Saturday morning's Running with Scissors Marathon was a contradiction of feelings. In one way it was a dream come true. It had been weeks since I had seen many of my trail running friends and it was great to reconnect with so many of them before the race. The weather was perfect for trail running, low 40's at dawn and low 60's come afternoon. I hadn't run on trails in over a month and it was truly incredible to be out there exploring trails I had never run before. On the flip side in a lot of ways it was like a nightmare - it had all the key elements at least... It was pitch black and I was running (from who or towards what I wasn't really sure). The race started at 5:00 am and it would be 2 1/2 hours until we could rely on the sun to light the trail. I was lost, even though the trail was well marked it's difficult to stay on course when running alone on unfamiliar leaf covered trails with only the light of your own headlamp. I was lucky to have always found my way back on course and never lost more than a minutes time. At time I was falling down and at other I was struggling to climb up slick muddy hills. The leaves not only made it difficult to follow the trail, it also did a good job of hiding tree roots and rocks that always seemed to trip me up. Add in all the ankle deep mud on the trail and it was hard to stay on my feet. I'm being a little dramatic of course, but add all this up and it makes running a marathon all the more challenging.
My actual Running with Scissors narritive is shorter than I would like it to be. I intended to run the double marathon, which would have been my second longest run ever. Even though it was only a week a after a PR at Columbus I thougth I could gut it out. I had followed the fall race schedules of all my ultra friends and they things they were doing was inspiring. Ron's 8 marathons/ultras in nine weeks including a 103 mile effort at NC24, Roy's 100+ miles at NC24 followed by the Towpath Marathon, Terri's back to back Towpath and Columbus marathon followed by her top finish at the RWS double marathon, not to be outdone Gred Dykes was doing 8 marathons/ultras in 9 weeks concluding at the Massanutten 50 in two weeks. Even though I hadn't been putting in a lot of miles I thought I could manage ONE back to back marathon/ultra.
The first 16 miles of the marathon actually went pretty good. I was running at a comfortable pace and running in the dark on with a headlamp on trails requires your undivided attention. I think this took my mind off how tired my legs actually were. As the sun came up and we headed back towards the Ledges Shelter I already felt like I was running on empty. I was able to hold it together but I started to question whether the double was such a good idea. I have a lot of races I'd like to run this fall and I'd hate to derail that all by overexerting myself and getting injured. Somewhere between Pine Hollow and Ledges I decided to put in a push to the turn-around point because if I decided to only run the single marathon I wanted to finish strong. Despite Dave's best efforts to warn Patrick of my presence I was the third person to complete the marathon - Dave had already left for the double.
Maybe I wasn't as committed as I needed to be but right when I finished the marathon I knew there was no going back out for the second. To Patrick's dismay that meant that I was second and he was third in the marathon, both finishing in 4:21. As Terri, Ron, and Mark came in and went back out that feeling of dissapointment that I hadn't gone back out emerged. They are so tough, and I can't help but question my toughness when I chose to just do one marathon. I know I could have completed a second marathon but it would have been a long, slow, painful 5+ hours and I wasn't prepared to dig that deep. All in all it was a great day, and a great race. Roy certainly didn't do us any favors when he drew up that course, it was brutal! I look forward to coming back next year and this time actually completeing the double.
Happy trails everyone...