TRAIL Marathon! Have you done one? Are you a Marathoner but you only run on the roads? Well take it from me, you MUST do a trail run. If you have never run a trail marathon then you are not a TRUE MARATHON RUNNER. Trails are brutal, hot, dry, and wet. They are mentally challenging, physically challenging, and so very rewarding.
This past Saturday, two of my favorite men in my life and myself took part in the MASTERS OF ALL TERRAIN TRAIL MARATHON in Seminole State Park. I have to admit as we arrive the evening before to set up our camp site I had not considered that in Sorento, Florida, where this event was held, they have BEARS. So when we saw the Bear crossing signs reality really set in a bit. We set up camp and got into bed. The morning alarm would be going off really early for this race weekend.
This event offered a 5 miler, a half marathon, and or course the marathon itself. My 12 year old son Alexander would be doing the 5 miler, my husband Tony the Half Marathon, and I would be setting out for the full Marathon, my 7th in 7 months. Start time 6:30AM! We awoke at 4:30am, prepped ourselves for race time, and headed out. We camped only 1 mile away so it was very nice to just drive across the road to the start line. We left the girls and baby Rane asleep in the camper so that they could enjoy the additional 1 hour of sleep that we missed out on. Tony, Alex, my dad Buddy, and I were there bright and early to pick up our packets and get ready to start our races.
Count down finally began and before we knew if we were in the final seconds. Runners set, 5, 4, 3, 2, GOOOOOOO!
The pack headed out. Each and every runner getting into their own pace for their individual races. For us there were the three of us. See I was using this race as a trainer for Boston and I had decided that for health reasons I would run relaxed every other marathon to prevent becoming run down and injured on this marathon a month for a year quest. Tony and I ran with Alex and then he split off for the remainder of his 5 mile race. The youngest runner in the entire event, I just glowed with joy at how he has progressed in his racing. It was a bitter sweet moment for me secretively as he went off to run his own race.
Then there were two, just Tony and I, well not really, there were quite a lot of people running the half marathon and we found ourselves packed in single file behind whoever fell in that spot going into the trails. The trails were skinny, steep, and challenging. The roots were brutal and the trees were low and sometimes even became hurdles for us to jump. After the trails there were sugar sand hills, grass fields, rocky slopes, and then wet swamps. As we approached the finish of the Half Marathon for Tony and my half way point. I would begin to feel a bit sad, though I never let it show. As Tony finish his race I would be starting my second half of the full. As he stopped and got his medal, water, and basked in the knowledge of his completion. I realized I would now be on my own, and all alone.
SO there I went, set out ALONE, and when I say alone I mean alone. When I looked ahead there was no one, when I looked back there was no one. I pushed forward and eventually would catch up to a woman and man running together. She must have known she was the lead woman because once she saw me she quickly started trying to get her running partner to speed up so that I would not catch up. Little did she know I had no idea what places we were and really had not thought about it once the entire race. They grabbed water at the water station and quickly started back on their run. As they were taking off I was getting to the water station and grabbed hydration and threw water on my head as the heat was starting to get pretty brutal. When I headed out on the trail ahead they were just in site. No one behind so I tried to just focus in on them. You see running alone is very boring and you have to keep your mind on something so you don’t get bored and have the wall sneak up on you. I ran the same trails, hills, and flats as Tony and I had just run. See the Marathon was simply two loops of the half marathon course. Although I had already run this loop, the second time felt a lot different. With brutal heat baking down and hot water and Gatorade at the stations, I could feel the stress setting in on my body. Then it happened, mile 20, only 6 miles from happiness, I threw up. And I threw up and I threw up. WOW. It was an answered prayer looking back but no one wants to throw up during a marathon, especially in the last 6 miles of it. HYDRATION is key to any successful completion and I knew I had to regain the fluids that I had just lost. My problem? No water station for at least 4 more miles……WOW, right?
No Water station, no water I could steal from any other runners, and of course I do not carry water on me when I run. I was setting myself up for failure. I pressed forward pausing occasionally to regain my composure. See I am the type of person that if I think about how I just got sick, I will again get sick.. Finally I got to the water station and again HOT water and HOT Gatorade. YUCK! I asked the volunteer if there would happen to be any COLD hydration available or ice? The nice volunteer went to his personal cooler and gave me his cold Gatorade. He truly blessed me at that very moment. Then it happened, another women had finally caught me. I finished my hydrating and walked a bit to let it digest. I knew she was right behind me but my health had to be the priority at that very moment. With only 2.5 miles to go she would pass me. She was right in front of me until I had to compose my self again and that’s when she disappeared. I kept reminding myself that this was a training race for me anyway, do not kill yourself. BUT….. I am so competitive it really bothered me. I kept pushing forward and honestly those last 2.5 miles where the longest I have ever run. Then it happened. There he was…..My husband had run back to help me run it in. See he knows marathon running and he knew the heat was brutal. He knew I would need him to help me pull this one out. Little did he know how sick I had become and how amazing that was to see his bright orange shorts and smiling face. Just to hear his voice saying you got this and come on babe. He helped me complete my Marathon this past Saturday. God gave me the strength to persevere and my husband gave me the motivation to push harder. I finished, I had done it! 7 Marathons in 7 months. But then the amazing news hit. My name was called to come to the finish line. See I was the 3rd overall finisher. Yes you heard me… Those two women that had been with in my reach, yep that’s all that had beaten me. I had not raced it but I had finish on top and that was amazing. But then it gets better…. My son Alex , remember he was the youngest runner in the events, well he placed 6th OVERALL in the 5 miler. My husband Tony, who I had run the first half with, he finished 7th overall in the Half Marathon and would have won the Overall Ruck Division if I had registered him correctly.
It was a great weekend and one that we will cherish forever. See this was also Father’s day weekend and I was so blessed to have my all time biggest fan cheering for me at the start and finish, that being my DADDY. God is good. He is good all the time. He answers prayers and gives us strength even when we don’t even realize it. I give God all the glory in all I do and this Marathon is no different. In him I continue to succeed, and through him I will reach my goals.