Run Across Michigan (3/3)

Empty. What’s it like to feel completely empty? 

I don’t mean a simple bonk. This was different. This was an emotionless depth to myself that I didn’t know existed. After 70 hours of pushing my body past it’s breaking point, there was nothing there. No fear. No elation. No sense of accomplishment. I was just there. Yet, simultaneously, I wasn’t. It doesn’t come across as an out of body experience, but I was hollow.

At this point it’s past 3 in the morning and I’ve been moving for 20 straight hours. I was sleeping while I walked. I have a slight problem with the amount of coffee I normally drink, but even copious doses of caffeine had no effect in this state. Everything was in pain, but this was no different than the last 50 hours, so even that didn’t register through my subconscious. 10pm was the same as midnight. Midnight the same as 3am. The only validation that time had actually continued in a linear sense were the numbers changing on my Garmin Forerunner 235.

This deep in I had no freedom of thought. I was a being of free will, but that was boiled down to 2 distinct possibilities. Stop. Or continue. This had already been decided weeks earlier.


Day 3 had special meaning to me. Not only was it the culmination of this fever dream, but it also brought me through the city that raised me. Upon waking up that day, I had one thing on my mind and one thing only. I was going to make it to Lake Michigan. I didn’t think about the seemingly insurmountable distance ahead of me, or the possibility that I may not even finish in 3 days at all. In the weeks after, I talked to multiple people that after day 2 did not think I was going to be able to finish in my allotted time frame. These weren’t digs at me or my ability to persevere, these were logical thoughts that had strong statistical support. The odds weren’t in my favor.

However, instead of trudging through unknown farmland the last day, today would have a considerable distance moved through my hometown of Grand Rapids. I was moving slower than ever while simultaneously in more pain than ever. Shooting pain ricocheted up my body with each step. Each mile whittling down the last remaining pieces of my spirit. By mile 20 I was on the outskirts of Grand Rapids, and the next 20 miles would be filled with smiles and thanks to those that came out to support. The smiles were genuine, but what they hid was an ever increasing emotionless interior.  

The lights went out at 6 in the afternoon. Michigan in the winter isn’t known for it’s long days and endless sunshine. I was just beginning what I didn’t realize was going to be the longest night of my life. I had been bundled up all day to combat the prolonged exposure to below freezing temperatures, but after a full day my body was shutting down again. The last roughly 20 miles were a trance. My thoughts were in and out of focus. The ground 10 feet ahead of me was illuminated by my headlamp and whatever slivers of the moon were able to shine through the clouds.

I was broken.

With a measly 5 miles left in the journey, I slept. I slid painfully into the support car and slept for 10 minutes while my parents likely exchanged glances wondering if this would end in celebration or defeat. Ever supporting parents, my Dad travelled those last 5 with me. Ironically, he was much more prone to the biting wind than I was. I hadn’t perceived it in hours. A cruel twist of fate brought an uphill last mile.

I knew this was the end of my journey, but it didn’t feel like it. I wanted to cry tears of relief. Instead I leaned against the road sign for a quick picture and crawled back into the car.

70 hours and 29 minutes after I began, with 179 miles covered on foot from Detroit to the shores of Lake Michigan, the culmination of my many month obsession came to finality.

I slept a dreamless sleep.

-Dylan Sykes

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