Last night was a lot of firsts. First time running a marathon at night, first time running a marathon on snowy trails, first time running a marathon in 20 degree weather, and most surprisingly, first time winning!
The race started at 6:30 last night and was exciting all the way to the finish. We started after the quarter marathoners and the half marathoners, on a 6.55 mile course that we ran 4 times, so there were lots of people to catch during the first two laps. While that made for a crowded trail on the single track sections of trail, it didn’t actually slow my pace. I ran 1:05 and 1:01 for the first two laps.
The third and fourth laps were more challenging than the first two not only because I was a little tired, but also because I was alone most of the time and the trail became very icy after so many feet had run over the same sections of trail. I even bit it on the third lap while trying to cross a bridge that slanted down and was covered in a sheet of ice. I realized on the fourth lap the I could go around it without getting into water, and by that point I had memorized all the slick points. My splits on those laps were 1:03 and 1:05.
Since there was such a mix of runners across three distances, I had no idea where I fell in the placings, but just tried as hard as I could to maintain a hard pace that was still sustainable. The wheels started falling off on the fourth lap so I only pushed the flats and downhills. Overall, the course was relatively flat and only technical for about 1.5 miles of the 6.55 miles, with a few icy, slow spots. Thank goodness for that, because I was trying to handle the existing challenges of the darkness and snow. Oh, and my headlamp was too loose and kept sliding down on my head. Major note to self to adjust it before I run in the dark again. It was also a full moon, which made for some surreal moments when it was just me and the trail.
When I crossed the finish line at 4:16, they announced my name, but that was it. I thought that meant that I didn’t place, so I went to the boards to see the results and saw that I had finished 9th overall and was the first female! Holy crap, I won!?! About ten minutes later, the race directors took my photo atop the podium and gave me a check for $125, and we were on our way. It’s the first race I’ve ever won and the taste of victory was definitely sweet. If you’re in the Midwest and looking for a fun, challenging race in the winter, I would definitely recommend this one.