Seidman Park, north of Ada, was the site of the first Hurt the Dirt trail race. According to the pre-race information, for 56% of the runners this was their first trail event.Having only run a couple, I’m not what you’d call a veteran, and while I knew what to expect, I hadn’t run the particular trail before. I kept second guessing my choice to only run the 5K course, as opposed to the 10K or the half-marathon, but as the weather played out, I was happy with my choice. The 8:00 start was a blessing, as it was going to heat up fast.
At the start, I was farther back in the pack than I had wanted, but we had a nice open run the couple hundred yards before we reached the trail head. Picking off positions one by one, I only saw 2, maybe 3 runners enter the trail before me. Unlike a road race, you often don’t see other runners unless you’re within a couple dozen yards of them. Not knowing the trail, I was also hoping to keep someone in sight to help me navigate my way. Having looked at the trail map closely, I knew at around 1K we’d move into a steep climb. I was hoping to use this to my advantage, to both make up some ground and open up some distance from the rest of the pack. By the time I reached the top I was hot on the heels of another runner. He was taller and had a longer stride, so the downhill he also pulled away a bit, but I had someone to pace with and the run was feeling good.
By the 3K mark I could hear someone coming up on me. The trails were wide enough that there were plenty of places to pass. I stayed to the side, expecting to be overtaken at any time, but also feeling the adrenaline of someone being chased. My mind tried to figure it out. Did he not have enough to overtake us? Was he just waiting to blow past us near the end? Three of us ran together, not more than a couple strides separating us for the final mile, before we exited the trail and headed toward the finish. It was only then that I saw the person that had been behind me. He overtook both me and the runner that I had stayed with for nearly the full course.
I decided that I had enough to try pull it back, so I went for it. As I passed the man that had been my motivation for the last 3 miles I encouraged him to finish strong and set my sights on the finish. I left everything I had on the course and edged out the lead to finish 1 second ahead of my former pursuer. Still breathing hard, and unsure of just how many runners were ahead of us, I asked my wife, “was I 3rd or 4th?” Her confused response, “No hun, you were 2nd.” I’d managed my best overall finish. While not a huge event, still a very satisfying result.