No, not a mud bog designed for off road vehicles, just the most challenging of the 121 mile-runs undertaken by Christian Alexandersen. He’ll be back soon to tell us how the whole adventure got started. For now, here’s his reminiscence on the run that nearly ended The Quest.
Knee deep in mud and frustrated, I stood on the shores of Allegheny Islands State Park completely exhausted. It was the only time during my attempt to run one mile at all 121 Pennsylvania State Parks in 2021 that I ever felt like giving up.
After having run at 88 parks already, I knew the routine. Drive, park, find my trail and run one mile. I had perfected the process over months as part of my “121 In 21 Challenge.”
But Allegheny Islands posed new problems. The park was made up of two undeveloped islands with no land access or no running trails. I developed a plan and headed west from Enola to run seven parks, including Allegheny Islands, with my friend Adam Bricker over a weekend.
After runs at three state parks that day, we parked at a marina so that I could paddle over to the 14-acre upper island. I only had one kayak so I was on my own for the last park of the day.
When I got to the heavily wooded island, I found a small stretch of land that would be my running track. It was a 5 feet wide by 50 feet long beach made entirely of mud. The mud was cartoon-like slippery and I sank deeper with every step.
Up to this point, my runs had been on trails and roads. I had never run on a mud beach. My slow jog turned into an even slower march. Quickly, I was up to my knees in mud. Every step took more energy out of me.
As I sank into the mud, I was stepping on twigs pointed toward the surface. Every step meant the potential of jabbing my soft shoeless feet.
When I tried to circling these hazards, passing boats caused waves that wiped away my cautionary marks. So, I just kept stepping on the same sticks over and over again. It was hell.
Then I remembered something that turned my dreadful march into a fun experience: I had chosen this. This was not being forced onto me. I was the one that wanted to run a mile at every state park. Once I realized that, I found humor in the situation.
I thought about the boaters looking over and seeing a shirtless guy covered in mud marching and slipping all over an abandoned island. I must have looked ridiculous. That thought alone made me laugh and so I marched on.
After 224 days, I completed my 121 In 21 Challenge. And while I have so many incredible memories from my runs across the Commonwealth, my 42 minutes and 23 seconds of hell at Allegheny Islands State Park will always be my most memorable moment.
~ Christian Alexandersen