My husband and I spent the weekend at Whitewater Memorial Park near Liberty, Indiana. We were pleasantly surprised by the beauty and solitude of the park and the trails. Although it was a busy, holiday weekend and the campsites were full, we still managed to hike the trails uninhibited by others. The park’s trees are large and the forests old with magnificence and majesty. I had to crane my neck to see the tops of the trees which were out of site. The gentle rolling hills of the landscape reminded me that not all areas in Indiana are as flat as Kosciusko county.
On Saturday, my husband once again (twice this summer which marks a record!) escorted me to a race. This time, I participated in the Run For Freedom hosted by the town of Liberty. The race course is a straight shot from Liberty to Brownsville, 4.7 miles away. I was a bit uncertain to begin when I read reviews that used the term “grueling.” However, I paid my fee, received my t-shirt, and laced up my shoes for another race.
As we ran out of town, we passed among shaded areas on a steady decline and after some years of racing under my belt, I realized that I would be running uphill soon after. I was not disappointed as the first of two, very large hills, came into view. Both hills proved to be quite challenging as they started steeply and about mid-way tapered only slightly, resulting in running uphill for nearly one-half of a mile each time. Small hills separated the larger hills, so the 4.7 miles consisted of mostly hills. Grueling was a very appropriate word.
The time I spent running the race graced me with time to chat with strangers who became acquaintances by the end of the course. I began running along side of Jim, a 68-year old whose only marathon was Pike’s Peak (14,000 foot climb!), was running on a knee implant, and who had completed a foot race two days prior and a long bike ride the day before. Incredible!
I moved ahead and caught up with Carol who is a marathon veteran. 68 years old, she had run over 40 marathons and met her husband at the Columbus marathon. 25 years ago they said the wedding vows on the starting line. Although suffering with a mild case of plantar fasciaitis, she nonetheless kept lock step with me and at times charged ahead and up the hills that I usually walk. Through our conversation, I learned about other members of her Dayton running club who had trained for and completed the Antarctic marathon the previous year.
As we rounded the last curve and into the finsih of the race, Jim caught up with us, and I was elated to see that the race end with a downhill “s” curve and a left turn into town. No fanfare at the finish, just a simple runners’ shoot and coolers full of ice-cold water and slushy Gatorade. A perfect finish to a perfect race!
After a few minutes, the Liberty sheriff’s deputy offered us a ride back in his car and three of my newfound race buddies piled in with me and we happily rode back the way we had just run, noting that several of the racers were actually running and walking the full distance back.
Moral of the story: I have often said that I don’t enjoy running. After all of these many years of placing one foot in front of the other, and after completing several races, I have learned to love it some ways. I love meeting people at the races; I love hearing so many inspiring stories that otherwise I would miss; I love sidling up beside of someone on the road and offering or receiving encouragement when needed the most.
Running is an amazing sport that is individual and yet full of community when you find the race that fits you. I intend to run the Freedom Run again and have marked it down as one of my all-time favorite races (right next to the Randy Miner Memorial Run).
Today, learn to love those things that you only grudgingly endure. Surely if you endure them, they must offer you something that pleases or soothes you. Find the pleasant aspects and focus on that. Maybe one day you be pleasantly surprised to hear yourself use the four letter word L-O-V-E!
Pilsung (Certain Victory),