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Friday, October 17 - Saturday, October 18, 1997 -- C&O Canal
1st Annual C&O Canal Fun Run

Note: The following story was originally written as an email message by Don Parks to tell his story of the first C&O Canal 100 Mile Fun Run attempted on Oct. 17-18, 1997. The pictures have been added for this article.

Just so I don't have to keep telling the story over and over, here is my take on our attempt at 100 miles last friday (Oct. 17, 1997):

(L-R) Chas, Brad and Don ready to conquer the C&O Canal
Getting there:
We (Chas, Brad and I) left Lisa's house around 6:30am friday morning in great spirits, loaded with all types of power food and drink.

The start:
Headed out on the C&O canal around 8:30am from Spring Gap (about 10 miles southeast of Cumberland, MD) ready to conquer the world, or at least Shepherdstown WV, a hundred miles down stream.

Eric Deboni (far left) joins the crew with bike support
The beginning:
The first miles past effortlessly and required conscious thought to hold back and not go out at too hard a pace. Eric joined us on bicycle after the first seven miles and biked slowly along side. We mixed fast walks with slow jogs for the next 30 or so miles. Stopping along the way where the car rendezvous with Lisa had been arranged. Fighting off the first pains and doubts did not seem too difficult.

After 40 miles:
Things still looked good at 40 miles. Everyone was on schedule for 100 miles in 25 hours (4 miles an hour.) But the walks began to slow down and the jogs were becoming fewer and farther between. By this point the night fall was upon us and the mostly cloudy day turned into an evening of light showers and balmy 40 degree temperatures. However, the full-moon was still providing enough light so that it was not necessary to use any additional lights.

The decision to continue is discussed after 50 miles
Around the 45 mile mark I went out ahead of Chas and Brad with a slow jog. A few miles before our designated 50 mile aid stop, in Hancock MD, the first serious pains set in. The muscles around my hips were starting to cramp, and shooting pains removed any thoughts of continuing to jog, it was a walk now.

Arriving at 50 miles:
I arrived at the 50 mile mark cold and tired; at least it wasn't raining. Emory had arrived to join the support crew and add some more personality to the whole entourage. It was obvious the he was there to party!

Chas Mick recovers in the back seat of a support vehicle
The first thing was warm clothes, then into a sleeping bag to get warm and to eat. My legs were stiff and the decision to continue was not an easy one. After getting warm and nourishing myself with a 7oz. beer, a can of cold soup (no more gas for Eric's stove), and various other snacks, pain killers, etc., another ten miles or so to the next check point didn't seem too bad, and that would at least be 100 kilometers! Chas and Brad chose to celebrate 50 miles (by sleeping) and from this point on it would be a solo effort.

Into the night:
The next 12 miles were not easy. It was cold, it was dark, it was wet, my feet hurt, my upper legs ached, I was tired, I was alone... The bike support presence was becoming erratic. However, I knew that Emory had gone a head to the next check point and was going to hike in to meet me on the trail, so I plodded along (even pulling out some short jogs) knowing I would eventually run into him coming the opposite way.

Brad Coffman rests in the relative comfort of an automobile
Sure enough, around mile 56 or so Emory appeared with a backpack full of beer and an excellent (alcohol enhanced) attitude. On to mile 60 I was still able to keep a good pace and arrived at Emory's car ahead of him. A very short break and it was just 2 more miles to Lisa's car.

Into the mind:
The 2 miles from 61 to 63 really began to test me. I was beginning to stumble mentally and physically but I made it. The weather was down right awful, the support crew seemed as beaten down as I was, everyone was tired now, and it was after 3:00am.

I decided to apply a healthy dose of Mole Skin (foot bandages for blisters, etc.) and some dry socks. I thought it would be enough to get me 10 more miles to Williamsport, MD and over the 70 mile mark. I trudged off into the wet darkness on the verge of that fine line between courage and stupidity.

Don Parks, still standing after 100K (62 miles)
Out there:
The first few miles seemed manageable. The bike support visited once and then passed on ahead. I caught back up with a napping Eric with bicycle by his side, took a short break and continued on to be passed one last time by my support. What would be the last six or eight miles of my journey were to be experienced completely alone.

As I walked these final miles I strained to stay standing. Pains came from my feet, my shins, my thighs, and my hips. But I think the mental state resulting from the lack of sleep and prolonged physical exertion (we are around the 20 hour point) was what really got to me. I was "falling asleep at the wheel", periodically regaining conscious awareness to find myself several feet off the trail heading into the woods. I stopped often to rest, standing, hands on my knees and my head down. I would rise after a short while usually to experience a light-headedness that caused me to buckle at the knees and stumble to catch my balance (although I never actually fell.) On at least one occasion I laid down in the middle of the trail for a short rest, but I could not stop.

The end:
I arrived around 7:00am at Williamsport to be greeted by Lisa, with the rest of the crew soundly sleeping in cars and on the ground. Without much to say, I just retired to a sleeping bag and quickly shut off my remaining consciousness as the sun rose.

22 hours, 73.5 miles, and I _will_ give it another try... next time it will be 100!