Hardcore. That’s the best way to describe today’s marathon. Along with the 3,500 feet of climbing, most of the course was on technical single-track trail, with numerous stream crossings, hordes of logs and branches to climb over and navigate around, deep pocket of mud, slippery rocks, and gnarled tree roots hiding silently under thick canopies of fallen leaves.
The switchbacks were difficult to follow, and if you looked up for a trail marker, it was easy to stumble and fall, which many people did, including yours truly (multiple times, in fact). A lot of the runners were cut and scratched from falling or getting snagged on the thorny bushes that we passed through. I’ve spent some time on the trails over the years, and this trail run was as challenging as any.
Arriving at the start this morning was surreal. We were miles from the nearest town, out on a desolateroadway, and there were fifty-five beaming runners raring to go, fourteen of whom had never run a marathon before. Other than the couple of runners who had been here before, I’m not sure many of us had any idea what we were in for. After starting on our way, the course almost immediately hit single-track trail, and within a mile I had an inclination that this was going to be an interesting and different sort of day. My expectations were fulfilled.
There were very few sections along this course that were flat. You were either climbing or descending the entire way. Most of the route was in thick foliage, making it sometimes difficult to see ahead, and the trail was covered in leaves, compounding the navigational complexities. We traversed countless switchbacks, some ascending and some descending, and skirted several creeks and ravines. At a number of points we got lost and had to retrace our steps to get back on the path.
Yet for all the challenges, the setting was absolutely beautiful. Running on trails refreshes the senses; being out in nature renews the mind, body, and spirit. Today was about enjoying the elements and the wonders of the natural world. The colors of the leaves, the smells of earth and of the water, the sunlight streaming through the trees, and the crackle of twigs underfoot were all engaging and invigorating. It was impossible not to get swept up in it, even after miles of running.
When we finally did cross the finish line, my GPS read 27.5 miles. Those couple wrong turns added a bitof distance, so today was the first “ultramarathon” of the Endurance 50. But it was also a day I will never forget, especially for those first-time marathoners that made it. I couldn’t even imagine tackling this course as your first marathon. Your second will feel like a walk in the park.
At the finish, when we didn’t have to worry about tripping over branches, I was able to chat more freely with the other runners. The group today was comprised of some truly amazing people. A father/daughter running team, a professional golfer elated to have finished his first marathon, a state Superintendent of Schools, and a gentleman who couldn’t run a mile a year ago and had lost 100 lbs and completed his first marathon today.
Many, if not most, were scratched and scrapped from the trail. But, remarkably, I did not hear one complaint from the group, not so much as even the slightest hint at a gripe. On the contrary, people were incredibly thankful and gracious for the extraordinary adventure we shared together. They were nothing but smiles and compliments, despite the cuts, lacerations, and muscle cramps. If I could somehow bottle all this positive energy and spread it around the globe, the world would be a better place.
All the best from the trails of Indiana,