So, the other day, we were working out (mostly chatting) and started talking about what makes a great race. Is it just getting a good finish time? Great swag? The weather? The company? We thought it would be fun to write about each of our favorite races thus far in our running “careers”.
If you’ve been following us, you’ve probably read our blog about why we started running. I talked a little bit about my dad’s influence. My dad has been a runner for my whole life. I remember him coming home from races with t-shirts, ribbons, and medals. I remember cheering for him when he finished his first triathlon. My dad was fast. He would actually win races! I always wanted to be like him, but all those fabulous, fast genes, skipped right over me. Naturally, I’m very slow and every mile I run is a fight against nature. But I was determined to run anyway. So obviously, the race I ran with my dad was my favorite race of all time. By far.
After my son was born, my fifth child in five and a half years, I was determined to get my body back. I gained 70 pounds and felt uncomfortable in my skin. I started running and decided I’d run a half marathon. My sister-in-law and I signed up for the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon several months prior to the race. She was injured while training. She tried to heal but the week of the race she decided it’d be best not to run the race. There was no refund, obviously, and not a lot of people are able to run a half marathon with less than a week’s notice. I called my dad and asked/begged him to run it with me. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Dad, run this half with me next weekend. It’s already paid for.”
Dad: “I haven’t run more than 8 miles in months. I can’t run a half.”
Me: “You can run it with me…at my pace. I had a baby 6 months ago.”
On race day the weather started out horrible. The sky was nearly black with clouds and it was pouring huge rain drops on the way to the race. But by the time we got there, the skies cleared and it was beautiful.
The Bellingham Bay course is one of my favorite race courses. It starts in downtown, goes along the water, through some cute neighborhoods, through a park, and along the marina. It’s basically a flat course except for one hill up a boardwalk at mile 11. The race organizers put motivational posters along the wall up the hill. My dad, who was running my pace, which was WAY slower than what he could have done, ran ahead and yelled back to me what the posters said, “Pain is temporary, Finishing is forever.” And “Push yourself because, no one else is going to do it for you.” The other racers who were also struggling to get up this hill, couldn’t figure out why this guy, who was obviously capable of running much faster, was staying with the 13 minute mile pace.
Finally, we came to the finish, and could see the finish line in the distance. My dad started saying, “You got this. Push it. Go faster.” It started with him just saying it loud enough for me to hear. I picked up my pace, and as I did my dad’s encouragement got louder. Soon he was yelling. When I caught up to a lady, Dad started yelling “Pass her! Pass her!” As I ran past, I gave an apologetic look and a shrug. Although, she didn’t seem to care. I kinda think she was just happy to be done.
I crossed the finish line, with my dad, who was yelling and cheering for me. The announcer said my name over the loud speaker and my dad pumped his fist in the air and hugged me. We took a selfie together. Then dad made me take another one because our medals weren’t in the first one.
When I think about my favorite race and why, for me this race is always the first to come to mind. I’ve run other races with my dad, but this was the only one we stayed together…even at 62, he’s much faster than me. Although, this was one of my slowest half marathons ever, it is still by far my favorite.
Favorite race of all time. Well this is a tough one because, for starters, “favorite” and “race” don’t really enter into the same sentences for me. My pessimistic nature rarely allows it. If I really dig deep, however, I can think of one or two races that have been slightly less torturous for one reason or another. There have even been sporadic moments of joy. So, after some serious soul searching, I think my favorite race I’ve run thus far would be Ragnar Trail Relay.
Ragnar Trail Relay is a multi-day event that involves camping with an eight man team and running three separate trails of varying lengths and difficulties. By the end of a weekend, everyone will have run each loop covering approximately 20 miles per person. When I signed up for Ragnar: A). I had no idea what it was B). I had never run more than 6 miles at a go C). Had exactly one other friend who wanted to do it with me. All of these unknowns resulted in a uniquely, hilarious experience!
For starters, my friend and I decided we’d just sign up and see if we could jump on a team that was shy a couple people. This actually worked out surprisingly well. By the end of the weekend, we felt like we’d known these six other people our whole lives. It was a little awkward to begin with however, as we had two tents for eight people…so we got cozy quick!
The race took place in the Cascade mountains and involved A LOT of elevation. My first loop was about 6.5 miles and a large portion of that was “running” up a mountain side. By the end of that loop I was wiped. I staggered my way back to the team tent and crashed. When I woke up I ate, ate, ate, and wandered around the grounds with our team. This quickly became my pattern after each run.
Ragnar’s emphasis on teamwork is pretty cool. Every team has a bib that each participant is responsible for passing on to the next team member running after them. In this way, our time was calculated as a team, rather than individually. There’s a waiting area where the next team member waits as it gets close to their time to meet up with the current runner. At no point did any of our team ever stand in that waiting area alone. It was a team event through and through and we were all there yelling and cheering each other on (yes, even me).
For me, the best part of Ragnar was the night running. Starting a run at 2:00 in the morning, on a mountain, dead tired, and filthy…perfection. My night run involved dust so thick that I couldn’t see in front of me and a brief moment of terror/embarrassment when I lost my footing and literally face planted into the dirt. Something about the distraction of just trying not to die kept my mind off of how miserable running makes me.
By the last day there I was so sleep deprived I’d gone slightly rummy. I was striking up conversations with random strangers (not my normal) and cheering them on like they were lifelong friends. There was a great sense of community on site and the atmosphere was absolutely joyful. Our team finished up their last loops and we proudly collected our medals. Of all the teams that actually showed up to the event, we managed to place dead last…not an easy feat!!
My friend, another team member, and myself piled into our car and began the 4 hour drive back home. The shower that took place when I got there was the longest, most effective one I’ve ever taken. Afterward, I crawled into bed and slept for about the next two days straight. Although I haven’t had the chance to run Ragnar since then, it is definitely on my list of races to run again!!