A few months ago my family started telling me about a 10 mile run sponsored by the Octorara Community Recreation Center/YMCA. They finally figured out that if the pull of home-cooked food, free laundry and fun kid times wasn't enough to get me home, the promise of a bib and a free tshirt would surely do the trick. And my niece told me about it, so how could I say no?
I loaded up my car with three weeks worth of towels, socks and "Woolite Clothes (read: my nice work clothes that only Mom knows how to wash without ruining or have some kind of stain) and headed home for a weekend to run the Octorara Covered Bridge Classic 10 Mile Run.
I was really looking forward to this run as a private homecoming of sorts. While I grew up in the Octorara area and went to school there for 10 years, I've never truly felt like a huge part of the community. The problem with a small town school is that your role in life until you're 18 is defined when you are in elementary school. The fact that I didn't find cashier at Dutchmanns Grocery Store to be an acceptable career path really set me back socially. Having your mom as a teacher in the gauntlet that is middle school didn't help my case either. Oh, and I never shut up and was definitely a "late bloomer."
This was a very low key event and I honestly didn't know what to expect. The registration website crashed three times while I was attempting to register and I ended up just emailing the race director with my information. My new running philosophy is just have fun and relax so I wasn't stressing about it all. I was mostly concerned that I'd get lost along the hilly backroads of Atglen and Christiana. I was trying to not think of the hills.
The morning of the race, I woke up feeling great. I never sleep as well as I do in my old bedroom. My parents drove me to the starting which was nice change from me having to be coordinator, parking finder and arrangement maker. The registration was the parking lot of the church in Atglen. If you grew up in the area, you know exactly where I mean. The starting line was in front of what used to be the Atglen Market. It's boarded up now.
As we waited in the church basement, I joked with my parents that this could be first race where I could potentially finish last. There were maybe 100 runners milling around. Gulp. And while you can never judge a person's speed by their size, terrors of being last flashed threw my head. Everyone was really friendly and chatting about the unknown degree of hills we'd be encountering. The start line was just a guy with a pop gun, bullhorn and stop watch. This, again, was so refreshing compared to the 30,000 people crushing corral systems from bigger races. He yelled GO! and off we went.
We headed out Upper Valley Road. The wind was at our backs and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day for running. I forgot to start my Garmin until 3 minutes into the race. Oops. I barely remember the first two miles as I was running down memory lane passing houses of former friends and remembering what it was like to 13 years old again. As we came up to mile 2 and I was looking at the horse farm where Shanna S and Lindsay used to ride, I saw a familiar red SUV coming the other way. (Roads weren't blocked off for this event) It honks and out of the windows pop my nephew and niece!
My mom had called my sister and her kids to tell them the course and they tracked me down! I slowed down and slapped their hands. I asked for a ride but I don't think they heard me. How can you not smile and feel great when you have a carload of support! A few runners laughed as I threw my hands up and waved.
Behind my sister's car was an Amish buggy with a family of 4 watching in complete awe. I can only imagine what that family was thinking as they see a line of crazy Englishmen running with numbers on their shirts. For no reason. While they're freezing in buggies. There's work to be done! How lazy can they be to just run? :-)
As we passed farms, horses ran along with us and friendly, non annoyed drivers waved. It was a beautiful day indeed. At mile 3, I heard "LINDSEY! I MISSED THE START!" and a blue streak come whizzing past me. That blue streak was a very speedy Ashley Caldwell Landers. Though I wasn't friends with Ashley in high school, I remember her being one of the most genuine and nice girls in her class. I was happy to see her zip past and glad I've been able to connect with her through running and Facebook. :-)
We went through the Covered Bridge on Bailey's Crossroads and I was maintaining a smooth 9:20 pace. And then came the hill. It's like the opposite of a light at the end of the tunnel. It's a hill at the end of the tunnel. That hill ended up lasting 1.5 miles of steady incline. It was rough. And I ran it. I usually wimp out and walk up hills. This was a hometown hill and I was going to own it.
I remembered driving that hill everyday as it was part of Bus 18's route. I was the first one and last one off that bus for 8 years. I would talk to the bus driver, Mrs. Thompson, every day about whatever was on my mind. I even wanted to be a bus driver when I was a little girl. I thought about the antics and conversations and friendships and crushes and bumps that took place daily as the school bus hauled us around. Before I knew it, we were at the top of the hill! Fallowfield Road, consider yourself owned.
The massive hill ended at the top corner of Mocassin Run Golf Course where we turned right onto Highland Road. At the corner of the Golf Course, I see my parent's minvan and my mom and niece hop out! "HI LINDS! I BROUGHT YOU WATER AND AN APPLE!" I ran over and gave Hope a quick hug and took a gulp of the water before heading on my way again.
My sister and the kids surprised me by showing up at my first race ever and gave me the strength I need to finish. Mom and Dad were able to come to my first half marathon a few months later. I wish they could make it to more of these silly races because having people on the sidelines is so motivating and comforting. I was so happy and proud of them for coming! :-) I mean, I did practically run through their backyard. I still envision the images of my sister and kids on the sidelines or my parents during the really rough miles. It made me laugh they these two spotings of my family were the only support throughout the race except for the finish line. And my mom tried to feed me. Because that's how she does.
There was another massive hill at mile 5 but this one had a decline! The wind was a brutal at times and the chill in the air kept me moving. I paced with two ladies in their late forties from mile 5 on. I listened to them chat about IT Bands and their sons and husbands and travels while enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. I've driven Creek Road before but never noticed the little cottages on the banks or historic signs along the road. I had to resist the urge to stop and take pictures. I turned my Ipod on around mile 7 and my playlist was spot on for perfect nostalgic, easy music.
I looked behind me a few times and was relieved to see I wasn't last but there, um, weren't too many others back there. I've found a new running-spiration...fear of being last. I was also experiencing a wardrobe fail and may have accidentally exposed more of my bum to those behind me while attempting to roll the waist of my pants up without giving myself an atomic wedgie. Yep. That happened.
As always, by mile 9, I was ready to be done running. I had slowed to a 9:45 pace and my right knee was definitely letting itself be known. My dad made the astute observation earlier that mile 9 was sponsored by the local funeral home. I giggled about that for a bit and also thought about the family I used to babysit who lived along that road.
The last mile went into the wind and the final stretch went uphill. Will they ever learn? It didn't matter because at the top of the hill was my adorable mom and niece cheering! Ok, my mom was cheering. Hope was doing that "expressing excitement in the coolest way possible because I'm 11 and am in public" thing. I finished at 1:38! There was no hectic herding at the end or volunteers shoving bottles at you. Nope, I gave my bib tag to the volunteer and walked the two feet back to find my family. I gave Hope a sweaty hug and high five and finally took the apple from my mom. We stuck around for the awards ceremony-- five minutes later. Remember that blue streak from mile 3? Yeah, she came in second place! AWESOME!
Overall, I'd give this race an 8. I almost got hit by a huge SUV trying to make a left INTO runner traffic on a road that was closed off which I didn't appreciate. The course was challenging but not awful. The beginning of the race needs some attention as several runners missed the start and 3 different start times were advertised. There was water support at good locations and I loved being able to actually see the scenic route. After a year of big races, this small event was a great change. I think I'm done with the mass registrations, the huge expos and the hassles.
Afterwards, I got to go watch my nephew play soccer and then had a huge (free) lunch. And a nap. What else can you ask for?