Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Half-Baked Ideas for Distance Races Part II - The Pony Express Challenge

A few years ago - I think about 2003 and 2004? - some very kind souls were good enough to join me on a lark. That lark was running the approximate last leg of the Pony Express. On this leg, they unloaded the mail on the docks in Martinez and loaded it onto horses that would ride from there to what is now Jack London Square in Oakland, and then loaded the San Francisco mail back onto a boat would take it across the Bay.

The route we took wasn't quite exactly the same as the real one (that would involve running on freeways, which didn't exist at the time the Express was operating). We started at the train station in Martinez, headed south on Alhambra Valley Road, then up into Briones, southwest on Old Briones Road to the Bear Creek Road entrance, down Bear Creek, crossing San Pablo Dam Road and up through the Orinda hills to meet Grizzly Peak Boulevard at the steam train in Tilden. From there it was south on Grizzly Peak, right on Claremont, and through Rockridge to Broadway, and then a straight shot to Jack London Square. Clocks at 26 to 27 miles, depending on which program you ask.

One of the runners (the notorious Mike Palmer) mentioned that he knew of a similar lark that was done in Utah - a group of ultras ran 80+ miles of the Express in UT. I thought: what a great half-baked idea - we should join up! So I got the organizer's email and said hey, we should have a series or something. First one to run the whole thing gets a Pony Express medal or something (design based on picture below:

From Road Trip American West August 2008

As it turned out, the day of the second PE Run, I noticed this plaque on the side of the old Wells Fargo building in the SF Financial District, which is now the HSBC Building and which was the final terminus of the Express. Totally by coincidence I stumbled across it the same day.

Well, the other guy with the Utah version never wrote back. But of course I still think it's an awesome idea. Since it looks like I'll be away for four years, I just hope nobody else gets the same awesome half-baked idea and forgets all about little old me. So if anybody does organize or adjudicate (or whatever) a run of the whole thing, then goddammit I want the last leg named the Mike Caton Memorial Last Leg of the Pony Express or something. Or like proceeds go to a good charity (my tuition). But if such a thing does start up, then I want to be part of it. [Note: it has since been done by Karl Meltzer.]

Last summer I took a picture of this marker in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Look familiar?

From Road Trip American West August 2008

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