Fellowship of the Run : Big Mountain Trail Race 2013
This past weekend, only days removed from the senseless Boston Marathon bombings, countless runners across the country lined up for their own races. For the second consecutive year, I was given a free entry into the Big Mountain Trail Run in Cheyenne Canyon (thanks, LYME ). As was the case last year, my fitness level wasn’t particularly high so the “hellacious” route (as the emcee put it) roused butterflies. The week’s confusion, sorrow and fear rattled out of my truck’s radio all the way to race parking. No better time to shuffle up and down 2400′ of rocky trail for two hours.
Homemade shirts saluting Boston and the marathon runners peppered the crowd as we queued up at the starting line beneath the pines. Articles and comments online made me wonder if people viewed the terrorism as an attack on running itself. This seemed unlikely.
One hundred of us departed for miles of climbing in the shadow of Pikes Peak. My body resisted the idea of running uphill, but soon settled into a workable medium between tiring and full on lactic.
Miles ticked by, runners filtered into natural pace groupings based on fitness. We reached Gold Camp Road and began a moderate traverse through a couple old tunnels. Yards ahead, the eventual number one and two women’s finishers settled into a conversation with each other and a nearby runner. An older runner, Thom, caught up with me and we started a conversation of our own. We talked about the race, the scenery, favorite trails and whatever else came to mind. For long stretches we talked about nothing.
At the turnaround point, the girls darted away (running 6:30 miles was not fast enough to keep up with them!) – I fell behind them and Thom fell behind me. I ran alone, back down the road and onto the rocky singletrack.
With three miles to go, my body was tired. Seven days into an experiment eating only vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains and having only a few double digit runs in recent months began taking a toll. Taking it easy to the finish was the plan. The last two miles of the Big Mountain Trail Race plummet hundreds of feet on gravelly hard-pack, strewn about with large rocks. I began thinking to myself, “maybe I’m growing out of endurance running.” Then Thom showed up, flying down the trail with his graying pony tail in tow.
I said, “Take it home.”
He responded, “How do those tight calves and blown up quads feel now? Race me for it!”
At first I was taken aback – trash talk!? “I’ll wait for the flats.” I said.
“Open up your hips and let gravity do the rest!” Thom yelled, nearly tripping headlong over a rock.
So I did.
We raced headlong for two breathless, muscle-burning miles, crossing the finish line next to each other. Thom gave me a big smile and a hug. We both laughed and found out soon after that he won the 40-49 year-old division as a 48-year-old. I snuck in under two hours – my only real goal for the day. A goal I would not have realized without Thom.
Sitting at the grub table, trying not to keel over, I thought about the beauty I’d seen on the trail. Complete strangers encouraging each other, conversing and enjoying creation. Not unlike Boston. Not unlike the heroes in Boston coming to the assistance of the injured after the bombs exploded. People, humans, loving each other.
Not only did Thom playfully utter the best sentences I’ve ever heard during a race, he illustrated the joy of fellowship, of comaraderie amongst runners. I’m not growing out of endurance running.