So every race won’t be perfect. And that isn’t always something that can be helped. Sometimes things happen that are just out of a race director’s control. Before I start what I hope doesn’t sound like a rant, I want to make sure I clarify. I do not think my major issues with this race were in any way the fault of the race director or the charity that put on the race.
Okay, then. Here I go.
Saturday morning, Nathan and I ran the Hunger Run for River Cities Harvest. We grew up in Greenup County and like to do as many races there as possible. Not only does it make me happy to see that our small area is putting on races, but they are usually pretty cheap and pretty small. This one was no different. $18 for a 10K. Granted, the website says that 50/50 DriFit shirts were “guaranteed” to the first 150 racers. There were 80 racers combined in 5K and 10K. And we got cotton shirts. No big deal, though. It was $18 to a good cause.
My other beef with this race (that could have been controlled) was the late start. The race started at 9am. In July. It was hot when we got there. We split a bottle of water before we even got started. I was prepared to run the race, not race it. I knew that getting a PR would be next to impossible when it was 85* and 80% humidity when the race started. I checked my email and the website frantically so that I wouldn’t miss an early start announcement. But it never came.
9:00 it was.
We lined up with the other 20 people running the 10K. I chatted it up with a few other ladies who I thought I might be able to fall into a groove with. And we were off.
The first mile or so was really really fun. We ran around the old high school, down a nice hill, and through 2 railroad underpasses (one was long and uncomfortably dark). That’s when the field started to spread out a little. Going up the hill out of the second underpass, the ladies I had planned on hanging with started to walk. I wasn’t feeling that yet, so I kept going. I ran past the diary bar where my best friend worked in high school. My first mile was 10:26. That is ridiculously fast for me.
The second mile also wasn’t too bad. The course was close to the river, so it was mostly flat and pretty shady. But I knew that with such a small field, and the number of ladies behind me, I had a chance of placing in my age group. So I just kept running along. I saw an aid station coming up, so I drank about half of my handheld Gu powdered drink and topped it back off with water. My second mile was in 11:35. Much better 10K pace for me.
The third mile? I started to fall apart. The shade wasn’t as frequent. There wasn’t a lot to look at. I was really feeling the heat. The girl that I had kept in my sights was getting farther and farther away. I was not excited to be running. Not at all. I thought of Mark racing his first Ironman and that kept me going. I didn’t want to run anymore. I kept thinking that the late start time was stupid. That it was dangerous for us to be out. But there were two ambulances driving around, so that was comforting to me. Third mile: 12:32.
What I was most excited about with this race was the second half. Once the route crossed the railroad tracks, it went through my hometown. Past the grocery store, the post office, the middle school, the church that held my favorite Bible school, the railroad my dad used to work at, the place I had my 16th birthday party. The second half was going to be fun. That’s what got me through those first 3.8 miles before we crossed the railroad tracks.
Oh, wait. The railroad tracks. Between the time that the quick people crossed the tracks and when the fun runners made it there, a train had crossed the tracks. And stopped. As I approached the intersection, I could see people standing there trying to decide what to do. I watched as two ladies decided to go walking down the other set of tracks to see how far it was to the end of the train. I stood there – in some man’s yard – talking to the homeowner and another runner. Trying to figure out what to do. The other runner decided to join the other ladies in pursuit of the end of the train. It didn’t feel safe to me. I didn’t want to get hit by a train, and I didn’t want to stand there for who knows how long to wait for it to start moving again. I asked the other runner to find my husband when he finished (I mean, how hard is it to find a big red beard?) and tell him that I was retracing the first half of the course and to come and pick me up. We exchanged names and descriptions. He took off one way, and I took off the other.
I was signing on for more distance than a 10K. Because I didn’t want to just stand there and get more overheated. I wanted to be done running. I didn’t want to make it last any longer. Not long after I turned around, I came across one of the ambulances. It stopped and I informed them of what I was doing and why. The passenger let me know that they would keep an eye on me. And he gave me a bottle of water. I came across 8 or 9 runners behind me. I let them know that the train had stopped and I was turning back. In the next mile, I could see that the train still wasn’t moving. But I was happy that I was still moving. Mile 4 was rough. I was back in the hot, shadeless part of the run. I had the worst mile there at 13:02. Such a far cry from 10:26. I could tell that the train started moving almost exactly a mile after I had turned around. I was so glad I hadn’t stood there for 12 minutes.
Somewhere around mile 5, I took off my number. I felt so much better once I took that off. I was just a lonely runner out there, having a lonely bad run. A bad run felt completely different in my head than a bad race. The ambulances stopped to chat with me a few times, giving me water. I expressed my concern about running through the tunnels and was assured that there were raised sidewalks. Okay, then. I was running until Nathan came to get me. Oh, and they gave me another bottle of water. Greatly appreciated.
Even with the heat, I finished the 10K in 1:15:something. I kept my garmin on because I was giving myself credit for every step that I ran, but I felt at that point I had finished what I’d set out to do. So I could walk as much as I wanted to after that. And I walked a lot.
The tunnels were interesting. The sidewalk stayed at a level even with the tops of the cars, so I got no light from headlights at all. I stepped in a big puddle and got scared to death by a pigeon. Or maybe I scared him to death. Probably a little of both. Either way, that bird was the most dangerous part of my day.
I made it through the second tunnel, turned right, and saw my awesome husband
on his great white steed in our lovely beige Altima coming toward me. I stopped my garmin at 6.97 and happily climbed in the passenger set. The guy had given him the message and he came back for me. I wanted to go back to the clock and let them know that I was safe and Nate wanted to go see if he’d won anything, so back to the race site we went. I went to the finish line, showed my number, and announced that I did not finish. Yup, my first DNF. Yes, I did more than the distance, but I didn’t do almost half of the course. I didn’t feel right crossing the finish line. So I didn’t. (If I had crossed at 1:15, I’d have finished 2nd in my age group.)
As I watched people come in, I learned something that still chills me to the bone. The ladies behind me? They climbed BETWEEN TRAIN CARS. They didn’t go around, they went BETWEEN. We were in a train town. I can see where the runners were from and they all grew up around trains too. You don’t take any chances with trains, friends. You just don’t. This scared me to death. We are so lucky no one was hurt or killed. I still can’t believe that happened.
But there is good news! My Nathan finished 2nd Overall Male!
So, yeah. I’m strangely peaceful about my first DNF. I made the best decision for me. I was in a situation that I knew I had someone to come back for me. I had multiple options to get in support vehicles and be taken to the finish. I truly feel that the race supported me on the repeat of the first half. I just can’t believe people climbed between train cars. *shudder*
And I also wish I’d ran the BG10K. Oh well. I still rocked the Big Hand.