On August 17th I toed the line for the 2nd year for Riley Trails Marathon, half marathon, relay, and 10k runs. The race started at beautiful Benjamin Hope. Since this was my 2nd year doing it I knew the logistics from last year. I talked with a few people before the race started. Spring Arbor University alumni had some guys doing the relay version and some of the guys I raced against in college. Race Director Jason gave us pre-race instructions. He worked extremely hard making sure the course was marked well and explained things about the flags and how the marathon, and half marathon do a half a loop on their last loop before heading back to Benjamin Hope. Marathoners had 5.5 loops to do.
The race started right on time at 7:30. One awesome addition this year was each race had their own color on their bib. So you could tell who is doing each race. That was an added plus. The first mile you make your way to Riley Trails on a bike path. The first mile was rather quick but it was slightly downhill and your on a bike path. My time was 6:24 for the first mile. As we entered the trails 3 guys with Spring Arbor relay teams were in front and another guy was ahead of me and I didn’t know what race he was doing. Pre-race I did have a goal of trying to break my record from last year which I had ran a 3:11. I was running smooth early on but I was sweating a ton. By mile 4 I was already dripping with sweat. I kept pushing through, but I knew it would be a long day with wetness.
I kept behind the guy that was ahead of me until mile 5. I glanced at his bib and noticed he was doing the relay. At this point I knew I was leading the marathon. I entered the 2nd loop feeling good and pace was steady. I also started passing some half marathon runners who started 30 minutes after us. I notice I was going thru my hand-held water pretty quickly already. So I thought it would be a great idea to refill it at the aid station that we hit halfway through the loop and we actually went by that aid station twice in that loop. So I would fill it the 2nd time I went by it roughly 9 miles or so into the race. While I stopped to refill my water bottle I also drank some Gatorade there. Then I was off. Pace was going good still. On my 3rd loop I felt really good.
On the third loop I hit 13.1 miles. My time was 1:38 at that point. Not on pace to beat my record but decent considering the conditions. I made sure to get some more Gatorade at the aid stations and even one I had a small cup of Coke. I knew I was sweating like crazy. Good news I was still in first. Loop 4 I was holding on to mid 7:30s pace. Although the course isn’t that difficult however I was starting to feel every turn, every hill, and the heat. I also needed to refill my water bottle again which I did. I also took my 3rd gel. At mile 18 I started to feel it more. I was about to enter by last full loop. My body was done fighting the turns fighting the course. My splits starting getting into the 8s. My fear of getting passed was setting in. I stopped at the aid station that we go by twice in the back loop to get a drink of Coke both times I went by there. I don’t normally drink Coke but sometimes when the body needs sugar it helps.
I then started my half loop. The half loop seem to take forever. My body was tired. I walked a few times on that short 2.3 mile half loop. When I did walk I counted to 10 then ran again. I had a mile in 8:31 at mile 23. At this point I still wanted to win but getting to that finish line was just as important. I wasn’t dizzy or anything like that. Just was exhausted due to some dehydration. So at various times I would walk 10 seconds then run. Mile 24 was my worst mile of the day I walked a couple of times in that mile and felt it. It was in 9:51. Mile 25 was still in the 9s but at 9:03. I was then on my way back to Benjamin hope. In first place with just over a mile to go. I will admit it I looked back several times in that last mile as I went from walking to running. I kept telling myself when we get half mile to go to run the rest in. I did exactly that. I also managed to win the race still in 3:32. Although my time was way off from last year. I still loved the trails, I was just dehydrated. In fact the race director helped me a bunch after I finished by getting me coke, watermelon, as I sat down in a chair half out of it. Reflecting on the race it reminds me of 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought a good fight, I finished the course, I have kept the faith.”