I ran my first trail race in March of this year – and it was an experience to be remembered for a long time to come. I finished the 4 mile race trek in 1 hour and 36 minutes (that’s a 16 minute 38 second pace-per-mile, by the way) and ranked number 37 out of – you guessed it – 37 runners. My Age Group results were not any better – obviously. And as for my previous ambitions to run ultra-marathons for days on end over rugged mountain terrain with nothing but a 2 pound pack on my back? Yeah, not so much. Not when four miles through Alum Creek State Park almost killed me (well, at least I was mud-covered and bleeding by the time I finished). But, hey, I finished right?
So, naturally, when my sister signed up to run her first 10K – The Buckeye Classic – I thought, “Sure, sounds like fun!” It wasn’t until I already registered that I found out it was (a) technically a trail run, (b) over apparently very hilly terrain (I thought I lived in Columbus), and (c) did I mention it was a six mile trail run? I had pretty much hit my limit at four miles the last time!
Before I knew it, me, my sister, and my MIT crew were lined up in the cold air at the Start Line on Sunday waiting for the whistle to blow. Or, I stand corrected – a customary “O-H-I-O” battle cry rallying the Ohio State Buckeyes (it was The Buckeye Classic, after all, as my sister pointed out) – and we were off! Duane, our fearless pace coach, was in the lead. Mollie, my sister, broke away from the pack after about a minute and a half (she’s speedy) and I watched her disappear into the small swarm of runners ahead of us.
We headed onto the trail about a half mile in, the spectators cheers and shouts fading behind us. The woods were beautiful, peaceful, and quiet. Our little group stretched out, reaching our various races paces. I felt calm, free, relaxed, my mind was still and I focused on running – just running. Until, of course, I tripped on a rock and almost catapulted myself into the brush. A rock? Seriously?!? We hadn’t even got to the trail part yet!
Duane and I made it into Mile 2 and approached our first major incline. It was a decent hill and I wasn’t worried, however at that point, I was thinking it was probably the only one (it being steep and all), I was pain free, and feeling really motivated.
I could feel Duane running on my right shoulder telling me to take smaller steps to keep it slow and steady, and I did my best. I made it up that one hill without a problem at all – the problem was the 15 more hills that were to come. It was like a roller coaster track at an amusement park only I was the roller coaster and there wasn’t much amusement.
It was a long path to the Finish Line.
We stuck to the inside shoulder and just ran. I was able to keep my panic at bay with deep breathing, and I stayed in Duane’s heels for Mile 2 and most of Mile 3 before my pace slowed considerably and then slowed to a brisk walk. I watched as Duane rounded a corner – straight uphill, I might add – and vanished into the woods. “Just stay with him,” I repeated in my head (or maybe out loud) and started running again.
Miles 4 and 5 were tough. Really tough. I spent most of them plodding up steep hills and careening down slippery slopes. I have a lot to learn about running on anything other than pavement. I ran, walked, ran, walked, ran, and then walked some more in a game of leap frog with myself. The other runners on the trail thinned from a few here and there to none. It was just me. I relished the silence again and tried to relax. I began to notice things along the way – a squirrel rummaging in the brush, a caterpillar on a branch, a hawk navigating through the trees. In tune with nature, I was in tune with myself – my running was almost primal – I was running like so many people before, including my ancestors.
My mind forgot about the pain, which means I forgot about the pain. I ran half of Mile 6 like I had never run before, stopped to chat with a runner friend who was volunteering (I had to proclaim my misery), and sprinted in for a strong finish.
My sister was there, as were my parents and my MIT buddies. All of them cheering me on – I was the last of our group to finish, but I wasn’t last. And, after all, I did finish.
My official time was 1:26:58 – that’s a 14:02 pace. I placed 495 out of 513 and I was not the last one in my age group. My sister – her first 10k ever being a trail run – finished in 1:14, for a 12:06 per mile pace! I am so proud of her.
As for my aforementioned ultra trail running ambitions? Let’s just say I wouldn’t mind learning a little more and giving it another try.
As for Trail Run: Take Two? It’s a wrap!
|Me, Kim, Duane, Wendy, Mollie before the race.|
|Mollie (my sister) crossing the Finish Line|
|Duane and Me at Mile 1 (which is why I am smiling still)|
|Wendy, Duane, Michelle, Me (note the face), and Mollie AFTER the race!|
|What can I say? We’re sisters!|