Songs: “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles; “Rusty Cage,” by Johnny Cash
DAVIS, W.Va. — After going to bed at two in the morning, I was roused from my sleep a few hours later by a thought.
Will I race this morning?
As a runner, I value a good night’s sleep before a race. Heck, I value it any day, as I work night shift and I’m a mom. Going to bed at 1:30 or 2 in the morning and getting up four hours later has become routine for me.
But the past few days, the lack of sleep has caught up with me.
And on this night, I want to run, but I don’t. So I try to fall back to sleep, with the sound of runners’ feet falling onto pavement in my head.
So at 5:30 in the morning, I get up again and talk to the voices in my head about Tour Davis: Run For It.
Tucked inside Monongahela National Forest, Davis boosts about 4,000 residents. A little more than 1,000 showed up at the 5k race certified by U.S. Track and Field.
When you first get into Davis, you notice the mountains covered in hues of red, yellow and orange. Then you notice the smell … The smell of chicken being cooked on a grill about twice the length of my Ford Focus.
The annual Leaf Peepers Festival is held the same weekend as the race, the last full one in September. The town’s nonprofits sells lots of things at the festival, including the Rotary Club’s mouth-watering chicken with all the fixings.
The race, which also features an untimed 2k, starts and ends at the Davis fire hall. The race allows people to “run for it,” by creating teams that fundraiser for various charities in a three-county area. For those without a team, you could designate where half your entry fee went. Ours went to the Tucker County Foundation’s director’s fund. I’ll explain why this is important in a bit.
The race started at 11 on a beautiful fall day. Since costumes were encouraged, I wore my Wonder Woman shirt and cape. My two oldest who raced as well stuck with traditional running gear.
The race started on the Main Street, W.Va. 32. The walkers intermingled with runners, which was rather annoying the race director told walker to get to the back. The kids were a lot more adept at weaving around the walkers, and I quickly lost 20 yards or so on them in the first quarter mile.
The first turn on Second Street leads runners into Davis and a tour of the town.
And the town has hills, lots of them. Some even have names, as the townspeople attested to as they cheered everyone on.
During the first mile, I could see my kids running together a little bit ahead of me. Then we started up some bigger hills. While I was catching up to them, my daughter was working hard. My son was faltering a bit, unable to maintain their pace.
I first caught up with my son at the first water stop, at the end of mile one. Then he sped off again. I later caught him as we went of one of the bigger hills just of W.Va. 32. From then on, until maybe the finish line, we were a team. Wonder Woman and the Boy Wonder as one of the race supervisors told everyone over the bullhorn.
At about then end of mile two was the race’s biggest hill, the residents called it Heartbreak Hill. It was about 30 feet long and had a steep grade.
But when we made it up and around the turn, it wasn’t heartbreaking — it was heart-filling. You could see miles of mountains dotted with autumn colors. I wanted to soak in the view but the boy and I had a race to run.
And so we ran. The rest of the race is all downhill, except part of the last mile, which bring you back onto W.Va. 32 to the fire hall.
While my son was tired, we encouraged each other to try our best toward the end. And as the rest of the family watched, we finished in about 32 minutes.
The course was fast, but it was a challenging course. My husband noted that for the exception of the leaders, everyone had to push hard to finish. They went faster but not in an all-out sprint like you usually see at the end of 5Ks.
After the race, we were supplied bananas, water and the best Golden Delicious apples. (Did you know they were created in West Virginia, along with the red ones?)
A few hours later, the results were read. The race participants raised more than $100,000 for their charities. And more was to come.
At the end of the race, the top overall finishers and the top three in each age group receive a medal. A portion of the race’s proceeds is donated to the charity he or she puts on his or her registration form in his or her name.
So, my daughter placed second in her age group. A $100 donation to the foundation’s director’s fund will be made in her name. We could have used the $100 too, but it will go toward scholarships and the foundation’s operation. The money will probably be better spent.
Mentally, I wanted this to be a race where I let everything out there. But my mommy instincts took over when I saw my son walking along the path with a sad and lost look on his face.
I left a lot of things out there though. In recent weeks, I’ve been plagued by a lot of self-doubt, which has been compounded by circumstances I have little control over.
I wanted to “break my rusty cage and run,” as Johnny Cash sang. That’s why I choose to go to Davis. As with most runs, especially with my cape kinda flowing behind me (I’m slow), I felt free.
I felt free in a different way as I held my son’s hand as we climbed up hills together. He showed me how big his brave his. Like his mommy, he struggles a lot with his esteem, especially when it comes to sports. Having a big sister who is a natural athlete makes him mad sometimes.But it make him work harder and show a determination of which I am very proud.
As we ran, I often said to him, “You got this. You can do it.” I think I was saying it more to myself than to him. He told stories and talked about everything he saw. His legs may have been tired but his mind was willing to do what had to be done to get through the race.
Right after we made the last turn, he squeezed my hand a little and said he loved me. I would have cried right then and carried him to the finish line if he would have let me.
In the end, he shaved five minutes off his last 5k time. There was no medal, which made him upset.
The sadness didn’t last long. The next day, everyone was running laps around an indoor track while we waited for the pool to open. My son outran his sister in a half mile race. The grin that appeared on his face as he lapped her was priceless.
If you’re ever in Davis, run there. If not during the race, do it just for fun. It’s a look at Appalachian contrasts — tourist-friendly area with some areas that show how much farther West Virginia has to come. Shacks sit beside nice homes.
But the scenery is brilliant. You get a taste of what they mean when you hear that West Virginia is almost heaven.