If we’re going to crank up the intensity scale, let’s not mess around. Today’s marathon was every bit as tough as yesterday’s, and perhaps even more so. The path was tricky, mostly single-track, with plenty of roots and trail debris—loose rocks, stumps, broken branches—strewn across it. There were several water crossings, and plenty of mud and slippery rocks to challenge the footing. The flat sections were few, the descents were treacherous, and the climbs were arduous (there was about 2,700 feet of ascent). Overall, it was one great day!
Otter Creek, Kentucky isn’t exactly a booming metropolis, and getting there requires some doing. But here on a random Thursday in October, forty-five intrepid runners made the trek (don’t any of these people have jobs…hee! hee!). Many of the runners had never run a trail marathon before, and ten of the runners had never even run a marathon before. Some trail marathons are little more than wide, graded fire roads over gentle rolling hills. This was not one of them. For a first-time marathoner, or for someone running her first trail marathon, this was a doozie.
That being said, the terrain and setting were absolutely stunning. All of the elements that made runningso challenging—sharp drop offs, stream crossings, a forest of trees—also made for some incredible sights along the way. The abrupt topographical features of the Otter Creek Trail provided some epic overlooks across the river, and the high vistas along the northern section of the trail made for some stellar views of the adjacent valley.
The runners today were a hardy lot. Even the first-time marathoners toughed it out, despite the ruggedterrain and brutal climbs. Everyone displayed a gritty determination in the face of some daunting conditions. In talking to some of the athletes afterward, I could see where this drive came from. One runner was a tank commander in the US Army, another was Special Forces. We had an ex-boxer turned runner in the group, and a homemaker with five kids (all boys). Let me tell you, she was one tough Mama! There were cuts, bruises, sprains, and plenty of handshakes and high-fives going around.
We all convened inside the Otter Creek park headquarters post-race, where the Race Director had a table of warm, home cooked food spread out for everyone. Between bites of chili, we talked about politics, baseball, and compared battle wounds. One runner thanked me for the best run of his life. He had a big gash over his right eye from a fall, was covered in mud, and had just spent 26.2 torturous miles trouncing through the wilderness. And he’s thanking me for this? I love this guy!
It was hard saying goodbye to everybody and boarding the bus. These were my kind of people. I felt so at home amongst the sweaty, dirty, and beat up runners; I didn’t want to leave. But the road beaconed. It’s going to be a long drive tonight and I’m all grimy and sore, and very, very happy.
Still moving forward, and loving every step of the way,