In the scramble of life at 4G speed, few of us manage more than quick moments of self-reflection.
At the other extreme, Craig Swartwout is extending his inner inventory check over 500 miles.
When I reached him late Tuesday afternoon, the software developer from Waukesha had just passed 250 miles and the half-way point of his “vision quest” trail run in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. He reported feeling good, better than he would have expected after ambling through the woods, with no sleep, for four days.
“You go through, it’s like any ultra experience, you have ebbs and flows,” said Swartwout, 53. “I took a brief amount of time to rest my eyes. If you sit down or lay down for a little bit, your body seizes up. Then you have to go through the process of loosening up again. About 20 minutes into the run this morning, I felt about as good as I did on the first day.”
Technically, Swartwout started his latest journey of self-reflection on Saturday, when he turned around at the finish of the Ice Age 50 race and jogged back into the woods. In reality, it started when he quit smoking, took up running and sought to master his psychic hyperactivity a decade ago.
In November 2010, Swartwout went in circles on a 9.2-mile loop on the Nordic Trails until he hit 202 miles. That took him 58 hours.
He expects this run will take a week.
“This was always kind of the end game,” Swartwout said, in something of an explanation. “This is where I wanted to get. I always had this number (500)n for some reason. Everything that I kind of did was to build toward that.
I’ve been on this spiritual journey. Running gets tied into that. Running is an act of meditation for me.
“I was a smoker, and quit smoking and started running so I wouldn’t smoke anymore. Trail running is a very spiritual experience. There’s that zen thing. If you take your eye off the trail for a minute, you end up kissing it.
“This has been an experience I’ve looked forward to for a lot of years and I’m getting to share it with a group of people I care for dearly. It’s a lot of fun.”
Friends and fellow runners have been tracking Swartwout on his web page. You’ll notice there’s a map with a red dot showing his location, but no button to make a donation. This 500-mile run is purely for joy.