RACE: Run for Gold Metric Marathon
DISTANCE, COURSE: 26.2 kilometers (16.28 miles), Great Allegheny Passage from Meyersdale, Pa. to Frostburg, Md.
RACE INFO:Potomac Highlands Distance Club’s Run for Gold page
“This ain’t a scene/It’s a * * arms race.” — Fall Out Boy
It wasn’t a scene. On the bus ride to Meyersdale, Pa., I was reminded of that as other runners talked about qualifying for the Boston Marathon or competing in an Ironman. There were some serious runners in the field.
As arm races went, I felt like I was puttering around in a Mini Cooper while everyone else had a tank. I felt overly tired and underprepared.
I worked a late shift Saturday. I got home at about midnight. I got up at 4:15 a.m. to drive to Frostburg. I got lost, of course, and showed up at 6 a.m.
The buses departed at about 6:30. I was just as nervous as I had been throughout the week. Sixteen miles is the longest I’ve run. I had a crappy two weeks of not running. Would I have enough water and gel packs to survive? What about animals or cars near the path? What if I try to compete and burn out like I always do?
Then Johnny Cash told me a tale of how he was going to break his “rusty cage … and run.” All was right in the world, I just needed to run.
The race began about .6 miles from the Meyerdale depot, which is a good warm up. I smiled.
The start was great. It was cool, sunny, and breezy in the trees. There were some great sights in Pennsylvania, such as the Eastern Continental Divide and the half-mile Big Savage Tunnel and panoramic views. It was a smooth and doable ascent to the divide and slightly faster descent into Maryland. I was still smiling.
Once there, the path changed. In Pennsylvania, ATVs aren’t allowed on the trail. In Maryland, there is often another path beside the footpath for off-road vehicles.
At the border, I crossed a highly decorated Mason-Dixon Line. It was like being back in home territory. I was nearing the end. Yes, that Joker gas the kids gave me in case of emergencies was still working. I was happy and smiling.
Borden Tunnel is a little more than two miles from the finish line. I went in, soaked up the cold air. Then I looked for a path. I could see the other side, but not the ground in front of me.
I started feeling disoriented. The smile was gone as panic set in. How am I going to get out, I thought to myself. I took my last swig of water and walked out. I chalk my experience up to exhaustion.
Then the race was on again. This time it was a race against fatigue and the heat. It was nearing the three-hour mark and the weather was humid and hot.
I had been so used to running earlier in the day that I hadn’t factored the heat into my race preparation.
As I dragged myself up the zigzag hill to the finish line, I was ready to die. I was happy and proud of what I accomplished, but I was feeling every part of the run. Muscles I didn’t know existed were aching.
In the end, I finished in three hours, three minutes. I thought it was an epic fail award wise — after all 15 people were in my age group — so I went home before the award ceremony started.
If I stayed, I would have known that I was third in my age group. I would have a medal to add to the collection.
- Stay for the awards ceremony. You’ll never know how well you did otherwise.
- Plan for the race conditions. If I did, I would have brought more water or conserved it better.
- Always check the course map. If I knew Borden Tunnel didn’t have lights, I would have brought something.
- If you know you have an early race, plan the day before accordingly. I should have taken Saturday off, so I could either stay in Frostburg or get enough sleep at home before driving over.
- The people at Potomac Highlands Distance Club are awesome. I’ve been to a few of their races now. They’re always well organized and post results online pretty quickly.
Now I get to fight my husband over who will do the race next year. It was a great run and a great race.