Ladies and gentlemen, a word of advice. The Park City Marathon will break you. It will beat you senseless with never ending inclines and leave you sobbing on the side of the road. How do I know this? Dear readers, I know this because I experienced it personally.
This race was small, and I was quickly left behind by the other runners, as per usual. But the gap between me and my fellow pavement pounders widened unusually quickly. This in and of itself made the race mentally challenging. The first few miles were rolling hills, nothing too serious. Rolling hills don't bother me because they're short and gradual and then you get to go down gradually. They provide a satisfying workout when it comes right down to it. But then the course changed, to a long, straight trail with a slight incline. Now a slight incline doesn't sound too bad, does it. But when you run up a slight incline for 10 miles, it's absolutely maddening. Add in the fact that during a 5 mile stretch of this, there were no aid stations. Nary a one to be found. Just a straight, seemingly never ending trail of bitter incline, and dust.
Then, just after mile 13, we got to the big hill. The big hill that went on for nearly 2 miles. Really Park City? Really? Like you couldn't have done something different than this?! So I am completely alone, trudging my way up this trail while random people whiz past me on mountain bikes and look at me, puzzled. I finally make it to the aid station at the top of this hellish hill, the volunteers tried to stop me from continuing the race. I had read the rules on the race and it said there was a check point at mile 16. They wanted runners to be at mile 16 by 10 a.m. There was another checkpoint at mile 21, at noon. Now tell me if those numbers make any sense. They want you to be at mile 16 by 10, but don't expect you to be 5 miles further up the road for another 2 hours? That's a pace of 2.5 miles per hour... So why on earth are they trying to stop me at mile 16 when I can get to mile 21 before the noon cutoff?! I had to spend 5 minutes arguing my point with the volunteers so they would let me continue. I wasn't going to let anybody stop me, no matter how awful I felt.
Now if anyone in the organizing party of the Park City Marathon is reading this, let me just say something. DO NOT cut people off at mile 16/three and a half hours into a race with a 6.5 hour time limit!!! That is completely asinine. You people realize that doesn't make sense, right? When I hit mile 16, I still had nearly 3 hours to go another 10 miles and beat your course time limit. I could have walked that entire distance and made it on time. Whoever wrote that rule should be fired, or shot, or fired then shot.
So after this debacle, my morale was shot. It was getting really hot, the volunteers further up the course had left, I took a wrong turn because of this and had to back track. I was the only runner out there anymore. Curious onlookers watched in wonder at this lone girl, race bib and all, running through the streets of Park City, apparently in a race of one. When I reached mile 18, I turned a corner and saw another enormous hill. And then I swore. And cried. And swore some more. Out loud too. I hope no tiny tender ears heard what I said... And then I slogged my way up that @$%&* hill and tried to keep positive. Which lasted maybe half a mile. Then the negative set in. I was hot, I was tired, I was starting to ache all over. I wasn't so sure I was going to make it to the 21 mile cutoff on time. And all I did was walk, and cry. At one point I sat on the side of the road and sobbed. Because I have never felt so beat up by a race before. I just knew I was going to DNF (did not finish) and it was devastating. What made it even worse were the random citizens who cheered for me when they saw me. They yelled things like "You're doing great!" and other encouraging words of support. This just made me cry harder, because I knew I wasn't doing great.
I had resigned myself to the DNF and just kept walking down the course. I approached the mile 21 aid station 7 minutes after noon. I was prepared for the volunteers to yank off my bib and toss me into the van, like some sort of bizarre kidnapping. But when I got there, they just said "Do you want water or Poweraid?" I said "water", got my water, looked around a little confused, and then just took off running when I realized that they weren't going to stop me. I didn't look back, I just took off like a shot. This little glimmer of hope blossomed in my bosom. I could finish. I could actually finish this race! I still had time! I'd like to say that I found this amazing inner energy to run the last 5 miles of this race. But I didn't. I ran when I could, but my body was beat. I could walk at a pretty brisk pace, so that's what I did, and jogged when I felt up to it. And you know what? I made it. I finished! I was the last person to cross that finish line. But I did it. It took me 6:32:15; I would have finished under the 6:30 mark if I hadn't have had to fight with the volunteers for my right to continue. But they gave me an official chip time and my medal, and that's what counts.
I learned an awful lot during this race. I'm still sorting through the emotional toll it took on me, but I'm not sorry for the experience. It's these really difficult things that help us grow. And I'll leave it at that for now.
On another note, I also completed the Mapleton Moonlight Half marathon two weeks ago. It was a fine enough race. The object of the race was to cross the finish line at midnight, no timing devices allowed. I followed the no timing device rule. Unfortunately, most of the other racers didn't. Because of all the cheating that I saw, I doubt I'll run this one again. I crossed at 12:11. And I have to admit, I've never been 11 minutes from winning a race in my life.
Here's to running, sobbing, and doing the best you can in any circumstance :)