Doing the Cupid Shuffle

Douglas Anderson discusses running, resolutions and the preventive benefits of healthy habits.

I awoke on a dark, damp and foggy Saturday morning and drove from my motel beside the I-75 to the start. My jet lag had made me unusually early. So I waited in my car to keep warm, peering out over what I believed was Monroe County, Georgia. My only previous encounters with Georgia had been in conference hotels in Atlanta, and my annual ritual of staying up late on a Sunday evening in April to watch the Masters golf at Augusta. As the sun rose it revealed beautiful rolling, countryside - as green as the fairways at Augusta National. A bit like parts of Scotland, and much of Ireland in winter, but 3000 miles to the west, and 1000 miles south.

I was here to try my hand at the Cupid Shuffle. No arrows, dance floors or card dealing required. No, the Cupid Shuffle was the lovely name given to a collection of road races put on by the local community on its quiet roads. There were 5km, half marathon and full marathon options. It was quite a contrast to last month’s Disney marathon: no fancy dress, no razzmatazz, fewer than 100 runners, a few hills but thankfully no heat and humidity.

I’m relatively new to running. Formerly a keen cyclist, I got into the habit of packing my running shoes when I started travelling more frequently to the United States two years ago. Since then I have stayed over for a few weekends. When I am on my own I have tried to find a marathon, some have been on trail, some on road. I find them a great way to get to experience the rich variety of the United States. So far, I have sampled the diverse landscapes and people in Colorado, New York, Nevada, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida and now Georgia. Running brings the added bonus of burning calories: up to 1000 extra calories every hour on the road. According to the Cheesecake Factory menu, that equates to one slice per hour.

And my marathons have an uncanny habit of delivering nice surprises. On Saturday, the small, but intimate field encouraged friendly conversations. My lovely surprise came in the form of a chance meeting with a fascinating, like-minded, character: Greg James (pictured) had driven down from Charleston, North Carolina. Goodness knows what time he had got up.

Visually, I’d guess that Greg is about 10 years older than me. But after chatting for a few minutes, I’d estimate that, biologically, he is 10 years younger. First I learned that Greg is a keen marathon runner, having just returned from a running “holiday” in South America, which involved five marathons in as many days. Then it transpired that he was a fellow entrepreneur too. Greg trained as an engineer, but an opportunity emerged to found a new business with two partners. Their business, Homeland Security Solutions, has grown, no doubt through persistent hard work, to provide employment to several hundred people. Greg stood back from day to day working a few years ago, but continues to guide his old colleagues as a board director. With more time on his hands, Greg has taken up running more regularly. That turned out to be an understatement.

Last month, I wrote about the people whose New Year’s resolution was to steer clear of alcohol in January (congratulations if you made it!). Greg’s resolution was on an altogether different level: to run 100 marathons in 2020. That’s a cool 2600 miles. And the average of one every three days or so leaves next to no time for recovery.

As we ran, and I explained what Club Vita did, Greg asked about his own longevity, given his extreme behaviour. I happily reassured him that long life was largely about the preventive benefits of healthy habits, rather than medical solutions once problems arise. The sequencing of the genome has revealed that only 16% of variations in lifespan at birth are down to genetics; the rest is attributable to habits and environmental factors. Professor David Sinclair summed up the prescription as “panting a few times a week”.

Greg had already notched up nine marathons in January. And was running one the next day too, in Tallahassee, Florida. What an inspiration. I look forward to following his progress as the year unfolds.

Now, 7 states down, 43 to go. What state shall I pick next? And what surprises await?


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