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LAKE CITY, COLORADO…. I’M COMING HOME.

 

No sooner had I arrived in Lake City when I met one of my old friends Jodi. She was working for the city and fixing a broken pump when I bumped into her in the town park. Jodi immediately offered me a place to stay in her house with her husband Bruce. Irish readers will know what I mean when I describe Lake City as  ‘ Glenrow in the Rockies. ‘

Though its called a city it’s really a very small  town with a winter population of about 250. In the summer this swells to a couple of thousand. Many of the summer residents are  well-off Texans. The town really depends on their income.

There is a very strong community spirit where everyone looks out for each other. I lived there for 2 years on and off from 1997-1999.

I remember once a man had an accident and was briefly confined to a wheelchair. Word spread out, immediately the Lake City lumber yard donated materials and all the towns carpenters had a wheelchair ramp built up to his house in a couple of hours.

Everyone will have a different story as to how they ended up here. It’s said people leave their attitudes at the town limits sign. Most stumbled into town by accident. Many years before I had read the classic America travel books by Peter Jenkins, Walk Across America and The Walk West.

 Jenkins had walked across America in five years. When in Colorado he had spent a whole winter on the Vickers ranch in Lake City. I had spent a lot of 1997 travelling around the states in my Winnebago motor home. I remember it well that Friday evening. I was at a crossroads and the sign pointed to Lake City. A subliminal message from Peter Jenkins’s book took me to Lake City. It’s 8,800 feet high up in the San Juan mountain range.

I made my way to Mammy’s (Whisky Bar And Diner) which seemed to be the focal point in town.

Though I was a drifter the locals welcomed me with much enthusiasm. Soon I learned there was an Irish Man called Aidan living in town. In fact he worked in Mammy’s as a chef but had already gone home as the kitchen had closed for the night.   Word got out and Aidan was dragged back to Mammy’s. Over the years we became close friends. Aidan has left town now. Many of my old friends have also departed for other places.

Back then I really enjoyed drifting around in the motor home. I used to go to Las Vegas, Death Valley, The Grand Canyon, Montana, Texas, New Mexico and many other places. I loved it. Every few weeks I would return to Lake City for a few weeks and just sofa surf in a friends place paying them about $50 a week rent when in town.

Drinking sessions between me and Aidan were legendary. Last week I was reminded of my 1997 Halloween party piece. Someone filled my cowboy boot up with beer and I drank it all in one go with a smile on my face. At the 1998 Halloween party I wore my flip flops.

There were a lot of smirks going around… ” So Tony, you not wearing your cowboy boots this year? ”

I didn’t disappoint, but lets put it this way I didn’t get as drunk that year and had more than egg on my face.

In fact in 1998 I was all set to walk around the world. I had bought all my equipment. That’s where the World Jog logo was conceived. Big black letters signifying a road with the white stripes signifying two lanes. World Walk had 2 hiking boots for the  letter ‘L’s ‘

That was a time before websites. The editor of the Lake City Silver World, Grant Houston had given me a small sponsorship and the deal was I would email back some on the road reports of my world walk. I described to a local computer design artist what way the logo should look like. He eventually got it up on his screen to my delight. I got the world walk tee-shirts printed. I still got them in Ireland. the world jog logo is a modification of that world walk logo.

 I got a letter of introduction from the Lake City mayor, Phil Mason to take on my world walk. I had the maddest of going away parties. Aidan drove me to Denver. We had another going away party in LODO and I took a flight to Ireland. With 4 days to go I changed my mind. (personal reasons) I decided to wait one more year. One more year turned into 13 more years before I decided my real dream was to run around the world and not walk.

I almost never returned to Lake City fearing a humiliation, a laughing stock. As someone said then… Tony it will just be a one week wonder and your real friends will understand, others wont matter. That’s the way it turned out. In fact nobody remembers the hiking boots. They only remember the cowboy boot now!  Upon returning I gave Grant his sponsorship money back. He had printed a big article in the paper about my world walk departure! You can imagine the surprise people got when they saw me walking around town.

So then there was the Lake City 50 mile mountain race. A brute of a race. It’s now called the San Juan Solstice 50 mile mountain race.

