After running in triple digit temperatures yesterday, Valley of Fire was not exactly the most appealing destination for the next marathon. But names can be deceiving. Not only were temperatures cooler, Valley of Fire was an amazingly scenic place.
We were greeted at the start by a street lined with American flags. A very emotional Race Director had been out until two in the morning preparing things, and the start looked magnificent, with the flags blowing in the breeze and the red mountains framing the background. This was to be the last ever Valley of Fire Marathon, the Park Service could no longer support the event. True to the tradition of the race, we began with the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. It was a memorable moment, a group of runners standing proudly on a road lined with flags, brilliant beams of sunlight shooting through the gleaming white clouds, about to depart on a run through one of America’s most scenic State Parks, for the last time.
We got underway, and the course was absolutely stunning. The route follows a lightly traveled two-lane road the entire time, passing by spectacular formations of sandstone that appeared to be on fire when reflecting the sun’s rays. At mile seven we spotted a Peregrine Falcon perched atop a rock spire, looking down upon us as we ran.
Joining the group today was my good friend from Canada, and Badwater veteran, Ferg Hawke. There was a runner who had run with me yesterday in Arizona. A Priest. One fit Army Ranger. There werethree first-time marathoners among the group. Two of the runners in the group were planning on running the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in San Jose on Sunday, one of which had driven all night to get to the run today, and was running another marathon tomorrow on his way to San Jose! There were a couple of Ironman triathletes, a couple of Ironwomen Mom’s, and one proud Grandmother.
At mile 23 we were met by a local high school cross-country team who ran the last few miles with us, and at mile 25 we were joined by 100 5th graders from Grant Bowler School and J. Fuller School who ran with us to the finish. It was just amazing to be running down this beautiful road through the Valley of Fire with all these kids running alongside us. The collective rumbling of our footsteps sounded like a herd of stampeding buffalo, and the crowd waiting at the finish said they could hear us coming around the corner before they could see us.
There were so many amazing moments today: running with all the kids, hearing the stories of the other runners, immersing in the natural beauty of the surroundings. One of the most moving moments came when the Army Ranger walked up to get his finishers Medal. He had removed the Badge he’d received from his tour of duty, “Here,” he said, placing it in my hand, “I want you to have this.” I am forever grateful to our servicemen and women for protecting the freedom and liberty of people around the world so that events like the Endurance 50 can be possible, and his warm gesture filled my heart with pride.
As we were packing up and preparing to depart, the Race Director came up to me with a beaming smile. After witnessing all the positive energy and camaraderie that took place today, the Park Service said that they might be able to work something out to keep the race going. It was the best news ever. If we runners can have an impact like this, let us never stop.
Long live the Valley of Fire Marathon!
All the best,