I signed up for the Race to the Altar trail half marathon a while back. Being only a week after my 50k, I typically would not have chosen to do it, but it was an event designed for two of my running friends, Cheri and Jeff, who are getting married tomorrow. I feel a special connection with them because one or both of them have participated in every one of the 4 stateside ultras I’ve done.
Had it not been for the fact that Cheri and Jeff were expecting me, I doubt I would have done this race. Last night, I realized that the race was a lot farther away than I thought (120 miles).
Also, I have had a heavy heart the last few days and really just wanted to be by myself. I got an email 2 days ago saying that one of the airmen I worked with when I was deployed had died the day prior. I don’t have details; I know it wasn’t combat-related, but if he had not been deployed, it wouldn’t have happened. The whole thing just caught me off-guard. It’s just so surreal to me that someone I just saw a few weeks ago who was healthy (and young…24) is suddenly not here anymore. His family said bye to him several months ago under the impression that he would return home in the same condition, which did not happen.
When I first started the race this morning, I was in the “race” mindset, but a few miles into it, I knew it just wasn’t a good running day for me. My plan was to do what I could for the first half and then to walk the majority of the second half while taking photos. The trail was beautiful. Some areas were flat and open, and a lot of it was either very windy with subtle elevation changes or less windy but with significant elevation changes. The sky was a gorgeous blue with a few puffy white clouds. With less than 150 people total doing the full, half, and 5k, the trails were relatively empty. I had a lot of time to just enjoy nature and think about my life. I also thought about the life of SrA Hinkle and the other people I was deployed with. Time flew by. By the second loop, I was actually feeling better than I did on the first lap. I ran when i felt like it, walked when i wanted, and took photos whenever I saw fit.
This race was really what I needed today. Granted, it didn’t need to be as part of a race, but the obligation of the race is the sole reason I ventured out of my home today. The whole experience was just wonderful. My time was my personal worst for a half marathon (although I’d never done a trail one before), but I didn’t care. I felt significantly better and refreshed at the end of my run than I did at the beginning. I am so glad I decided to do it. It was one of the meaningful running experiences I’ve had to date.
Instead of my usual play-by-play commentary of the race, I’ve posted a bunch of photos from it below (of the course, finish area, the soon-to-be bride and groom who wore a running wedding dress and a tuxedo shirt, and one of me at the end). I also posted an elevation chart.