I left work on Friday with my bag packed and headed up to Asheville for the first time this year. I’d initially planned to take the trip with a couple of friends who ended up backing out the day before but I went anyway, running shoes in tow. I hit the race expo at UNC Asheville and picked up my bib and tshirt before heading to Tyler’s house so we could grab dinner before returning so I could get a good night’s rest.
Saturday morning I woke up a little after 5 am. I usually have a hard time sleeping the night before early morning races. I feel a bit like I do the night before I have to catch an early morning flight. I put on my running clothes, grabbed a water bottle from the fridge, and left the house in the pitch black with the warning I’d been given the night before that a bear had been spotted in the yard just this week.
I hit 240, found my way downtown, and parked about 150 yards from the starting line. The race started at 7:15 am and will definitely go down as the most difficult run I’ve ever attempted. I’d heard it was going to be a hard one. Tyler had informed me the day before that he’d heard it referred to as the hardest half marathon in the southeast. But it’s Asheville so, naturally, I knew hills were going to be an obstacle. But I’ve run hills before, right?
Wrong. I’m pretty sure I ran straight up a mountain. And I’m certain there were entire miles on the course that were directly uphill. It was, in a word, masochistic.
It wasn’t my best time. And the subsequent pain I’ve suffered from the race has been pretty bad. But you know what? Against all odds – having my running partners bail on me 2 days before the race, training in 90+ degree Columbia days – I did it. I finished the race. And I got the medal.
After I crossed the finish line and downed a bottle of water I grabbed another water and a banana and proceeded to find my location on google maps so that I could locate my car and get to it as soon as possible. As I started walking a guy chased after me to tell me congrats. He’d paced with me most of the race and wanted to say thanks and see if I’d be hanging around and if he could get my number. That’s a first.
Once I jumped in my car I immediately started heading towards Greer for a shower and to hop in the car to head to Clemson for a 3 pm kickoff. It was so worth it to spend the day with my family, to hang out with my friends who sat with us and tailgated with us, to celebrate my dad’s 61st birthday, and to see another Clemson win! Sammy Watkins in full effect!