ASK THE GOAT: Lulu's Trail

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

I wanted to break from the Question and Answer format this week to share an interesting story.

As I embarked upon a marathon series starting on Dec. 21 (Doomsday), I met someone special. I had actually run with her the weekend before in Dallas but didn’t know anything about her, save that she had a thick Germanic accent, blond ponytails and was obviously a powerful runner.

We began running together the last of four loops at the End of the World Marathon. By the finish, I had a feeling we’d be running the Day after the End of the World (if it came) event together as well. And we did. I will always cherish those miles.

Her name is Marit Janse. She is originally from Rotterdam and currently from Michigan. Why is this chance encounter of a European-descended, northerner I met in Texas relevant? Because she is an author; and not just a writer, but the subject and star of Lulu’s Trail. It is an autobiographical account of her 2,174-mile journey across the entire Appalachian Trail.

Much of the book is about her motivating force, quest for identity and personal struggles. The remainder is a chronological and swift-moving account of the Appalachian Trail from its Southern trailhead in Georgia, through our native North Carolina and all the way up to Maine.

Most people have heroes and most heroes follow a stereotypical format. Marit (aka Lulu) is a bit different. For instance, within the first 50 pages of her book, you tend to wonder if she’ll ever stop crying.

She’s tiny, maybe 100 pounds, and carrying an average of half her body-weight on her back. She is alone on a single-track trail, surrounded by nature’s foes, weather’s sick sense of humor and humans of every ilk and kin. She has real problems, like a failing marriage and a debilitating ear infection; as well as those that many of us will not relate to, like mouse-chewed clothing and the threat of bear attack. She is, however, a hero.

Her book came out in 2012, and is published by Dog Ear. It is available in all formats from I was fortunate enough to receive a signed copy at the end of our second run together, and have read it twice since. It actually has me toying with the idea of a 2013 Appalachian Trail run from Georgia to Maine. The average time is 4-6 months if hiking. I only wonder at the possibilities of a 2,100-plus-mile run across the ridgeline of America.

It’s in your backyard, Sanford. All you have to do is strap on the boots and go. I miss the Carolina Mountains more than you will know. It is funny to think I rekindled that love by a chance meeting in Humble, Texas.