The last two weekends I’ve had the opportunity to run in two local races. Last weekend I ran the Dirty Dash, a non-timed mud run. On Saturday, I ran the American Fork Canyon half marathon.
Utah has some unique road races. It seems every canyon has their own half marathon where they shuttle you to the top and then you run downhill 13.1 miles to the finish line. The half marathon I ran was one of those races. I thought this would be a great way to get some miles into my training.
The shuttles to the starting line started leaving at 4:00 am. Yes, 4 in the freaking morning. If I had known I had to be there so early, I’m not sure I would have signed up. For those that know me, you know that I value my sleep preciously. And you also know that I hate the cold, which it was, at the top of the canyon at 5:00 am. As I waited for the race to start, I tried to give myself a pep talk. I was waiting for some sort of excitement from the announcer or from other racers, but everyone had their game faces on. There was a little bit of chatting going on. But then, everyone put their ear buds in and turned their Garmins on. Then I guess they said start, because the people in front of me started moving.
I grew up at the mouth of American Fork Canyon in Utah. Even though I’m very partial to it, I have to say, it is one of the most beautiful canyons anywhere. As I was running on the paved road I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the nature surrounding me. I wanted to veer off the road and run through the woods, run through the river and throw a few rocks. I felt trapped on the road. I can’t imagine anyone preferring to run on a man-made street instead of through nature. As we came out of the canyon, we ran through a golf course and then a park. Again, my eyes wandered to the playground equipment. “Wouldn’t it be fun to just take a break from running and go across the monkey bars and go down the slide? Wait, it’ll ruin my time. Okay, just keep running.” So I finished the race, got my medal. But something was missing. Joy. I have several friends who do find joy in just running. But I’m not sure why I never feel it.
But last week when I did the Dirty Dash, what I saw at the starting line, during the race and at the end was lots of smiles and laughter. I see it and feel it at every mud run and obstacle course run I do – adults remembering what it’s like to be a kid, play in the mud and climb things again. There is a sense of empowerment that comes with conquering obstacles that I don’t think any road race can compete with.