For years I worked as an automotive technician (mechanic). It was a labor intensive job and I was constantly moving. As time went by, I started to climb the career ladder and my new office job caused my weight to climb its own ladder. Trapped in my own body and feeling older than I should be, I tried diet after diet, program after program.
I tried running many times, but always started out too fast, hurt myself with either burning lungs or shin splits. Each time I’d get discouraged or busy with other things in life and quit. This time was different. I started out walking. After I could walk 3 miles I started a couch to 5k program, once I mastered that I signed my two daughters and I up for a 5K color run. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a long time, and just like that, I was hooked. My daughters and I ended up running 3 more fun themed races last year.
I’m not sure who it was that recommended I join MRTT, but I am so grateful and forever in the debt to that person!! I started running with Queen Creek MRTT in January 2018. Each week I would try my hardest to keep up with the group, and while I was slow, they waited for me at the corner of every trail fork, and they continued to encourage me and cheer me on. I started joining them for trail runs every weekend and I loved every minute of it.
In December 2017, I had made a goal to run a 10k race. With MRTT, I was running 10K or more on trails every weekend. I knew I’d have to create a larger challenge and set my goals for a half marathon. My sister in law was inspired by me and wanted to run with me so I selected a half marathon near her home in Northern Utah on July 14th. Month after month I’d remind her to register and start training. It turns out I signed up for the race and did the training, she did not.
I followed Jeff Galloway’s first time half marathon training and prayed that it was enough to get me through the race. I moved my family to Northern Utah for the summer so they could spend some time with family, so that I could train at a higher altitude for the month prior to the race, and to escape the heat of AZ.
The weekend before the race I received an email that my half marathon was canceled. I was at a loss, I had trained for the past 4+ months. All those long runs and building my foundation, I didn’t know what to do, or how to maintain that level until I found something else.
I called one of my best friends and she invited me to stay with her and do the Star Valley Half Marathon in Afton, Wyoming. It was the same weekend as my canceled half marathon. I was ecstatic because the views and course were more beautiful than the course I had originally planned in Utah. I had already driven 12 hours to Logan Utah, what would 3 more hours hurt?
The Star Valley Half Marathon was created to commemorate the life of avid runner Jeremy Bart Kunz. Jeremy was killed by a drunk driver on October 10, 2009. His family works tirelessly to put on a wonderful event to honor his memory.
The weekend was perfect, my friend had another family that was staying with her specifically to join the race that weekend so it was fun to compare notes. The night before the race we drove the course. I thought to myself this course looks longer than 13.1 miles, are they sure they measured it right? Up until now all my practices had been running around the same area over and over again. This course was a straight shot down a canyon and through farm fields. Each race mile marker had a photograph of Jeremy and his outdoor adventures. The majority of the runners, including me, would tap the signs for good luck.
My dear friend drove me and her guest to the racer drop off point, we then rode a school bus 13.1 miles to the starting line. My hubby and kids slept in at her house, waiting to meet me at the finish line later that day.
The morning of the race was beautiful, clear sky 42 degrees. This newly acclimated Arizonian was cold. I opted to not drop my sweater at the trailer. The race officials stated they would donate any articles of clothing that were left on the race course. I was cold so I decided to stick with the jacket that morning and later regretted that decision.
I had packed my hydration backpack with fuel and frozen water. People looked at me as though I was strange. The majority of the other members of this race didn’t bring anything but themselves. Turns out all the aid stations were phenomenal, each stop was stocked with cold water, sport drinks, fruit, gummy worms and best of all, otter pops.
The race started at the top of Bridger National Forest, the first two miles were downhill through beautiful pine trees. We were greeted by free range cows that were out that morning grazing and watching people run by. The bottom of the canyon opened up to a lush green valley surrounded by farm land. Everyone tried to take the opportunity to run through the sprinklers that over sprayed the road from the fields.
The community support of this race was outstanding. Majority of the locals were watching and cheering from their driveways. At the midpoint of the race some kids were spraying willing participants with squirt guns. If you wanted to be sprayed, you stayed to the right and if not, you stayed to the left.
I started out with the goal of trying to run the race under 3 hours. For a first timer I felt that was a realistic goal. I noticed I was doing well as I was staying ahead of the 2:30 pacers up until about mile 5, then they passed me.
I was hoping to meet a chatty person along the route, but people would come and people would go. I missed my friend Kari N. who is a wonderful pacer and inspiration in AZ. I struggled with my backpack to dig out my headphones as I was getting lonely. Then came the 2:40 pacers, I stayed up with them until mile 9. I started playing tag with the same four runners, I’d pass them for a stretch then they would pass me over and over until the finish line.
Around Mile 9 a golden retriever ran happily down the road smiling at all that he passed. I hoped that he found his family. He was so excited to be running with people.
Mile 10 I was distracted by a phone call from my husband asking me where I was at in the race. He told me that they were eating waffles. I must have misunderstood because I thought they had waffles at the finish line. That sounded really good so I pushed faster. I told him it would be another 45 minutes before I finished and to meet me at the finish line.
Mile 11 I started sounding like I was giving birth with all my moaning. Probably scaring the 13year olds running with their mom. My legs felt like concrete poles. Muscles in my thighs and caves were locked up tight and stiff. I noticed some racers would stop and stretch, I tried to do the same with little relief from the pain.
Rounding out the last few corners of the race I tried to continue to run as everyone was cheering for me. Searching the crowd I was looking for my family. I know my girls had made posters for me and I was excited to see what they’d say.
I finally crossed the finish line, a wave of excitement passed over me and sheer relief when the time clock displayed 2:50 minutes. I knew then I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. I searched the crowd for my family, still not there. I was congratulating the racers who worked around my pace and that played tag so well.
My family came trudging along 10 minutes later. I was sad that my girls did not get to witness my accomplishment, as I was hoping to influence them. They were at the mercy of my friend driving them that day. My husband said “you told me you needed another 45 minutes!” Turns out it only took me 35 to finish the last few miles. Waffles were inspiring! I’m not mad, just happy they came, and glad to have made it out alive.
The race had fantastic treats at the end with tables of bagels, muffins, donuts, and fruit. There were over 15 coolers of water and chocolate milk. Our spirits were high as we chatted about the day’s events and enjoyed the gathering of the community. I swore I’d always look for a scenic race from this point on, the views made it all worth it, and that I’d do this race again next year.