My journey into renewed fitness has brought some surprising benefits, aside from the obvious. Losing weight and having more energy is the outcome I expected, but I honestly didn't think I would have so much fun! Yes, it's been fun, walking miles and miles while watching the sun rise and set. It's been fun watching it rain so hard, I wished I had windshield wipers on my glasses. It's been fun running through mud puddles like a little kid and meeting box turtles on the trail.
It's been fun meeting new people that I might not have ever met until I ventured out onto the local trails. After tackling a few 5k's, I decided to enter the local trail race this past March. I met many wonderful people, volunteers and runners, who made the whole experience something I treasure. Let me tell you about two young people I met at the Land Between the Lakes trail race. Matthew and Julie Urbanski are a couple I had the privilege to meet the evening prior to the race, at packet pick up. They had a table set up for selling her books, "The Trail Life" and "Between a Rock and a White Blaze". I greedily bought both books and talked with Matt and Julie for a few minutes before visiting the "Friends of LBL" table.
Fast forward to the next morning, race day! The LBL trail races are actually five races that all start at the same time! The distances include a 10k, 23k, marathon, 60k, and 50 miles! Matt and Julie were registered in the 50 mile race, which would be four laps on the Canal Loop single track. Since I had done a few 5k races, I wanted to take on a bigger challenge and had signed up for the 23k. It was no surprise to me when I started getting lapped by the fastest runners before I was even halfway through my one and only loop but it was a pleasant surprise to be recognized by Matt and Julie when they lapped me! To be recognized and called by name, suddenly made something that seemed like a big mistake, into something more fun! The camaraderie in the ultra distances is unique and I now recognize that as part of what makes the trail running community so special.
Matt went on to win the 50 mile race with Julie finishing a very respectable 23rd overall! I finished last in the 23k, but I'm more than all right with that! Being the last in the 23k put me in a unique position amongst the runners doing 3 and 4 laps that day. I even got a second (or 3rd or 4th) wind at some point and was able to run a long ribbony downhill with a whole group of 60k and 50 mile runners. For a few minutes, I felt like I was unstoppable, invincible, but then the single track widened enough for me to move over and I applauded as they all went by.
So, here is to Matt and Julie, friends along the trail. May the longtime sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide your way.
(Read more about Matt and Julie Urbanski at Urbyville.com)