By Sal Citarella
In this year of discontent, I’m reading Volume III of Paul Reese’s epic journey across all 50 states. As I’m sure you will remember (if not, you can look it up in Runner’s Gazette, June 2020 under “Features”), he first ran coast-to-coast nonstop as a kid of 73. Then in Volume II, he ran the states west of the Mississippi. Now, at 80, he is completing his mission by crossing everything that he had previously missed, which includes the lands of our East Coast youth.
In this final effort, he has greatly reduced the task by simply finding the shortest route across each state and only running 15 or so miles per day. He makes up for the lack of mileage with more philosophy on the hoof. Remember what Sheehan said, “Never trust a thought arrived at sitting down.”
Although he praises his wife, Elaine, frequently for her cooking and care for the two dogs, the fact that she has been driving the motor home and living on the road for months at a time and driving thousands of miles over several years in support of his addiction is pretty commendable, although I’m sure you would have done the same.
Two recurring thoughts seem to occupy his wandering mind: military service and religion. As he opens up about his WW II service, it seems he was quite the Marine, participating in several of the Pacific Island assaults, piloting planes, and leading troops. At one point, something brings the name Clinton to his mind. I believe Bill had been president at the time of his run. He castigates the man for having avoided military service. What would he think of our current president were he running today?
I mean if Reese were running today, not the other guy who is running.
His other philosophical hang-up seems to be his Catholicism. He was schooled for many years by the Christian Brothers. I was, too, in college. The Christian Brothers formerly raised grapes and bottled a high-quality wine which my Dad sold in his store in Manhattan. Somewhere along his road, Paul lost his affinity for the formal pomp and ceremony of organized religion and although claimed to believe strongly, he no longer practiced formally. He never halted a Sunday run to attend Mass, but he would devote some time to renewing his relationship with the Big Runner in the Sky. Was he really only trying to justify himself to himself or sharing his thoughts with us?
Another interesting discussion occurred within himself as he was traversing western NY, heading for Lake Erie. That this was in NY appears merely coincidental and not any indictment of my home state. Suicide. He recalled discussions with a former military buddy who declared he certainly would if the circumstances called for it. Paul felt otherwise; he viewed it was just another form of giving up and he obviously, did not give up. He had already put up with radiation to get his cancer into remission. Then he called up the scene from “Soylent Green,” in which society provided a “humane” and comfortable way in which Edward G. Robinson could avoid pointless pain and suffering.
In any event, this final book is less about running and more about the man. And he was a very accomplished man. Any one of the books are great in that you can pick one up, flip to the start of any chapter, and get a foot and eye view of America.
Alaska and Hawaii are next. Maybe, as Paul’s hero Arnold, said, “I’ll be back!”