I don’t identify much as a runner. Which begs the question - why did I board a plane to Hawaii with the sole purpose of running the circumference of the Big Island? I’ve run a marathon before but that was six years ago - long before I’d ever heard of The Love Bus, long before my friend Andy had even created it.
The idea began in San Francisco with a small group of friends who were tired of running races and hungry for a new flavor of adventure. They wanted to challenge themselves while exploring unfamiliar landscapes and they wanted to share those experiences with their best friends - and so the Love Bus was born. For those familiar with Ragnar races the concept is similar. For those unfamiliar with Ragnar, the Love Bus is essentially a team relay race over a long weekend. Once the route is set, the course is divided into 6 mile sections and we rotate a new runner in after each split. Meanwhile, the rest of us pile in, on, and around the van stretching, dancing, and entertaining each other as we rocket across foreign terrain.
Hawaii brought a unique flavor to the Bus. In our 332 mile loop around the Big Island we crossed through lush jungles of deep green, past coastal cliffs that fell into the North Pacific, and over expansive fields of jagged black volcanic rock. Hawaii is dense with life - geckos, toads, frogs, centipedes, sea turtles and crabs. It’s a place where avocados litter the roadside like pine cones. It’s like walking into the grocery store of an alternate universe, where everything feels the same but slightly different - apples and oranges are replaced with starfruit, passionfruit, pineapple, mango, coconut and lime - Hawaii is why Tropical Skittles exist. At night the stars pin prick the sky of the jungle and the air is full of the chirps and beeps of frogs and bugs. Sometime between sunset and sunrise there is a shift in the symphony and without fail the birds pick up where the bugs left off. The transition actually has a name; it’s called the Dawn Chorus, which makes it feel profound.
In the midst of all this buzzing, singing, vibrating life and boundless beauty our van cut a consistent path through valleys and over hills, past volcanoes and roadside fruit stands. We raced only the timetable we had set for ourselves. Our focus solely centered on the next six miles, and how far until the next gas station and the next beachside pit stop and the next intimidating climb in elevation. In tackling a shared goal we found camaraderie. New and old friends cracking jokes and cracking coconuts, swimming in the ocean, climbing trees. We were there searching - but not in the grand sense of hoping to uncover a gold mine or a career path - we were searching out of curiosity. With hungry eyes we rounded corners ready to devour the next twist in the road. With sweaty skin we thirsted for new swimming holes. The hot sun left us anxious with anticipation to feel what it would be like running in the dark and balmy air of early morning.
In the process we found companionship, and purpose, and happiness. And that’s what most people spend their time searching for. At some point we were all tired, or sore or stuck in the rain. But those were the moments I was reminded that humans are social animals. At my low points I was never allowed the opportunity to indulge in negative thinking. I had a bus of a dozen giddy, goofy, excitable goobers chasing me down and lifting me up, reminding me that I wasn’t alone. Making me believe that I could go farther and faster than I thought possible.
So maybe I am a runner after all. But a more likely story is that this wasn’t a running trip. 332 miles was just an excuse for celebrating the goobers in life. The people that can take you farther than you could make it alone. Sometimes they’re people we know. Sometimes they’re people we just met. Regardless, they shake up our crusty routines and remind us to squeeze the juice out of life. Change rarely begins at our core. Growth happens in the margins of our lives.
And that's where the fun is.
Photos by Adam Wells and Greg Balkin
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