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June 21, 2007

Off and Running

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Day 12. June 12. 16h40

It’s Tuesday, 16h30 and we are leaving Amsterdam heading to Bremen, inching through thick traffic on this overcast day. “They must have heard Blue Planet Run is on its way to Germany and they’re heading over!” said Heiko, fellow German teammate. Well, I’m not sure about that. But nonetheless, word about the Blue Planet Run is spreading quickly. During our walk around Amsterdam today, my teammate, the Scotsman Paul, went to purchase a postcard in a small souvenir shop. As he went to pay, the gentleman behind the counter offered him a stamp with postage to England. “But how did you know I’m from England?” asked Paul. And the man pointed at the BPR emblem on Paul’s fleece jacket. “You all are running around the world, aren’t you?” Evidently, the man had read one of the two morning’s papers that featured the BPR relay team and our Dutch teammate, Rudy.

After four days on the 3 to 9pm shift, my team Yellow (also known as Yellow Mellow team, and more affectionately, the Gold Team) has the day off. Tomorrow marks our first night shift—9pm to 3am. I tried to stay up last night (to start the readjustment process) but fatigue overtook and I was out by 1am. Indeed, the heat, constant travel, and bustling excitement that envelopes BPR on-the-road-life all take their toll.

But we’re having a blast. Cruising through the French countryside the other day, we stopped along the running route to join a family in their Sunday afternoon badminton game. After equipping our new friends with BPR t-shirts and stickers, they joined us as we tossed the Frisbee. Soon, our friends brought out a cooler of refreshments, and we toasted our glasses of raspberry Belgian beer as Heiko ran by. “OK, gotta hit the road,” someone yelled, and we all loaded back into our vans, waving goodbye, and took off to the 9pm exchange point. And last night, while stopped on the side of the road for a baton hand-off to team Blue, a woman came out of her house to offer us tea and cookies. Having seen the BPR banner flying outside her door, she looked up the website, and inspired by the cause, figured we could use a snack . How thoughtful! In the fading 9pm sunlight, on a sidewalk in Belgium, Blue and Yellow team sipped tea chatting with new BPR friend, Rose. What a lovely way to close our shift.

But bad luck struck. Our newest teammate Jason, a backup runner who flew in the day before yesterday to serve in the precautionary role of runner relief, skipped out of the van brimming with excitement to do his second BPR leg. (He helped Team Yellow while Rudy was on press calls.) On mile 2 we noticed a slowed cadence, but Jason hollered back that he was fine, just a rolled ankle.

Unfortunately, hospital x-rays revealed otherwise. At 2am that evening, Jason returned to the hotel outfitted in a cast and crutches. An honorary Team Yellow member for two days, we sadly said goodbye to him this morning as we continued to move eastwards. Jason will fly back to the states tomorrow.

This is a stark reminder of the human body’s frailty. One small step, even the most basic move on the most basic terrain, as Jason experienced, could jeopardize our chances of carrying out the rest of the run. And mishaps can happen to any of us. So far, we have been lucky. But, while we live in the excitement of running around the world (truly a dream opportunity and to support a terrific cause), and while we are savoring each moment, we are, on the other hand, checking off each day. Our ability to run is what keeps us part of the team. While we may not voice it, I’m quite sure that fear of injury lurks, if only slightly, in all our minds. One wrong step, one curb, one pothole (or banana peel in Mary’s case) is all it takes. And while the mission of BPR will continue, it is a sad thing to say goodbye to the moving-road-excitement of Blue Planet runners and support crew. Yet, it is a future possible scenario we must each consider.

We wish Jason a thorough and fast recovery and hope to see him sans cast in San Francisco.

- Laurel Dudley

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