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Roanoke Canal Half Marathon: My Slice of Humble Pie

This past weekend I signed up for a local half marathon to see how ready I was for Boston.  According to the website, the race took place through the Roanoke Canal Trail and was great for a PR.  The course was described as primarily flat with brief dips and rollers, but no major climbs. The footing is great even if you are brand new to trails.  Great! With only 275 people, and an hour and a half drive, this seemed perfect. I felt like I was in 1:35 shape or better, the forecast was beautiful, and I had a good feeling.  Bring on the 13.1….

Before I give my race recap, I’d like to share with you some race wisdom that a few friends reminded me of this past week.  They reminded me that a race can humble you.  It can take whatever goal you had set for yourself, toss it out the window and teach you that you are not invincible.  You could be in the best shape of your life but come 7am on race day, what awaits you in the miles ahead, is in God’s hands.  You have no idea of what will happen.  It could be your perfect race day or it could be the day you swear to give up running if you could just reach that finish line.  Well Saturday morning at 8am, my slice of humble pie was awaiting me right over a few tree roots and through the mud.

My first few miles were exactly what I expected: 7:19, 7:07,7:12, 7:13.  Since I was just warming up, I was feeling pretty confident about my time goal.  As the race continued, the trails got a little trickier and the mud became more of an issue.  No worries – just a few tree roots and rocks to leap over.  There’s no way the entire course is like this.  The website said it was a PR friendly course.

When I run races, I like very much to be in my thoughts and to talk myself through the miles.  It helps to make things go by quicker and it keeps me focused on something other than the miles to come.  Well not this race.  My mind was constantly preoccupied with where to step next: to splash through the mud or run around it, to leap on this rock or jump to that rock.  Luckily there was a man not too far in front of me, and every step he took, I followed right behind.  I was thankful to have someone plan the leaps and bounds for me because I’m pretty sure I would  have wound up in the river if it weren’t for him.  I bypassed every water stop, knowing that if I slowed down for water, I might not want to start again.  Right around mile 12 there was a sharp left turn and a sign that said “Heartbreak Hill.”  Seriously?  And the worst part was, because it was so curvy, I couldn’t exactly see where “Heartbreak Hill” ended.  I wanted nothing more than to walk up that hill, but I had so many motivational thoughts and people going through my head, I made it.  When I turned that last corner and saw the finish line, I took off as fast as I could go, thankful that it was almost over (and that I had survived).

I finished in 1:38 which was not a PR, but it was good enough for fourth female overall and first in my age group.  When I crossed the finish, I wasn’t saying very pleasant things about the course or my time.  As my cousin Dan said, it was the hardest he had ever run but not his fastest time (he finished 5th overall), and I completely agreed.  As I continued to be bitter about the course, I remember my cousin smiling and saying “Hey, it was something different.”  Yes, different.

Looking back at it, I am reminded of what my friends said earlier in the week – a race can humble you.  I realize not every course will be a PR and some races will be better than others.  Every race presents new challenges and it is the strength to get through those challenges, that make us better people.  From about mile 6 to 13, I continued to tell myself “strength is the power of struggle, and once you cross that finish line, then you can rest.”  Once I really thought about the course and my finishing time, I realized I did not fail at achieving my goal, but instead managed to complete a pretty bad ass trail run.  I guess it wasn’t so bad after all.

I think instead of saying I completed the Roanoke Canal Half Marathon, I’ll tell people I completed the Roanoke Obstacle Course through the woods.  It seems like a better description.  Here are my stats.

And on a side note, Kayley ran her first 8K and finished 3rd in her age group.  Mario finished 23rd overall and fourth in his age group.  So I guess we all did pretty well for our first trail run.

 Ready to race

We made it!

Dan, 5th place overall and 1st in age group

Kayley, 3rd in her age group for her first 8K

Me, 4th female overall and 1st in age group

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great job!!

    March 12, 2012
    • Thanks! It was tough and I now have a new respect for trail runners. They’re pretty freakin’ awesome!

      March 12, 2012
      • I’m still on a treadmill or track, I can’t even think about running on a trail yet!!

        March 12, 2012
      • Yea I didn’t think I could do it either, but I guess it’s one of those things that when you’re put in the situation and don’t really have a choice, you make do. And nice job on your 7 miles today! I totally agree that the beautiful sunshine can make all the difference =)

        March 12, 2012
    • Thanks!

      March 15, 2012
  2. Nice! I can’t even run a flat surface half marathon even close to that! No humility… be very proud! I am so scared of these type of races and injuries though.

    March 12, 2012
    • Thanks Adri =) So many times throughout the race I was certain I was going to fall off the trail and break an ankle. It just seemed like an injury waiting to happen, but I think everyone made it through ok. Never again though, that’s for sure!

      March 12, 2012
  3. HOLY COW!!! Great race, lady!!!

    I know what you mean about ‘talking yourself’ through a race – I like everything to be planned and as coordinated as possible, with zero surprises.

    Sounds like you did amazing though – congrats on your placement!!!

    March 12, 2012
    • Thanks! This was definitely a race filled with unplanned things and lots of surprises. But I guess I learned something – no more trail races =)

      March 12, 2012
  4. Awesome job! I have never attempted a trail race– I’m too intimidated by the hills and rough terrain. That is an awesome time for that course, even if it’s not what you wanted. And you’re so right, no matter what shape you’re in, a race can go any direction, I’ve had some of those humbling races before, too. But I’d love to have your time! 🙂

    March 14, 2012

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