My friend Alison called me a few months ago and asked if I would like to join her in the Dahlgren Trail Half Marathon. The timing was right, three weeks after the trail race is Yuengling Shamrock Marathon March 18, which I am running. I thought of the reasons for running Dahlgren: It would be a good tune up race with plenty of time to recover before Shamrock. It is a trail race, so slower and soft on the legs. I love running with Alison, she is my coach, friend and all around amazing human being. Last but not least, Alison mentioned that there was cash prizes for the top female runners. Not that I thought I was going to win or anything but it was a small enough race (only 125 runners) that I felt I could place. I do not consider myself highly competitive, however the thought of winning money for something you love to do is nice.
We started out from my house at around 5:30am and made the hour and half drive down to King George, VA. We pulled up into a dirt road, if there hadn’t been other cars pulling in it would look like you were in nowhere land. It was very cold and windy but, fortunately the trail was semi-protected by trees. Before the race started, Alison informed me that I needed to register as an elite female to win a cash prize.
“ELITE what?” I said. “I will do no such thing!”
Alison- “No, really, it is no big deal, just do it” (Side note- I am just glad she and I did not go to college together, she may have talked me into some crazy things). “Trust me, you can do it”.
Me- Deep Breath, “OK.” (btw she is the one who talked me into an Ultra – the girl has some influence on me)
As the start time approached, about 10 men and 5 females gather for the first wave of “elite” runners at the small start line. I look around at these people and they look fast. I think, “At least this is a small race and I don’t know anyone, pretty sure I am going to make a fool of myself”. Alison whispers, “Stay at about a 7:30-40 pace for the first half.” Holly Shitamer that seems fast for a trail, I think. Again, I listen to my friend who has many years of experience. I trust her.
The race starts and we settle into our pace which, of course, was faster than we had planned – around 7:15. It is me, Alison and another girl. The three of us stay together for almost the entire race. I am talking to the third unknown female runner. I find out her name, that she is running Boston, where she is from. Alison is to the side of me and ticked off. “For God’s sake’s Lisa, this is competition not a coffee date, stop talking to her!” she tells me. We are the “odd couple” and I think it is hilarious that we are so uniquely different. We certainly balance one another. Once again I take her advise, shut up and, start moving.
The race is through these beautiful trees and along a river. For a fairly large portion of the race we were running on a dried up river bed full of small rocks, enough to make you really concerned for your footing. The race was an out and back. The organizers had plenty of water/Gatorade stations and were as friendly as they get. When we crossed the finish line, the girl we had been running with was in 3rd place, she was just far enough ahead that I could not catch her. I was 4th and I am 99.9% sure Ms. Alison made sure I had my day in the sun and let me go ahead of her, although I am sure she will deny that. She came in seconds behind me for 5th place, mind you she has been nursing an injury for about a month now and still ran through the pain, she is my running hero. The good news is that I had a PR by three minutes and won $30 in cash for being the 4th female runner. My time was 1:40:59 pace 7:42. I think all of my hard work is paying off.
The post race food was great. They had Panera Bagels, Crispy Creme Doughnuts, even Chicken Noodle Soup. The organizers had a fire pit going to keep runners warm, nice but not when the wind picked up. In addition to our cash, we were given a small medal, shown above. We left there sore and smelling like a campfire, but overall it was a great day and left me feeling the way every race does….ready to sign up for the next one.