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A run through the park



A while back I ran the Big Woods Half Marathon. I was up before the sun on that Saturday morning and it really wasnít all that early, 6:15, itís just that the sun doesnít come up so early these days. Itís amazing how easy it was to get up. Itís never that easy on a workday. Go figure.

On tap for the morning was a half marathon trail run near a little town south of the Twin Cities, Nerstrand Minnesota. A small country church, St. Johns, sponsors a half marathon as a fund raiser. I ran this one back in 2005 and it was a treat to run basically in the middle of nowhere USA. It was also my first trail run.

As I approached the entrance to the church there was a sign that stated the event would not be on the trails this year. Instead it had to be a road run. Over the past few weeks it has rained more often than not. It was something that I thought might happen. The sign stated ďDue to torrential rains the trails in Big Woods State Park are closedĒ. I was disappointed but I was prepared just for that possibility.

The day was just about perfect for running. Temp was in the mid 40ís. The sun was shining over the fields and lit up the leaves that remained on some trees. I thought the wind was perfect but I would soon learn it wouldnít be. As far as fall days go in MN most would have given the day a 10+.

The start was a little different than usual and you needed to be listening. If not one might have ended up running a bit farther. You see the 5K, 10K and Ĺ marathon all started from the same area. The difference was that the 5 K went east and the others went west. As the gun sounded I headed west with a bit more enthusiasm than usual.

I ran a very comfortable pace from the beginning. My split at mile 1 was at 9:45. A bit quicker than I thought I was going but not overly fast to be worried about getting out too quick. My goal for the day was to be right around a 10 minute pace knowing that the pace could waiver either up or down a ten or 20 seconds. I managed to pace a bit faster over the next five miles and ran close to 9:30 splits. I was feeling very good and relaxed all the way.

After reaching mile 6 the run turned into more of challenge. A good sized hill greeted me at the 6 mile marker. I climbed that without much trouble. Up ahead was a small downhill then another uphill going up at mile 7. At the top of the hill there was a left turn. Upon turning left I could see the road going up at a steady incline for as far as I cloud see. My thoughts were okay this is no longer going to be a walk in the park. When I reached mile 8 there to was a small dip in the road followed by another incline that went all the way to mile 10. Finally after mile 10 it was pretty much flat for a ways. A slight down hill from 11 Ĺ to 12. Since we had a u-turn at 12 that meant an incline to 12.5 and then flat to the finish. A small and short drive for the finish got me there at 2:10:50 per my Garmin.

I mentioned the wind was a bit more than I would like. For my runs I like to have a slight wind and I generally donít mind if itís a head wind. Todayís wind was just a bit strong enough to feel it. That and the fact it was a head wind while on the long incline from just past mile 7 to 10 mile made things a bit tough.

I had a lot of help along the way. My runs tend to become a bit spiritual some where along the run. Although we didnít run the trails, we did run on a road that cut through the Big Woods State Park. So I was amongst the tall trees in their fall splendor. Couldnít help but think about the days my brother and I would spend grouse and squirrel hunting in woods just like that. Another thought that I had was how the sight of the fall colors on the sides of the road to the horizon reminded me so much about a picture that my grandmother had hanging above her old sofa. There were there with me to give me a big boost. A friend of mine was going out to run at 9:30 so she could come along in spirit and I felt the push. Along one point of the tough stretch I knew that all my RCC friends would be pulling and cheering for me. And then of course knowing Deb at home was waiting for my call to let her know I finished another run. A congrats and an I am proud of you was waiting for me. Itís awesome to have so many to carry me while I run.

I ran my kind of a run. I drank every twenty minutes. I enjoyed the scenery. I was relaxed. And yes I was in my own little world for just about the entire event. I can look back and honestly say I gave it everything I could for those 2 hours. I finished smiling and dang proud.

Canít wait to do it again. A 5K next weekend and then looks like Jan 26th will be the next big run. Iíll be counting the days.


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