Vella Shpringa Full Moon Run

On Memorial Day, Amy and I ran 8(ish) miles with the Vella Shpringa* Running Club and special guests Chris McDougall and Scott Jurek. Chris wrote one of my favorite books: Born to Run.  Scott is a main character in the book, and in real life he is one of the world’s best ultra-marathoners.  The evening started with sunset miles through farm fields and ended with conversations over homemade ice cream. Everything from the running to the talking felt too good to be true, as if I was living a novel.


We started with the setting of the sun, and ran into darkness, the reverse of my usual routine. In fact, this would be my first time running at night!  I bought a headlamp for the occasion.

When the sun set fully, I suddenly noticed that reflective material works! We stood out like


On this Full Moon Run, the moon ended up hiding behind the clouds. Instead, to see, we each became our own moonlight. We formed a cluster of headlamps, like traveling little moons:


My headlamp highlighted and granulated the world before me, in high definition. The eyes of animals reflected back at me in neon colors.


When we finished the run, we arrived at the Stumptown Mennonite Church to a spread including bananas, apples, cherries, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, broccoli, carrots, chips, guacamole, chocolate milk, ice cream, and whoopie pies. I went straight for the whoopie pies, a cream cookie sandwich.  The oatmeal whoopie pie reminded me of my favorite Little Debbie Snack from childhood without the artificial flavors: it was so tasty and so real to the point that I worried it might be too good to be true–could it contain something illegal, like gelatin? Whenever I try a new food this delicious, I always double check to make sure it is halal.


While devouring the post-run desserts, Scott and Chris shared inspirational stories about running. Scott told us about the time he unknowingly raced a bandit in Greece, pulling sub 8’s uphill after nearly 100 miles of consecutive running, with several more miles to go. This incident shows that we all have more in us than what we believe. In running and life, it is important to remember that we are always capable of more.

Chris re-told a couple stories from Born to Run, highlighting the wisdom of Barefoot Ted, who runs for fun rather than discipline. He also gave us a preview of his next book, which will cover the intersection between competition and compassion, a seemingly unlikely pair.

Compassion best captures the spirit of the evening. When Jim Smucker, organizer of the Vella Shpringa group introduced the run, he explained that it would be a fellowship run; and indeed, it was for the full 8 miles, and the celebration afterwards. In addition to meeting the special guests, I especially enjoyed meeting the hosts–members of the Amish community, who also ran with us in fellowship. I felt at home running alongside women, running covered just like me, nearly from head to toe.

When I got home to Baltimore after midnight, I wrote to a couple friends about my latest adventure-fantasy, encouraging all to sign up for the upcoming Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon. In the cloak of the night, the course was beautiful, and the community welcoming; I eagerly await the parallel daytime experience!

*Vella Shpring = “gotta run” in Pennsylvania Dutch