Saturday my friend Shelley and I participated in our second half marathon. It was a fundraiser race, so it was for a good cause, but we knew that it would be challenging. They advertised it as a challenging, trail race. They should have advertised it as a hike straight up and down a mountain with a half marathon mixed in!
It rained most of the day on Friday, and poured all night Friday night. It was raining so hard that it woke me up a couple of times. Saturday morning dawned dark and dreary, with no end in sight to the downpour. I think Shelley and I both strongly considered bagging it, but nobody wanted to admit that to the other.
I should point out that we aren’t hardcore runners. We mostly walk our long distances, with a bit of jogging mixed in. When we got to the race, we discovered that there were only three walkers (two runners decided to walk too, after they realized how grueling the course was). So we go up to the start, and the downpour resumed with a new ferocity (thanks, just what we needed). And they’re off! And all the runner-folk ran away and just me, Shelley and Susan remained. The photographer thought we were quite the novelty- he took lots of pics of us (you know… because we are slow and easy to capture on film). Funny though, he didn’t use any pictures of us in the feature article in the newspaper! Walkers are not news, I guess.
So, pretty soon it is just the three of us communing with nature on our walk/jog. One runner did limp by the other direction, but he came by us again momentarily ( maybe he just needed a band-aid from the aid station). The first 20 minutes were actually quite pleasant. And then the torture began. The hills, oh the hills! They were sleep and muddy and slick, with roots in the middle of the trail and large slick rocks to navigate. We clambered up one hill, only to find another at the top. Everytime we leveled off or went down a bit, we were soon on the way back up. That torture went on for the next, oh, say 4-5 miles. An asthmatic’s worst nightmare, really. The 5 of us (the 3 original walkers and the 2 ladies who thought better of their running plan) were all together for quite awhile, picking out way through ankle deep mud and sliding down hills only to go up another one. It would have been quite a nice hike on a sunny day with a picnic lunch at the top.
But, no, there was no picnic lunch. The organizers swore that the course would be up until all racers were finished (they knew they had a few walkers). I confirmed this, not once, but twice in the days before the race. But, after we reached about mile 6, the volunteers began abandoning their stations… and taking the water with them. Yes, you read that right, I completed a grueling half marathon with no water past mile 6. That was not fun. The only upside was that I was out on the course for more than 3.5 hours without having to pee! Yep, that dehydrated.
So, since the volunteers were tearing down and abandoning their posts, it was really quite a solitary race for me. I pulled away from Shelley and Susan about mile 6 in a desperate attempt to put a quicker end to the misery that was this race. I didn’t even see any baby squirrels. I was probably panting so hard that they felt it was best to hide when they heard me coming a half mile away. I did a lot of jogging, and passed a lot of runners (going the other direction) who were closing in on the finish line (at some points you doubled back on the same track so I passed lots of people who were miles ahead of me) – I was still in mile 6 or 7 at that point. They were very encouraging – about every 2nd or 3rd runner told me I was doing a great job. They were probably all thinking, I’m not that fast but at least I’m not as pathetic as that chick! Talk about depressing!
I met a nice lady with four whippets out for their daily stroll out in the back trail system. That was somewhere between mile 10 and 11. We did some chatting about how many runners had fallen down. At least I didn’t fall down! But I was a bit jealous, because she got her picture in the paper and she didn’t even do the race! See, told you, walkers are not news…
To make a long story short, I survived. At 3 hours 41 minutes, not my best half marathon time, but this will probably be the most memorable half marathon I ever do. I will remember it as the race I beat two half marathon runners in. Yeah, remember the two ladies I mentioned before who were planning to run? I beat them! I’ll remember this race as something akin to the Bataan Death March, without Japanese soldiers and guns pointed at me. In another week, I might be able to climb a flight of stairs without screaming muscle soreness in my quads and hamstrings. And shins. And back and core muscles. Oh yeah, my right pec muscle hurts too, for reasons I can’t explain. And something tells me, Shelley won’t be pushing me to sign up for this one again.