Fog over the Bluegrass...magical!
To those readers who are not familiar, it is a half marathon here in central Kentucky that focuses on the beautiful horse farms we have right in our own back yard. It was an amazing race and I am so glad I did it. To my 3000+ "friends" who ran it..thank you for the experience. For a runner like me who does not like to run with others...let alone a few thousand...you all made it a wonderful race and I will without a doubt be with you next year.
As someone who prefers to run on trails and in the woods, I was not looking forward to a 13.1 mile road race but I can honestly say it did not disappoint. This year it was supposed to be a Rock N' Roll series run but in the end it was taken over locally and I really think that was for the best. I have lived around here for over a decade and attend the meets at Keeneland every year but never really "stopped and smelled the roses" when it came to the horse industry. The land and the farms are just breath taking and I wish you call could have been there with me to see it!
The morning of the race was beautiful. I was a little worried about my "level of dress" as I scrapped ice off the windshield in 30 degree weather but by start time I knew I would be OK. The thick fog had not entirely burned off by race time so we were delayed about 30 minutes but that did not put a damper on the excitement at the starting line. Each wave had pace setters and my wave had both the LexRunLadies and the Party Pacers (also LRL's). I had never been given a noise maker before a run but I now think they should be mandatory at every race. I think it is fair to say that all 3000+ were beyond excited to get running and it really showed the entire time.
Wave S start line (photo: Jamie France) I am in the red visor...very serious about my noise maker!
Just a few friends....
Now, I had studied the course a few days before the race and felt fairly prepared. The only thing I worried about were the hills and all the "stories" that came from them. Each time I spoke to someone about the course they reminded me of the "hills"...especially the "s-curve". Being someone who ran over natures rolling hills all the time, I was pretty confident I could take on a few man made ones. I really thought my legs and awesome calf muscles were ready!
Calf muscle :)
Yeah, that is what I thought. Now, I was not surprised...I was told the hills were brutal and numerous...and I was pretty sure I was ready for them. And there were hills...followed by hills...followed by more hills...and hills that ended with hills instead of downhills. At one point people just started flat out cursing the ground they ran on. I have never felt a burn in my legs like I did around mile 9 or so when the hill ended in a curve and another hill. It seems like there were hills as far as the eyes could see...but that was only if you were looking straight ahead. If you were like me and spent most of your time looking left or right you saw nothing but amazing horse farms or the houses that most likely owned those amazing horse farms. I will admit...at one point I was certain that if I saw the RD I was going to deck them for thinking this course was a fun idea. The only thing that kept me going was thinking back and laughing at how a friend said she would rather "be stung by bees" then run the course. In times of exhaustion or doubt it really helps to have a little humor. In the end I will admit it was the most beautiful road race I have ever been on...even though it was touch as shit!
Not only were the views amazing but the people were as well. I saw a number of people getting picked up by police or medics due to injury or exhaustion. Each time it happened all the runners called out words of encouragement or stopped to make sure that person was OK. I even saw one guy stop and massage his girlfriends injured knee repeatedly even though she was telling him to go on without her. It really made me appreciate what running in such a large group is like. It was a very nice thing to witness and something I will remember for a while.
Besides the amazing people, the horses also provided miles and miles of entertainment. At one point a horse was sticking his head over the fence for people to stop and take pictures with him. This horse had a true love for the camera and so far on Facebook I have seen at least 20 pictures of runners "selfing" it with him. Around mile 8-9 there were a few mares with their young. As the runners ran along the fence line the mares led their young on a run with them. To see and hear those amazing animals run was just so inspiring! The bond each mare had with their young was so strong and they seemed to be learning from and enjoying us as much as we were them. It was moments like this that provided much needed motivation. It made you realize that you were an animal...just like the horses...and running with them was nothing strange. It was natural. It was nature calling to each runner...almost telling them to pick it up...to run to their potential. Nature was telling us to ignore the doubts and pain we were feeling and just be free like the horses. Such amazing animals...they have it figured out :)
I will say there was only one point of major concern during the run...and it had nothing to do with me. At the later part of the race I met a new friend and we ran a few miles together talking about the race and how awesome we were for doing it. Conversation was going great until we came up on a horse a little before mile 11. We stopped and watched his rib cage for a while and it did not move. He was almost pressed against the fence and multiple people had the same fear we did...he was dead. I am not 100% sure if he was or not...as I have not met anyone who saw him get up after me. Either way it made me feel sad. It was such a beautiful animal. I really hope I am wrong...
In the end the race ended like it began...with loud cheering and smiling faces. I will not lie, I was in pain when I finished. My hips and knees hurt so bad. I was introduced to a few new people (who even read this blog!!!) and I was in so much pain I could hardly interact like I would have liked. So...to those peeps...I wish I had been feeling better. Perhaps if I had been allowed to sit down ;) Either way...it was wonderful to meet you and I apologize if I look like I just ran thru hell...at the time my body felt like it!
It is true what they say...each time you take on a new race distance you should sign up for the second race before you run the first. Even though I am still sore one day later...and my feet still are covered with blisters...I loved the experience and am looking at a few in the next couple months to mix with trail running. After all, while in my local run shop I was told that I had just run one of the "toughest in the country...and if you can run that one you can pick any other one and it will be much easier." I am a proud lady. I am proud of my mind and my body. Each day I am more and more amazed at how much they can go thru!
Wish me luck...back "on the run" tomorrow with the West Sixth club. Life is just too short to stop :)