Unfamilar Territory — The Tales of Two Races

It’s freezing. Snow is hitting my face and my legs are turning colors.
My car? Where did my husband park my car?
So began my adventure in Kerens, W.Va., where I was to run my first half-marathon, Catholic Charities Race for Hope.
I had been training for this race since January, yet as I registered, I felt unprepared.
The race took place on the Allegeny Highlands Trail. The mostly pebble gravel path was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. The path was littered with large limbs. Tree trunks were split, parts covering the trail like a canopy.
It reminded me of my first trail 5k, Dash for the Darter (it’s a fish), in Burr Oak Lake State Park, in Ohio.
Held on another chilly day the weekend before, the race benefitsSunday Creek Watershed Group. The path was Buckeye Trail Loop, a hilly course that’s one-person wide. It wasn’t littered with debris, but there was plenty of undergrowth, mud and stream crossings.
Both races where mentally and physically challenging. The trail run was steep and you had to mentally focus or you’d trip over a rock and root.
The half-marathon was long, requiring stamina. You’re mind could wonder while in the unforested areas, but the tree limbs and dangling trunks in the other areas forced you to focus.
With the trail run, the way we went into the path was pretty much how we ended up finishing. I was in the top 10 of the finishers, but my time was 10 minutes slower than usual.
The half was a toss up. Many people who I passed, surged toward the end and passed me. I was out of it from the turnout until about mile nine. Then I saw that I was near two hours into my race and still had three miles left. So, I dug deep and pounded out the last three miles.
When I ran the Dash for the Darter, we climbed up to a scenic view of the lake. Then we started to go back down and had a steep hill to climb to get back to the start. I was exhausted and muddy, but I had to finish. I climbed that darned hill and ran to the finish.
In both races, reaching the finish line was pure elation. Having my family there to watch was the best feeling ever.

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