Running 15 miles seemed unfathomable not that long ago. Now, that distance seems like a great and relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon! My previous longest run was 13.1 miles, and, yes, this was on my treadmill. I was ready to take it to the great outdoors!
I had different estimates on the length of the actual trail distance. On average, it seemed to come out to be 14.5-15 miles. I knew I wanted to do it in a straight run instead of out-and-back. The trail is basically flat and follows the river through small rural towns and neighborhoods as well as wooded countryside.
My husband and I took two vehicles and dropped one off at one end of the trail, and he drove me to the other end. I set out excited but with a slight feeling of uneasiness as to whether my lower leg issues were going to plague me or stop me completely. The good news was that I would have regular opportunities to call the whole thing off if I couldn’t make it. There were plenty of places to arrange a pick-up whenever I came to one of these small communities except for in about the last 4-5 miles which is a fairly isolated stretch at the end.
There were very few people on the trail for the most part until I came within a mile or so from the towns. Every once in a while I’d cross paths with the lone distance biker. To my amazement, I only saw a few runners, and they were only right on the very fringes of the neighborhoods.
This was the very first time I actually didn’t listen to music until I was in the last 5-6 miles. The sound of water gushing and roaring was everywhere along the trail.
Around every bend laid a waterfall or stream. I crossed over numerous quaint converted train bridges. The river was really stunning with its green-blue overtones and mini rapids glistening in the bright spring sunlight. It was just a gorgeous day for a long run.
I fussed with myself to hold my pace back constantly, but eventually after about 5 miles, I decided to just run however my body wanted to. In the end, I ended up finishing sooner than I had calculated, so it paid off to just let myself go.
At 6 miles in the trail was blocked off for construction. Well, turning back was out of the question. I came to run this trail all the way, and that was going to happen! I jumped over the construction tape and went about my merry way. I only encountered 2 bikers on this very long and isolated stretch of the trail. Eventually I found the offending obstacle to be a completely washed out section of the trail.
About 10 miles in my legs were feeling fairly fatigued, but I had no trouble brushing it off. The only real issue I had was the increasing soreness on the bottoms of my feet. Luckily, that didn’t start until about the 12th mile and didn’t become unbearable. I kept in touch with my husband, calling home at fairly regular intervals to ease his mind and also to give myself a break and walk a little. At mile 12, I proudly told him I’d call him from the car. 😉
I continued on the trail, traversing a long bridge spanning the river and crossed into a wooded area. I was almost there! I ran through a dense neighborhood and began looking for the park where my car was.
Now, I had never been on this trail before so I wasn’t completely sure where it came out at. I found myself standing in the middle of town on a main street. Well, this didn’t seem right! I tried to check my GPS, and it apparently decided to take the day off. I phoned my husband, “Errr, I think I’m lost and I’ve already been 14.5 miles!” Apparently, while I was in the zone I missed the turnoff on the trail that led to the park. My husband checked the map and guided me about a mile back on the trail to my “exit.” I thought, “Finally, I’m there!” Little did I know, the last mile was going to be the hardest part of my journey!
The street that led to my car was about a mile long, and it harbored some mean steep inclines for legs with miles on them.
At first I planned to walk the hills, but I got fired up again on my last wind and went for it and ran through it. Low and behold, I finally spotted my little yellow car, legs and butt burning! I walked circles around the car for a while, legs being confused as to why we stopped, and checked my Garmin – 16.11 miles in 2 hr 49 min. Really? Oh yeah. A mile more than I had planned.
It felt good. It felt even better when I got home and indulged on all manner of carbs and a few beers that evening. The next day, I amazed myself at pumping out 6.5 miles on my treadmill while I replayed the events of the run in my head. Finally, I felt like a distance runner.
This Saturday… at least 13 miles planned! Next month, I’m planning to do a 20 miler.