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My First Trail Run/Race/Half-Marathon

June 7, 2011

On Sunday I ran my first ever trail half-marathon! Which was, coincidentally, my first ever trail race! Also, coincidentally, my first ever trail RUN. 

Oh dear. 

To explain, I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon a while back, while I was training for my second road half marathon. For some reason, I thought I’d mix it up during training and get some trail runs in, but long story short, this did not happen. #fail

So I showed up on Sunday morning at 7am by myself (I had signed up to run the Endurance Challenge half with a buddy who busted her knee during the Pittsburgh Marathon a month back, so obviously, she didn’t run) with no idea what to expect, and no idea how my body would handle the run.

So it turns out, trail running? TOTALLY awesome. May even be better than road running, but that would be like comparing apples to oranges. This run was a completely different beast than the Marine Corps half

Half starting line… Obviously you can’t see me because I’m in the back with the slow people. Courtesy North Face on Facebook.

For starters, there are no spectators in the woods (obvi). It’s just you and the other runners. There were no mile markers either (duh) – which would’ve driven me nutso if I hadn’t had my Garmin. Also, there were only two aid stations (the course was a loop so you passed them each twice) and EVERYONE was carrying their own water.

Biggest difference, though, is that you have to think a lot more on a trail run. One of the reasons I love running is because it’s a sport where you don’t have to have any specialized training or strategy, and you barely have to use your brain: you literally just have to put one foot in front of the other in a (generally) straight line. However, on a trail run, if you’re not paying attention, a misplaced step could cause you to wipe out spectacularly – and I would know, since I did this twice on Sunday.

So you had to think a lot more about your movements, but there was also a lot more TIME to think. With no spectators, mile markers, and not that many aid stations, this was a much more uninterrupted run than I am used to. I had a lot of time to reflect, enjoy the beautiful surroundings, and go to my zen place.

In terms of the course, the Endurance Challenge half was an awesome introduction to trail running – we ran through the woods, we ran near a river, we ran on single track (off which I threw myself several times when the leaders were doubling back toward the finish), we ran up some steep hills (I walked), we ran through mud, we even ran through a creek (twice!). I wish I had some photos of the great course, but I was too busy loving every second of it.

All in all, the North Face Endurance Challenge half was one of the most amazing runs I have ever done in my life. It was incredibly beautiful, mentally and physically challenging, and absolutely pushed me out of my comfort zone as a runner. 

And side benefit? Sharing this photo on my Facebook made me feel pretty badass. 🙂 

I can’t wait til registration opens for next year’s Endurance Challenge! 

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