Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July Marathon

I didn't have anything else to do on Monday morning, so why not run a race!? Sometime over the weekend, I found out via Twitter about the 4th of July Marathon (thanks inwoodrunner!) and with less than 36 hours until the starting line, I decided a holiday morning race sounded like a great idea. That's how I ended up in the Bronx at 9am on the 4th of July with about 300-400 other runners, ready to run through the trails of Van Cortlandt Park. About 85% of the course was through the woods. It was awesome. Hard, but awesome. I love trail running. I rock at downhill running - it's such an amazing feeling to just let gravity take over and fly down the side a hill.  The uphills are another story altogether; I seriously struggle on the way up, sometimes slowing practically to a walk, but I really make up for time on the downhills. 

The course was a 6.55mi loop, so 4 loops would equal a full marathon. But you also had the option of running as many loops as you wanted. I opted to do the half marathon, which was 2 loops. Fairly ambitious, considering this was my first trail race since... high school! Besides I just ran a rough half 2 weeks ago and my feet and quads were still recovering.  

This race was rougher than I imagined!!! The trails were incredibly deceiving, and the first loop was so challenging that I nearly stopped after just 6.55mi. The course just dragged on and seemed to take FOREVER... When we came out into a clearing, I thought for sure we had done at least 5 miles. I eagerly pulled out my phone to check the time, and I had only been running for 37 minutes! Based on my average pace, this means I couldn't possibly have gone farther than 4 miles... let alone 5 miles. Then I turned a bend in the trails, and there was another steep uphill staring right at me. Gahhh!! I would have killed for just a glimpse of the finish line.  

I spent the next 2 miles debating whether it was insanity to continue or not. However, once we got to flat ground I felt better and convinced myself it wasn't all that bad. When I finally reached the elusive start/finish line at the 6.55mi mark, I plowed straight through, grabbed a water bottle and commenced my second lap. 

Somewhere during the first loop, a ton of runners blew past me. Actually, runners continually blew past me throughout the entire race. I don't know where they came from, or where they got all their energy from. Maybe they were just doing the 10K. Either way, it was a bit disappointing, because despite the never-ending trails, I felt pretty great. I was really giving it my all and moving along at a fairly swift pace... at least it felt quick. So although countless runners were blowing past me at every turn, it wasn't as demoralizing as it could have been. 

There was incredible support from the field of runners. Half the people who passed me encouraged me along, and I dont think anyone actually had headphones in. I haven't experienced an atmosphere like that since... right, since high school!  I was only racing against myself anyway. And I knew I was doing the best I could possibly have done while still being kind to my body. I know I could certainly afford to push my own limits a little more often, but even so, I am happy when I base my performance on how I feel; it's good to know you're taking care of yourself.  Only one minor injury occurred; I actually lost both my second toenails. Somewhere between Fairfield and the 4th Half, they completely separated from my toes. Ah the consequences of being a distance runner. (At least I still have both my big toenails! *knock on wood*)

This race was a serious small town operation.  Nothing fancy, just a bunch of runners who love running for the sake of running.  It wasn't even officially timed. We were held to the honor system to track our own time and write it down in a notebook at the end. I loved it. They even handed out festive bandanas, jelly beans in little star shaped bags, small American flags, and dog tags. It was all cheap stuff from Oriental Trading, but it was awesome! Our race bibs had a 74 on it. I'm still trying to figure out what that stands for.  I tied a bandana around my forearm, and at a few crucial points during the race, I actually glanced down at the bandana, and thought to myself, "You are so badass. You have a bandana on your arm! You can totally do this!" Judge if you must - it worked.

The race was completely free but they did ask for donations. Suggested donation was just $10 to cover materials. I only had a dollar, so I dropped it in the donation box. I definitely feel the race was easily worth $10-$20 and gladly would have contributed more if I had more cash.  

After heading home, I was totally wiped out. I also felt slightly nauseus (this has been a recurring theme over he past week or so) so after showering, I laid down in bed.  I honestly felt so sick that I didn't even know if I'd be up for going to fireworks that night. I didn't get out of bed for the rest of the day. After waking from a short nap around 7pm, I felt a little better; then I ate a huge salad with roasted sweet potato fries and I felt dramatically better. So I quickly got ready and headed over to my friend's place in Hoboken to see the fireworks. 

Apparently a small group of runners spearhead races on ever major holiday as part of a "holiday marathon" series. The next one is Labor Day, and I've pretty much already made up my mind that I'm doing it! 

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