When I was amidst of finding out whether or not I had a sacral stress fracture a few weeks ago, I felt pretty down with the possibility of not being able to run the Mt. Summit Challenge. I was already signed up for this race way before the term ‘stress fracture’ even entered my mind. And once I was cleared to run again by my orthopedic, Dr. Aaron Mares, I was ecstatic that I was still going to be able to participate in this race. You see, the Mt. Summit Challenge is the very first race that I ever ran - my very first finish line, a life changing moment for all runners and walkers alike. The date was April 10, 2011. This race landed on my plate after being convinced by a friend to sign up. Not even thinking in terms of a race that is ‘one of the toughest races in Southwestern Pennsylvania' (3.5 miles that climb over 1200 feet), I mailed in my application. Yes, mailed. I like the traditional standpoint of the race. I was finally going to have the chance to re-run the race that started it all.
I may be sporting propeller hair, but what I love most about this picture is that I’m smiling. Fear didn’t stand a chance that morning. When we received our cue to start, it’s the first time that I truly felt like a runner both inside and out. I was no longer the girl who could barely make it through the warmup in gym class. I was a runner. I was no longer hiding. I was completely exposed to the world as I pushed my way through the crisp, cool air.
The race started as a challenge between two friends, who were both talented runners. Rumor has it, that they were challenged by a group of guys to run the summit, from Uniontown. And they took them up on the challenge. Turns out it was in the middle of night and in February!
I know you may be questioning me as to why I didn’t just run this race last year. Last year, I was a week or so away from running the Pittsburgh Marathon, my first full. I, like many other runners, suffered from extreme taper madness. Paranoia struck me fierce, and I was convinced that my legs were going to break in 73 places if I were to breathe wrong. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but you get my point. I didn’t want to take any chances in jeopardizing my performance on May 6, 2012.
It took me a little over an hour to get to Hopwood. I’m not typically one for driving far away for short distance races, but this race holds a special place in my heart. I met up with 2 members from the Steel City Road Runners Club, Kimberly and Clint, both of whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting until Sunday. They are both so incredibly nice, which I expected them to be. I felt like I already knew the both of them very well, even before meeting them in person. We all stood around praying not to be blown away by the gusts of wind and chatted until it was time to gather together at the starting line. Within the short amount of time that we were lined up, the wind picked up even more so than before. “Great,” I thought! Wind and a hill - the perfect scenario. It was time for us to show everyone what it truly means to be a Runner of Steel. I managed to run just over 1 mile before I started my run/walk strategy. My goal was to make it to the top without dry heaving.
Here I am running next to Kim - not exactly sure what point of the race this was. We pulled one another all the way to the finish line. I look like I’m either in deep thought or trying not to throw up.
It was definitely the headwind, but this meme is way too funny not to share. The conditions were windy, rainy, and chilly. That morning, we ran against the wind 100% of the time. Runners of Steel indeed.
When we finished, Kim and I congratulated one another with a cheerful high-five. We “MOUNTED THE SUMMIT!" I really wanted to beat my time from 2011 (45:57), but I ended up taking a smidgen longer to finish this year (46:38). I heard a lot of people talking about how it took them longer because of the weather conditions. There’s always next year! Kim and I already made a pact, "same time, same place!" :)
We stood around and spectated the finish line for a little bit as we waited for some of Kim’s friends to finish. As the goosebumps on my chicken arms began to multiply, I noted the same constipated look on everyone’s face as they ran up the final steep incline into the finisher’s chute. To give you all an idea of what we accomplished that morning, here is the course:
The elevation is comparable to a 7.5% incline on the treadmill.
It’s definitely a challenge, and I still can’t believe that this is what I chose as my first race back in 2011 and more so what my friend ‘chose’ for me. Apparently, this person had faith and believed in me. I’m just grateful that I found faith and belief within myself. And it left me wanting more. Here I am in 2013, 31 races later. Time sure flies.
Most people run or walk back down the Summit, and I would have, but I didn’t want to risk re-injuring my IT band after finally beginning to make some progress. One of Kim’s friends drove us back down, and we all said our goodbyes. I drove home and took a much needed nap! There’s nothing quite like running up a 3.5 mile hill with a headwind in the cold rain for fun! Call me crazy, but I can’t wait for 2014!5 notes
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