I was sitting down last night at Barracuda Bob’s in Savannah, Georgia, having my fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits – I have become Southern – when a guy in running gear bounced in and sat down next to me. Nothing unusual because the Savannah Marathon was run that day. The streets were crawling with skinny tired people. Already seated to my right was Ben from Atlanta, with his girlfriend Nicole, who ran the half marathon course.
When I asked the new arrival if he had just completed the marathon, he told me he had no idea there was a marathon until he arrived in Savannah. He said he’s running from South Carolina to San Francisco.
His name is Jeremy Schaefer, he’s a builder from Vermont, and running 50 to 60 miles a day, sometimes staying in cheap motels in sketchy parts of town, more often camping by the side of the road. Jeremy is running to raise awareness for mental illness, something that has affected his life. Running and other extreme sports have been his therapy. He’s hoping people will support the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Of course Ben and Nicole were in awe over this so I had to remind them that I am driving all over the country. Me! And I’m from New York, which shares a border with Vermont. In fact, I let them know, I had driven about 450 miles from South Florida just that day and my car does not even have the optional luxury package. Me and Jeremy are cut from the same cloth.
Jeremy politely accepted a beer but strongly refused my offer to buy him dinner. It was my deeply buried paternal instinct, wanting to feed him. He hasn’t even left the East Coast yet and he’s quite skinny.
To fuel himself, a sponsor provides MRE’s, meals ready to eat, developed for soldiers. He needs to eat 6000 calories a day. I don’t think Jeremy’s hitting his goal.
I’m going to become a marathon groupie. Hanging out with people who are on an endorphin high, malnourished and drinking tons of booze is fun.
By the time Jeremy, Ben, Nicole and I parted company we were hugging and promising to name our children after one another.
This being Veterans Day, it’s a good time to check out that NAMI website. Soldiers are population greatly affected by mental illness.
I asked Jeremy if there’s any way I could donate and support his run. He said no, he’s just happy to make friends and have some company along the way. His only effort to promote the run is by simply posting to Facebook for his friends, which I am now one of!
Without a support car, Jeremy has everything he needs in what looks to me like a baby runner. To paraphrase the movie Forrest Gump, which took place in Savannah, “Run, Jeremy. Run!”
Correction: I originally wrote that Jeremy started his run in Vermont when I should’ve wrote South Carolina. He is from Vermont but running from South Carolina to San Francisco.