On November 3rd, 2018, I ran my first marathon. The Bellingham Trail Marathon. It was wet, difficult, and exciting. The End.
Just kidding. It has taken me a while to get around to typing this out due to life. I am trying to finish my bachelor’s degree and my mom passed away. It’s been a crazy tough few months, but I keep thinking that I do want to share about this little accomplishment of mine.
My goal has been to run my first 50k. This marathon was part of that journey, but as I wrote about before the race, this one was calling to me. I picked a doozy for my first marathon. Many people run mostly flat road races for their first marathon. I chose a trail run with almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain. It was a slow go and the last few uphill miles were a lesson in perseverance that I won’t soon forget.
The race start is on the south side of town and it was a sunny afternoon when we arrived. We made the start line our first stop since it was a great break from our 8 hour drive. We parked next to the event organizers who were loading up with markers and hitting the trail. While this is a Destination Trail event, there was no Candace in attendance. The people who were there running the event in her place did a really great job. They were friendly, volunteers were great, the course was well marked.
BUT REALLY…my one complaint about Destination Trail events is their lack of bathrooms. It wasn’t soo bad, but 2 porta potties seemed sparse. People ditched the line for the woods, which might say more about the people in attendance than the lack of available toilets. Bigfoot was the same thing. Hundreds of people and 5 toilets. 3 were porta potties that overflowed by the end of the event.
Anyway, back to saying nice things.
Before heading out to hang with the family, we stopped by a quick packet pick up for a great tech shirt that was included (a rare thing anymore, so it was extra fun), a draw string bag that I used as a drop bag for my gluten free needs, and the bib.
We arrived in the dark of morning, headlamps in place, and rain jackets on. The start was quiet and I was chatting with the family when people started running. Whoops. I quickly made my way through the start line and into the crowd as we hit the trail. The wet, muddy trail. This high dessert girl is not used to wet and muddy. It was a fun time trying to keep a good pace and not falling, while running in the dark. It wasn’t long before the darkness lifted and my feet found their rhythm in the woods.
We ran around the lake and down the hill along a short strip of road.Before I knew it the long climb began. It was beautiful and green. Small waterfalls graced the trail along with large tree roots and large boulders. I am used to technical trails, but this was a little different kind of technical. It kept me focused and occupied.
It rained steadily all day, but we were under a thick canopy and for the most part I didn’t notice. At about the halfway mark there was the aid station that I was so excited about. I was drinking more water and electrolytes than I had expected and needed to refill. They were a ball of joy with humorous signs leading up to it and back out. It was so nice to see the enthusiasm of others and be around the other racers even if for a short time.
After the aid station was straight to Chinscraper. It is almost 800 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile. I had brought poles, partially as practice for a 2019 race I am planning on doing and I was so grateful for them during this stretch of trail. It just kept going up. After Chinscraper is a technical ridge that just kept going. I wanted to go faster, but the terrain was so different I just couldn’t seem to find my way to faster footing. After the ridge my energy began to fade. My feet were wet and there were rocks in my shoes. I thought about fixing it, but I just wanted to get to the next aid station where I would have dry socks.
I finally reached the aid station where my family waited to cheer me on, give me dry socks, and take my poles. From there it was just the effort of getting one foot in front of the other. I hit the farthest I had ever run and had to go a bit farther still. The weather had really not bothered me until I reached the lake. Just a little farther to go and the cold wind and rain assaulted me as I made my way along the lake towards the finish. But, finish I did. It took 7 hours, but I did it. Greeted with family, food, heaters, and benches to sit on.
The race organizers overheard my brother congratulate me on my first marathon and decided to give me one of the prizes of a gift certificate to Fairhaven Runners and Walkers and a water bottle. I made sure to hobble down before they closed to pick up a shirt. What a great local running shop!
I love Bellingham. It is my home town and each visit is nostalgic. It was sad to leave, but we made our 8 hour trek back home to Bend. I rested, recovered, and began the search for what might be next.