HOW TO RUN 1003 MILES IN 37 DAYS AND NOT DIE
WNW Member #1303 Jonny Santos is batshit crazy. One day he got it into his head that he was going to run from Le Puy, France, through the pyrenees all the way to Galicia, Spain. For those in need of a geography refresh, this is a lot of miles. 1003 to be exact. And he was going to do it in 40 days.
To be noted: Jonny wasn’t going through a midlife crisis, responding to a breakup or being set up by Vice. He simply opened his mouth one day and declared: I’m going to do it. So he had to.
Running his mouth led to running shoes and somehow Jonny found himself singing Gregorian chants to the monks, to the snails and whatever fellow masochist that would come his way. Foraging for food and shelter, nursing injuries along the way, Jonny kept going. And going. As he says: "Jonny SANTOS, not Jonny CANTOS." We spoke to Jonny about how he made this modern pilgrimage (with little training!) and what it did to him physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Oh, and he did it in 37 days.
When did you realize you were crazy?
Yeah I know this whole thing sounds crazy from the beginning but you live in New York long enough and you start to think you can do all sorts of stuff. This just kinda made sense to me.
Is this how you approach work/life?
Ha! Usually I try to solve my problems, improve my life and clear my head with a lot less mileage. Things just started to build up and this popped up as an idea and I kind of just ran with it. I did try and plan this like a producer at first and get as much info as I could but I soon realized that every person's journey is different and there was no real way to plan for it. I just put myself in a position where I didn't have much of a choice but to succeed.
What was your training regiment? Had you run marathons before?
I’ve never run a marathon though I did run in high school and in college so I knew what I needed to do to get into shape. That being said, I started this very much out of shape and did very little running. I did try to get in super awesome shape at first but the DJ and freelance gigs got in the way. A few of my friends saw what was going on and started to worry that I wouldn't be able to do this at all. From the time I decided to do this which was around November until January, I barely ran at all. From January to February I ran a bit more, about once or twice a week and that final month I don't think I ran a step. I figured I'd start from zero or as close as I could to zero and make it a science experiment. Don't do what I did, FYI.
I now run almost every day because I learned my lesson.
What food did you eat along the trip? What was the first thing you ate once it was over?
I lived on a steady diet of Sardines, tangerines, tubes of condensed milk, beer and a pilgrim menu which would usually be pasta, soup, and some sort of protein. This was not a gourmet experience but you haven't lived till you're squirting pure sugar into your mouth on top of a hill. I had a couple of dope meals in France and really enjoyed the snails when I got the chance.
First thing I ate when I got done was Octopus. I'm in love with the Pulpo.
Highest high on the trip? Lowest low?
In a journey of a 1003 miles you end up with a ton of highs and lows. It really does become a metaphor for life - you have good days and bad days but you have to keep going. I had a couple of scary moments where I ran out of water and was low on food/money. I also lost a bunch of weight really quickly (from 165 lbs to 152 lbs in a little over a week,) and I was running/trekking injured the first 10 days. I stopped at this monastery in Conques - probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen - and the monks taught us this song called "Ultreia" which means "go further" in Latin. I had a really tough day with two twisted ankles and a knee that wanted to quit and found myself chanting "Ultreïa ! Ultreïa ! E suseia Deus adjuva nos" which means “Go further go further with God's help go further.” The last five grueling miles of the day of course were mostly uphill. It was kinda crazy, you get into a really weird zone but I managed to get through the miles and found a place to eat and sleep that night.
Whenever I think about quitting or slacking off on anything, even now, that day comes to mind. It was a low point but a high point at the same time because I began to realize how much pain I could handle. So that was cool.
While crossing the Pyrenees a couple weeks into my journey I realized my body was finally getting stronger and my mutant powers were coming back. After a couple of weeks waking up in total pain it was nice to feel like I had a little something extra in the tank. Seeing wild horses on a mountain was cool, getting briefly chased by a boar gets your blood pumping and when you finally see the old End of the World from a distance you can't help but cry a little.
Who was the most interesting person you met along the way?
Since I was doing this at a quick pace I didn't really get to talk to a lot of people but when I did decide to take a break or walk with someone who was having a hard time it was great. The cast of characters included:
Dave from England who was on his 9th Camino and encouraged me via the magic of Instagram throughout the trip.
Kirsten - a lawyer from Denmark who lives in a commune and who I caught up with in Cajarc randomly. We had met in Conques and I didn't think I'd see a familiar face again so it was awesome seeing her.
Pietro - a retired contractor from Italy who rebuilt the Lamborghini and Ferrari manufacturing plants.
Becca and Ben who were traveling the whole world together.
Debbie, who despite being ditched by her traveling companion early in the trip, got through the Camino by foot, by bus and by train. I ran into her 3 times throughout the 1003 miles and it made my day every time. We would sit and chat over some tangerines or octopus and encourage each other.
It seems you experienced a tremendous amount of personal growth on this trip. Besides your ability to actually complete this journey, what surprised you about yourself in this experience?
I was surprised at my ability to not let getting lost or having to go through tough terrain bother me. No matter how much pain I was in, I would just focus on the task at hand and worry about the rest later. I also got really emotionally attached to snails. You go through a roller coaster of emotions while doing this and I'd find myself getting genuinely sad when I saw a squished snail on the path - like - why you gonna step on a snail? It's trying to do its own path and cross the road and people gotta go and step on ‘em. Just didn't seem right. That being said, they are delicious.
Your ability to push yourself is astounding. How did you mentally/physically/emotionally guster the courage to keep going? Did you ever get close to quitting?
I tried to find some quit in me but couldn't. Honestly at this point I had run my mouth so much and had so many people counting on me to finish that whenever the thought of slacking off crossed my mind I would think of my friends. My mother would call me every day and check in on me. She didn't realize what I was doing until I was doing it and was not stoked that her son was trekking through Europe all willy-nilly. When I would complain she would simply tell me that no one asked for me to go do this and to tough it out and finish.
I would also think of my favorite routes and count off the km that way. For example - I have one White Rock Lake and a couple of Williamsburg Bridges to do and I'm at the next town. I would also sing Disney songs - in particular "It's a Jolly Holiday With Mary" from Mary Poppins - out loud - very loud and often. When I'd go up a difficult mountain I'd yell at myself to keep going - to be a Jonny Santos and not a Jonny "Can'tos". Honestly, you come up with every trick in the book from thinking of heartbreaks to imagining yourself running through a wall to the smile on your friends' faces and people you love. It's really neat.
What’s next for you, personally and professionally? What are some dream projects of yours?
I'm about to start working over at Sylvain Labs which I'm stoked about. I basically came back wanting to find a place where I could use my very diverse background to work on some meaningful projects and this looks like a great place to start. As far as dream projects, I'd like to run the length of Cuba soon and document it a bit better by taking someone with me. It's 770 miles and you don't get a lot of chances to trailblaze in this life so that's something I'd like to do. I think if I stay in shape, I can get it down in three weeks. I had the pleasure of working on a Northface campaign a while back and it got me stoked about outdoor companies so maybe there's something there as well.