In 1997 many of the locals wanted me to run it but I refused as I had heard about how tough it was. I didn’t want to wreck my feet for my world walk was my reasoning. In 1998 I ran it and finished 8th. I was hooked on ultra running from that day. In 1999 I trained very hard. It was a more stable year for me. I got my own appartment and worked all year. In that race, at the last aid station with 3 and a half miles to go I was in second place about 8 minutes behind the leader. There was a very steep descent down the mountain into the town with about a one mile run in to the finish line in the town park. Descending kamikaze fashion was my strength at the time and I really went for it. I had made up 7 of the 8 minutes on the two and a half mile descent. On the town outskirts I had the leader in my sights and was closing fast. I believe he had thought he had the race won and was just cantering to the finish. My momentum and taking him by surprise would have probably beaten him. Suddenly all my friends saw what was happening and encouraged me by shouting.. ” Come on Tony, You got him! ”

Just then a terrified leader looked around. We both ditched our bottle bags and went for it both running a sub 6 minute mile in the last mile of a very tough 50 mile mountain race. Fair play to him. He held on to win by exactly one minute. I looked to my right. The local cinema was showing the movie, ‘ Gone in 60 seconds. ‘ I was heartbroken.

I have been told house prices here have been maintained. The reason is because the banks were careful not to loan to people that couldn’t afford, so there was not same property crash as in the rest of the country.

I stayed for another half day seeing some of my friends. Cookie the owner of Mammy’s is no longer the owner as the Arts Council bought her lifework and passion against her will, she is naturally upset. Her husband Michael an old boss of mine. Local character Booey. Jen the runner. I gave Grant an interview. Yes it’s happening this time Grant. I have returned and my tail is not between my legs, this time.

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3 Responses to “LAKE CITY, COLORADO…. I’M COMING HOME.”

  1. stewart Says:

    hi tony…another great read….
    i was just looking at PICS OF WHERE YOU ARE ON THE GOOGLE EARTH…..looks like something from clint eastwood movies or john wayne….the scenery must be fantastic!!!!
    take care
    as always

    stewart and bernie in newfoundland

    oh yeah and happy easter too

  2. Ann Says:

    Hi Tony,
    Surprised you didn’t fill one of your runners with beer this time! :)

  3. theworldjog Says:

    Thanks Stewart and everyone for your patience. I have had no internet access yet in Arizona. Am in McDonalds and could do with some more wifi time but as always … Have to run! I encourage everone to check out the google earth photos as Stewart has done.. In Kayenta just over 60km yesterday. A storm this morning. Tony

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About Tony

I have always considered myself to be an average runner. In school, I was even bullied for I was a sports wimp. Through hard work, dedication, perseverance, self-belief and a strong mind I succeeded in not only running around the world but breaking four ultra running world records during my competitive career. Having previously cycled around the world I didn't start running until I was almost 30. Then I had a dream of running around the world. For many reasons, I waited for over 20 years. One reason was to establish my pedigree as an endurance athlete. I started and finished my world run as the current World Record-Holder for 48 Hours Indoor Track 426 kilometres (265 miles), a record I have held since 2007. I also broke and still hold the World Record for 48 hours on a Treadmill 405 kilometres (251 miles) in 2008. When I retired from competition, more pleasing than any of my world, European or Irish records I had the respect of my fellow athletes from all over the world - in my opinion, sports greatest reward - an achievement I am most proud of. Then I finally put myself out to pasture, to live my ultimate dream to run around the world! This blog was written on the road while I struggled to find places to sleep and to recover from running an average of 43.3 kilometres or 27 miles per day for 1,165 road days. There were many nights I typed this blog on a smart phone, so fatigued my eyes closed. Many journalists and endurance athletes have referred to my world run as the most difficult endurance challenge ever attempted. During my expedition I rarely had any support vehicles, running mostly with a backpack. In the more desolate areas I pushed my gear, food and water in a cart which I called Nirvana, then I sent her on ahead to run with my backpack once again over altitudes of almost 5,000 metres in the Andes. I stayed in remote villages where many people had never seen a white person before. I literally met the most wonderful people of this world in their own backyard and share many of those amazing experiences in this blog. My run around the world took 4 years. There were no short cuts, I ran every single metre on the road while seeking out the most comprehensive route across 41 countries, 5 continents, I used 50 pair of running shoes and my final footstep of the run was exactly 50,000 kilometres, (almost 31,000 miles) I eventually finished this tongue in cheek named world jog where I started, at the finish line of my city marathon. I started my global run with the Dublin Marathon on October 25th 2010 and finished with the Dublin Marathon on October 27th 2014 at 3 05pm! Thank you for your support, I hope you can share my unique way of seeing the world, the ultimate endurance challenge! Read more...

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