A friend of mine in Portland did some bizarre Facebook performance art on Monday morning. You could watch him progressively eclipse in real time as he zipped up a black sweatshirt over his yellow T-shirt.
I have friends who I know were traveling to find totality in Nashville; Atchison, Kan.; and Madras, Ore. Traveling to Find Totality should be somebody’s upcoming album title; wish I could have shared that idea with the Avett Brothers before they left Fort Tuthill earlier this month. If you’re reading, Scott and Seth, run with it. All I ask is free tickets to your next Flagstaff show.
Meanwhile, Bonnie Tyler was booked on a cruise ship to sing her hit that is nearly twice as old as the freshmen who invaded Northern Arizona University’s campus this week.
For almost 30 local runners, we got our own total eclipse in the heart of Flagstaff, aka Buffalo Park.
Is Ms. Tyler a runner? With lyrics such as “every now and then I fall apart,” and “every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by,” she speaks for many in our sport.
We may have only gotten 70 percent totality in northern Arizona, but the runners present had 100 percent fun. Take that, Madras.
Point is, according to the narrative we heard all day long, our divided country came together in a kumbuya moment thanks to an alignment of our celestial bodies that was set in motion eons before we mere mortals knew we would need a collective exhale on Aug. 21, 2017.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this impromptu gazing -- dubbed the Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association’s first-ever Solar Apoc-Eclipse Fun Run -- was the light bulb of our intrepid volunteer race director extraordinaire, Neil Weintraub. Fresh off a wildly successful 40th annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Dave McKay Memorial Half Marathon, Neil apparently needed something to do before planning for the October Soulstice Run kicks into high gear.
Seriously, Neil is a brilliant brainstormer of running-themed ideas. I sometimes feel that without his commitment to the running community, we wouldn’t know what to do and we’re always in the dark.
Your love is like a shadow on us all of the time, Neil.
In spirit, this informal event was an encore to the Mayan Apocalypse Run held back on Dec. 21, 2012 -- which fortunately turned out not to be the last entry in those participants’ running logs. Neil had the foresight back then to get T-shirts made for the occasion. No such luck this time, and Bruce Higgins made sure that Neil, clad in his trademark purple tights on Monday morning, knew it by showing up in his collector’s edition Mayan Apocalypse Run T-shirt (tagline: “The run to end all runs”).
“This is just an excuse to get in a few miles on a work day,” Neil told the Apoc-Eclipse joggers as he passed out viewing glasses he bought at Lowell Observatory.
It was that, but it had the same communal quality that news reports used as their angle for the country as a whole. Overblown, maybe, but also, truly, maybe a little playfulness under the direction of Mother Nature was exactly what us big-brained, hyper-stressed, overbooked human beings needed for a couple of hours.
This was Flagstaff’s version. With cars filling the Buffalo Park lot and lining Gemini Drive bumper to bumper, we runners old and young (including Haley Johnson, age 9) joined several hundred of our closest non-running friends at our town’s premier gathering spot.
By the time we runners had recorded our laps (just under 70, a distance of about 140 miles, which would have gotten us to Phoenix, that insufferable heat island down the hill where people inexplicably choose living in a powder keg and giving off sparks), I felt a measure of calm in the muted, late-morning dusk. There was nothing I wanted to control.
Amid so many happy people, I thought of the Washington Post’s brave and poignant slogan, “Democracy dies in darkness,” and the bright name of the local newspaper that you are reading right now.
I enjoyed the moon’s bold show of force, but our literal and figurative need for our sun felt more evident than before. Refreshed, I was ready to start a productive and kind work week, and wished my fellow Americans the same.
If anything, the big day was further proof that Neil can turn anything into a running event. No one can say he lacks foresight.
“2nd Annual NATRA Solar Apoc-Eclipse fun run will be held Monday April 8th, 2024,” he posted on Facebook. “Put it on your calendars today!”
Maybe next time there will be T-shirts. You read it here first.