PHOENIX — Somewhere between the endless jokes about eggs, compression shirts, missing pants and the middle-of-the-night release of sunscreen from a poorly placed aerosol can, we actually ran a 200-mile race.
Running with Rob Jamieson and crew was best summed up by teammate Katie Archer.
"I'm going to be sore from laughing — not running," she said just a few hours into the approximately 30-hour race.
I sent up a flare this summer asking strangers (well, are fellow runners ever really strangers?) across the country to take me in. In my quest to run all 15 of the Ragnar Relays, starting with the original Wasatch Back in June, I needed help from people I'd never met.
That is, until they offered to let me join their teams.
Rob Jamieson saw my plea and generously sent me an e-mail offering me a place on "But we've only gone 2 inches on the map" in the Del Sol Ragnar Relay in Arizona.
I don't remember his exact invitation, but I do remember he likened the team to doughnuts. And any runner who invokes the sacred pastry is a runner to whom I'd like to be tethered for 48 hours.
My trip to Arizona was delayed a half-dozen hours because I failed to check my itinerary. I also failed to realize the absurdity of telling my husband that my plane left Salt Lake City at 3 p.m., and then sending an e-mail to Jamieson informing him I'd be arriving at 3 p.m.
"Unless you've got access to a time machine," my husband unsympathetically offered.
In short, I missed my first flight. The second one was full, but I was offered a seat on what I now know was a flight for all of those traveling with colds.
I arrived to find my teammate and host Rob Jamieson waiting in a nearby parking structure. I'd missed the pre-race, carb-loading party, but the Jamiesons offered me anything in the kitchen and a great conversation about this sport we love.
When I went to my room I found a thoughtful — and very useful — care package from Jamieson's mom, Jane, and a card welcomed me to their home and the team.
Rob Jamieson is an unlikely runner. When he started running, he weighed 320 pounds. He was working out with his sister, Rachel, when she convinced him to run a number of races, from a Muddy Buddy to Pat's Run.
"She gets us signed up for all kinds of crazy things," Jamieson said.
Before Pat's Run, Jamieson said he went to a track and ran four and a quarter miles, just to make sure he could finish the race. To his surprise, he realized he could.
"Then we started doing other things," Jamieson said. It was Rachel's idea to sign up for the half-marathon, which they completed before their first Ragnar three years ago.
"I got down to 270-ish," Jamieson said. "I was actually in pretty good shape. I felt a lot better."
His greatest challenge came in the half-marathon.
"I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have finished if Rachel hadn't been with me," he said. "She came back for me. I kept running because it hurt more to walk than it did to run. I didn't have anything left in the tank. When I crossed the finish line, I was a wreck."
The half-marathon provided him something to compare the Del Sol race to a few months later. While he had to run his three legs on his own, he never felt alone.
"It's different because you're with people, all the time," he said, laughing. "You have all of these people supporting you. I love the interactivity. You cheer them on, talk to them … I knew five people in the van were going to find me if something happened."
He acknowledges there are teams that put competition higher on the priority list than they do. For them, fun is the first order of business.
"If you told me I could have John Arnett or a person 100 times faster, I'd take John any day of the week," Jamieson said. "It's about helping other people. … We're pretty picky about the people you run with. I don't have the patience to deal with that one bad apple. You want to have a good experience."
It's the combination of doing something difficult and running with people that make you laugh that keeps Jamieson coming back for more.
"It's because they're hard and they're fun," he said.
Then he quotes Tom Hanks in "A League of Their Own."
As his character tries to convince Geena Davis' character not to quit the baseball team, he says, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is … what makes it great."
And then Jamieson adds, "It's nice to do something hard once in a while."
Jamieson has been told by doctors he should lose weight before running. He sees running as the motivation to lose weight. He and his teammates are planning to run Wasatch Back in June, and he hopes to be back under 300 by the end of this month.
When he runs, he sleeps better, feels better and "is less cranky."
Regardless of what the scale — or the rest of the world — says about his health, running has given Jamieson something that's hard to come by when you struggle with weight.
"I would say running has just made me comfortable in my own skin."