the marathon. So is the young guy beside me with a white cloth tied around his head. And the petite woman in the green warm ups solemnly striding along in front of him. We are not only working on a problem; it is working on us.”
Chapter 3: One Fly Crawling Up a Window
(State Championship of Victoria Marathon)
“A red sunrise is peeking over the Dandenongs as I trot across patchy grass and around the stands of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The frost is thick, a moon just past full hangs in the northwest sky, and nobody is stirring in the winter city morning. As I descend the footbridge over the train tracks, two joggers stride past, too early and purposeful to be anything but warming up for this race. Heading back whence they came I arrive at the Olympic Stadium…”
Chapter 4: Summer at the End of the Earth
“My anthropologist wife is succinct. ‘You’re crazy. There’s no human society down there at all!’ She is correct. Also, these are the main reasons why I am going.”
“The weather has changed overnight. Fresh snow lies on all the visible hills and a stiff thirty-knot wind is blowing. The wind is coming straight in from 114 degrees southeast, a neat trick because that is exactly the heading into this long well-sheltered anchorage, the harbor for four research bases. We were told to expect the unexpected, and this day will bear out that advice.”
Chapter 5: When Oceans Meet
(Two Oceans Ultramarathon – 35 miles)
“Now a palpable sense of excitement surges among the runners. We are all going to finish and we know it. In the last kilometer the crowds along the route are thick, the route swings through a gate and onto a grass surface. A long grassy home stretch, two hundred yards through the roped-back crowd to a distant yellow banner at the finish line and I can’t quite maintain the effort to sprint the whole way as I had wanted to, but suddenly there is a finish line and a clock that says 5:45. An attractive young woman puts a bronze medal around my neck and I can stop running. I am soaked. The temperature at the finish is 35°C and I calculate several times to realize that yes, that is 95°F. You wanted to run in Africa? You’ve got to expect some heat.
It turns out that the men’s winner is Isaac Tshabalala, also the winner in 1993. The second-place finisher states that he was running to earn money for his mother’s funeral…”
Chapter 6: The Iron Storm
“Pericles was well aware of the difference between talking and doing,… ‘I should have preferred that, when men’s deeds have been brave, they should be honored in deed only.... Then the reputation of many would not have been imperiled on the eloquence or want of eloquence of one.’
In other words, don’t talk. Do. Get out there and run. Here’s to you, Pericles, today we are not cheap cardboard imitations... We are on our feet, in action, doing deeds that recall deeds, filling our lungs with air freshened by a storm off the Aegean and tackling this road for no other reason than that it is their road, the road they died to defend, the road that Pheidippides himself had to have run because it is still the only road back to Athens.”
Chapter 7: Heads Up, For Now
(Maratona do Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)
“Things very well may not work out, no matter how well you planned them. Your foot may undo all the benefits of eight months of training, great blood pressure, low pulse, fourteen marathons, 25 years of running and racing...and your desires. And if it does, you have to live with it. Until it does, enjoy the fact that you are able to be a part of this run, in the wind and weather on a far foreign shore. Samba! Step up to the line, look at the crowd, get with those your own speed, look for soft road shoulders to run on, think of Oregon, Africa, Athens, Antarctica, Chicago, Boston, Melbourne, Kawaguchi. And if you’re on your feet at the end, thank your lucky stars. Because you do have them."