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8 Tuff Miles (of Humility)

8 Tuff Miles (of Humility)

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She eyed me suspiciously and rightfully so. 

I'd just asked my wife if she wanted to do something crazy.

"What?" she demanded with all the experience of someone who knows that "crazy" could mean everything from another hunting trip where she ends up covered in mud, to being bucked off a horse, or worse, me off to another war.

"You wanna run over the top of a mountain?"


"See, there's this race in the Caribbean, on St. John in the Virgin Islands, called The 8 Tuff Miles.  It's up and over a mountain."

"The Caribbean?"  I knew that's the part she'd hear - selective wife hearing.

"Yep, it's 8.37 miles, from one side of the island to the other. The whole island is a mountain. In the first 3.8 miles you climb a thousand feet.

But then there are the white sand beaches when you're finished."  I wasn't playing fair.

"White sand beaches?" She was in.

Besides, she's a better runner than I am.  Up to that point, the Marine Corps had nearly destroyed my desire to ever run again. The thought of the island, and the challenge, overcame my disdain for running.

So off we went to join the other 1500 crazy people wanting to similarly torture themselves; 900 from the islands and 600 from elsewhere.

Well, not all 1500 people were crazy or there to torture themselves. In the running world, mountain or not, 8 miles is a short distance. The committed finished in about an hour, many in less time; the fastest under 46 minutes.

If I hadn't seen the elite before the race, I would have never seen them.

As mere running mortals, we placed ourselves somewhere in the middle-rear of the pack to start. The sign said two hours. It was a good goal.

Surprisingly, we passed lots of people at the start. But then the reality of the mountain kicked in. It kicked for the next 5 miles. I've ridden bulls that kicked less.

Young kids passed me. Girls in Wonder Woman costumes passed me. The guy in flip-flops passed me. Elderly people passed me. Bob Devaney passed me.  Montee Ball passed me and scored another 6 on the Blackshirts for the Badgers.

Around Mile three I realized I'd forgotten the all important Gold Bond medicated body powder. I would soon regret that.

But there were people lining the course to cheer us on, and lots of water stations complete with puppies to adopt. There were steel drums, a fiddler and guitar player for whom I danced my best "my Irish legs are cramping" jig, a lady with a tambourine, and African drums urging me up the mountain.

I complied and plodded on.

We crested the mountain. The view was amazing. I struggled with a gas bubble from a drinking problem at the last water station. I didn't enjoy the view as much.

It takes 5.75 miles to reach the crest. Going down is accomplished in less than 2.5 miles; it's steep. I ran like Phoebe Buffay wishing I'd remembered the Gold Bond.

On the descent, several twenty-somethings had a beer bong with free beer for those willing.  I passed.  It was enough for me to get water to mix right, though more youthful runners took advantage of the offer.

At the bottom of the mountain there was a quarter mile of flat ground between us and the finish line. I've low-crawled that far before. Should be easy enough, right?

Wrong.  It's a nasty trick to run 2.5 miles down hill and then run on the flat.  My legs felt like corner posts with barbed wire attached.

Humbled but proud, we drug each other across the finish line.

It was a top 25% finish among all women for my Wonder Woman wife, eleven fused vertebrae and all. I only finished in the top half of men.

But it was a half hour faster than the goal, and there were Pina Coladas, crystal blue water, and white sand waiting.

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