As the title states, this is a recap of the half marathon I ran last weekend. And yep, I was registered and trained for the marathon, but ended up completing just the half. Side note, saying “just the half” sounds ridiculous. It’s not “just” anything. It’s 13 + freaking miles (14 in our case…..wrong turn.)
Leading up to this race, my longtime BRF and training partner Leighanna and I had done A LOT of racing, training, and other fitness (for me) activities over the prior 12 months. Heck, over the last 7 years if I’m being really honest. This race wasn’t on either of our calendars until about 6 weeks prior, when we decided we’d do it for fun. And for me, it would be my one last race before taking some substantial time off of distance training. I had jokingly been calling it my “retirement race” for a few weeks and sharing with others how I was done running. Truthfully, I don’t plan on “quitting” anything but do plan on cutting back for a variety of reasons which I’ll get into in a later post, but I was looking forward to one last hurrah on the trails, so to speak.
Going into this race, Leighanna had begun to talk about some knee pain that wasn’t inhibiting her running, but rather walking, sleeping and some other things. She was somewhat concerned about it and despite rest, the pain lingered. If you know Leighanna, you know that she’s stoic. She doesn’t discuss pain or injury, for those things don’t have a place in her life. The fact that she’d shared her concern about a possible tear and that she was questioning her ability to race was pretty unsettling to me. We had decided to stick together for this race and that’s ultimately what we did. When we checked in for the race around 4:30am Saturday morning, we double checked the rules for dropping and decided we’d go as far as Leighanna’s knee allowed and as much as we wanted. No expectations for our race performance which was a breath of fresh air.
For the Run with Scissors Marathon, we had elected to start with the 5am double marathon group which meant that we’d be running in the dark woods for about 3 hours. No moonlight, no streetlights. And because it was raining, no sunlight once it did get light out. Not a problem, I have some great lights. Well, one of those lights went to Leighanna who had mistakenly left hers in her car which was at my house. Still no problem, I still had one left. As our group of about 20 runners gathered in the cold rainy shelter that was the start, I turned my second light on with about 1 minute to go. The light that had worked just 12 hours earlier, no longer worked. Nothing, nada, no light. With less than 60 seconds to figure this out, I stuffed the broken light in my pocket and used the only thing with illumination I had-my phone. Because it was raining, I had to stick it kind of in my jacket sleeve to protect it but still with it kind of out. And I ran like that for 3 hours…yep it was going to be that kind of race.
With little fanfare (and the usual pep talk from Roy “this course is not accurately marked….”) we headed off into the wet grass and into the woods were we carefully traversed the wet rocks of the ledges trail before heading up through the cross country trail and in to Pine Hollow via the Sound of Music Hills. We moved slowly but efficiently and quickly fell in stride with Laura, a double marathoner from Columbus who was coming to see what the back half of Burning River looked like. I felt like we navigated really well given the wet conditions. At one point, Leighanna began to fall as we were picking our way down the Sound of Music Hills when she lost her footing in the mud and slid in to me. I was able to pivot and stop both of us after a few feet of skidding, but not without mud somehow making it’s way into my mouth. I have no idea how that happened!
As we made our way to the first AS, it became clear that Leighanna’s knee was not doing well. She was managing the pain and able to run but it was obvious that this wasn’t going to go away at this point. We decided to keep going and off we went to the Wetmore trail. Once into Wetmore, the course became a little more tricky to navigate. Though it was well marked, it was just so dark out. We second guessed ourselves a few times but ultimately stayed on track. We did however run into several people who’d gone off course in the dark, including a few double marathoners who’d added on 4 miles to their first marathon within the first few hours of their race.
When we got to the half marathon turn around point, we decided to turn. After cutting our pages from a book (you actually do run with scissors), we took off back through Wetmore. By the way, the book this year was the very appropriate, in my opinion, “Beyond Good and Evil” by Nietzche. The trail at this point had only gotten muddier, the creek crossings seemingly more slippery and the course even harder to follow. The rain had persisted all day but wasn’t the driving rain that had seen us off at 5am.
The book and witch hanging from the tree marked our turnaround
By 7:40ish, the sky finally showed some hope of getting lighter. A few times I asked Leighanna if she thought we’d ever see the sun again. Typically, her answer was always “no.” Though it eventually did get lighter, it continued to rain throughout.
Quick photo op stop at Kendall Lake
To share this recap is to be open about what happened during the race. To portray our decision to turn around as something that we did because “it was the right thing to do” is a misrepresentation of the feelings surrounding it. Despite dealing with injury, cold and rain, this was a hard decision. We kept having to say this sentence: “Could we go on? Yes. Should we go on? No” over and over until we started to believe it. We both are tough as nails ultra runners. Turning back was not an easy decision but ultimately, it WAS the right thing to do. I think we’ll need to continue to have this conversation until we believe it.
It was lovely coming through Pine Hollow on the way back as we got to see all of the marathoners which included a bunch of friends who were racing it. It got a little lonely as we made our way back to the ledges. We literally ran into no one for the last hour. This is also where I fell hard on one of the more runnable portions of the trail. It’s not the first time I’ve falled on the Pinegrove trail-its so easy to forget that there are roots everywhere! I was fine, however it took Leighanna a few minutes to recover from laughing at me!
After gingerly working our way through the ledges, we made our way back to the start where about 100 hundred runners were waiting to take off for the half marathon. As we crossed the finish, we were greeted by a ton of friends which is really the best way to finish a rough race. After officially getting our half marathon finisher gear, we made our way to the fire. After 4 hours (yes it took us 4 freaking hours…we also did end making a small wrong turn which added on some time and mileage) all I wanted to do was get my wet clothes off and into a warm shower. I had Leighanna pry my wet arm sleeves off and we headed home.
Overall, I am grateful that I had a chance to be at Run with Scissors again. I had a wonderful marathon there last year and it truly is a great race, one of my all time favorites. While I didn’t finish the race I started, I am proud of the way we raced. Continuing on would not have been smart and we need to honor that.
And that ends my racing season!! I’ll be back soon with another post sharing some of my thoughts about what’s next!