Waking up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and running 13.1 miles is not exactly my first choice of activities, even for an avid runner and lover of the sport like I am, but that's what this reporter did Aug. 24 for the Burli-Mot Half Marathon.
This year marked the second year for the Burli-Mot Half Marathon with approximately 115 runners partaking in a course that followed the Souris Valley from Old Settlers Park in Burlington to Oak Park in Minot.
The race started at 7:30 a.m. and was sponsored by Mile One Running Shop in Minot. Those running the half marathon logged 13.1 miles that day and relay team members ran four legs of varying distances. Prize money was awarded to the top three finishers in the half marathon, both male and female as well as to the overall relay team champions.
The race started with 4 miles along a gravel road, then through Burlington past Peace Lutheran Church and down East Colton Avenue to the paved fitness trail going along County Road 15 toward Minot. The trail merged with Fourth Avenue Northwest upon arriving in Minot.
The final leg of the race took runners along Fourth Avenue into Oak Park where they completed nearly two loops on the trail and finished in front of the Magic Smiles Playground. A courtesy shuttle was available after the race to shuttle runners from the finish line back to the starting line in Burlington.
Having followed the advice of other seasoned runners who recommended taking it easy for the last few days before the race, I was excited to run and tackle this half marathon, my second one of my long running career. The first time I ran a half marathon was the Trestle Valley Marathon in 2011 when there was this freak snowstorm and the race was called off right after I finished in two hours. Since the race was called off, none of the race times were recorded or counted, something that still annoys me to this day.
I thought this half marathon would have to be easier than the one I ran in the snow, sleet and sideways rain. The humidity level was probably sitting at 90 percent that morning and the temperature was hovering at 70 degrees, but that didn't faze me. I liked running in the heat and humidity and focused on keeping a positive mindset about the upcoming run. My goal was to run like I do every day and finish in less than two hours.
The race started off harmless enough, though, with "The Star-Spangled Banner" playing to honor all of the men and women in military service, and after the sound of a muted fog horn, the runners stepped off to begin their journey. There's always a moment of joy I feel when a race is starting and I think about how we're all there because we like to run or we're running for something or someone and we're doing it together. I may have felt slightly too joyous, however, because I was sailing on that 4- mile stretch of gravel road at a faster pace than usual, something I realized a few miles farther down the course after bypassing all of the water stops up to that point and realizing that running at that pace could possibly send my heart on a cardiac journey through hell.
When I approached mile seven, I was seeing leprechauns dancing around and not feeling so joyous about all of us running together at the same time. I did something, too, that I never planned on doing no matter what I stopped running during the race. I didn't even think about it, either, just stopped in my tracks and moved aside so as not to be in other runners' ways.
The water stop wasn't until the next mile, to make it worse, so I had to somehow muster enough forward motion to reach mile eight. I don't think I've ever tasted water as delicious as I did at that point. Then after two more cups of water plus one of Gatorade, I felt infinitely better and was able to run at a more steady, but slower pace and pushed aside thoughts of dropping out of the race.
Before I rehydrated, I considered quitting. Things weren't going right, it wasn't fun anymore, various things were hurting and I didn't want to run. But I couldn't be the runner who quit the race runners don't quit. Runners keep running until the race is done. More importantly, this half marathon was the topic of the next day's news story and quitting mid-race would not make a good story. So I ran and fought for the rest of the miles and fight it was because it was a grueling course. Between the stretch of gravel road, the humidity and the hills, you had to be part animal to run through the miles.
Just when I thought I had my race under control and found a steady pace, the hill that I'd been dreading and afraid of ever since I decided to run the Burli-Mot Half Marathon jumped in my path. It was the hill just past Green Thumb Greenhouse where the speed limit switches to 40 mph. That hill loomed in front of me like an angry giant, taunting me and telling me I'd never be able to run up it. It took every ounce of strength and motivational sayings I had to keep running up that hill, too, but I did and the joyous feelings of running returned. I conquered the hill! Jill ran up the hill and could've used a pail of water, in fact, instead of the cup one-fourth full of water.
The last leg of the half marathon took runners around Oak Park and it was a glorious sight to behold since that's also where the finish line was. Up until that point, various pop and rock songs from the last five decades had been playing on my iPod and sometimes I heard the music, while other times I was in a zone and couldn't tell you the last song I heard. It was like that from mile eight until the very last half mile of the race, too, and then "Runnin' Down a Dream" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers popped up and that was all I needed to carry me through to the finish line.
The announcer called my name and race number as I ran past the cheering crowd and to the end of the finish line, where I was handed a participation medal for finishing. I didn't win the race and it didn't exactly go the way I had pictured, but I won against myself when I wanted to quit halfway through and that is a win in itself.