27 August 2009

Day 94

Dan, originally uploaded by Ryan Runs Europe.

37 Kilometers.
In the morning Dan and I drove with Tobias and Dere to a nearby athletics store and watched them do some business before they dropped us off in Lanuvio for our run. 37 kilometers in the heat. The run was long and hot, and as almost a perfect contrast to the fountains and beautiful antique Appian way that carried us through the beginning of our run the day before, we finished our run with only one stop for water and an extended section along the side of a busy highway. Dan says "You run on roads like this?!" I respond "Eh, when I have to." The road ended up being better than it looked.
When we got into town, we went into a grocery store in search of some chocolate milk. Now there were two of us who were disappointed to see that it wasn't available. Instead of just settling for something else, we ended up getting a container of Nesquik and some regular milk. Before we had left the grocery store parking lot I had worked my way through two liters of incredibly chocolaty chocolate milk. I had to get my money's worth.
From there, we walked to a McDonald's where I used the bathroom and we sat outside on their covered park benches talking for a while. Having just come out of this radio interview with "EcoRadio," we started talking about the actual environmental implications of my run. I don't really think of running as a particularly efficient means of transportation, and unless you love to run I don't think it would be a good idea to ditch your car/bicycle/motorcycle on that cross country road trip you have been planning just for the sake of the environment. Dan brought up an interesting point (from this book "Omnivore's Dilemma" that he had read) that most or our diet (especially corn products) comes from a conversion of fossil fuels into food. We can't eat fossil fuels for energy, so we burn them to power the machinery that harvests our great corn fields, and then we use that corn to feed our proteins. Every time that exchange is made, we lose a certain amount of energy through heat or waste, and what we end up eating gives us much less energy than what we started with. With the amount of food that I eat, I'm sure that I have burned much more fossil fuels than if I had just hopped in a car and drove to Athens on a couple tanks of gas. Then again though, I'm not really just looking to go to Athens.
For me, the environmental lesson of my run is not the efficiency of human travel, but rather my own personal ability to see first hand the scale of the world. Seeing the size of this continent on my own two feet, and seeing where cities end and where mountains begin, I have developed a greater understanding of how small our world actually is. This place really is like a "Spaceship Earth." Everything we make and throw away doesn't have very far to go. The grime of Milan is only a few runs away from the mountains and crystal waters of the Alps. For me, seeing that everything REALLY is connected is one of the greatest lessons of this trip. When you take a plane or a train from one city to the next, it is easy to think of each city as its own little island. There are no such islands on this planet...everything is connected to everything. The only real island is our own planet...and if we eat all the coconuts we are going to be in some serious trouble.
I don't know how much I believe in most hippie/organic products and lifestyles...with the amount of energy and waste that goes into producing those things (things that power humans) they aren't much better than what we are used to. For me though, the good thing is that we are thinking about it. With all that soy milk burning, someone has got to come up with a good solution eventually.
Anyways, after this conversation we went to an Internet cafe where a hamster powered our computers as we fed it French fries, and when we were done we met up Tobias, Dere and a bunch of other friends and runners to have another epic refueling session. When we were done with dinner, we drove back with Andrea, and I took a shower and washed my stuff before going to sleep in the same place as the night before.


  1. I enjoy reading of your adventure, you are doing good stuff. Re; fossil fuel to corn, a greater component than machine fuel is the chemical fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, produced from fossil fuels. Eating organic does actually reduce the use of fossil fuels, also try eating locally grown stuff. This from Smithsonian magazine July 2006 article "What's Eating America". Keep finding good people and enjoy the adventure.
    Happy Trails

  2. Thanks for providing a sort of "big picture" moment. I wondered why, exactly, you were doing this. I knew there was a reason, but I could not, for the life of me, remember what it was.

    So hooray.

    Have you checked out Roz Savage lately? She's doing the same kind of thing, also raising environmental awareness, but she's rowing across the Pacific. Day 95 for her...

  3. Wow! A very deep, meaniful post...something we all need to think about. Thank you for sharing.

    I just love your blog, so happy I found It:)

  4. Excellent and thought provoking post! You are quite a journalist in the making :-)

  5. Loved your post! Thanks for sharing your experiences and your unique view. Since I won't be running across Europe, I am eager to hear what you are learning. I lived in Russia for 3 years & that experience changed me. I did a lot of walking there, but no running ... Glad you are finding real beds in homes and getting some real sleep. I hope you will write a book about the whole experience. Blessings on you as you travel!

  6. "The grime of Milan is only a few runs away from the mountains and crystal waters of the Alps" ... for experienced cross country runners who can cover 100km in a few runs! No sweat!

    Keep up the good work and best of luck on your travels. By the way, how do you plan to cross the Ionian?

  7. love the michael pollan conversation.