This race has a lot of meaning for me. I’ll start way back in the beginning. When I first started running, I did my first 5K in March of 2013. In May of that year I signed up for the 4-mile event at the Harpers Ferry Half. It would be my second race ever, and I hadn’t ever run more than 4 miles. The day turned out to be also a million other things for me: I was having my first postpartum period, my aunt had just died unexpectedly, and I was going to leave the next day alone with my kids to go home for her funeral. I also agreed to write a freelance story about the race for a local paper, marking my return to writing after being a stay-at-home mom for about a year. For all those reasons my run was miserable. I walked – or I could say dragged myself – up the hill to the finish line, and then I watched the half marathoners tackle the same hill during their 13+ mile race. I remember thinking some of them didn’t look all that different from me, and I just could not even begin to wrap my mind around such an accomplishment. I was very nearly on the brink of never wanting to do another race.
Somehow I kept going and eventually I did finish two half marathons. But the Harpers Ferry hills still seemed pretty out of reach. When 2018 began and I pondered what my goals would be, I kept coming back to this race. Then Two Rivers Treads, who sponsors it, put out a call for ambassadors. Those chosen would gain free entry. Without hesitation or overthinking anything I applied and was selected. So I trained for the Harpers Ferry Half. I did my first bonafide trail runs this year, and weekly hill workouts on the treadmill. I ran more than when training for any other race, though admittedly I feel like I slacked a bit in the home stretch.
My husband agreed to do it too, and in his last month a busy work schedule meant he didn’t get in much training at all. We made a pact that he would stay with me (I’m much slower) and we would finish together.
Race day dawned chilly and rainy, and with the forecast we knew there was no escaping getting wet.
Now let me tell you an important thing about my running philosophy: I really can’t stand the major name brand races that cost a ton of money and are all for profit. The Harpers Ferry Half is NOT one of those races. It’s a hometown event, money goes to support local organizations and the medals are handcrafted and GORGEOUS. As all the runners huddled under the tent at River Riders, Dr. Mark, the founder of the race as well as Two Rivers Treads (more on him will come in future posts!) advised us all to not think of it as a race but as a fun run, especially with the wet (near flooding!!!) conditions. He said we should be thankful we can run, and think of those affected by recent tragedies including the latest school shooting. These words really got to me, and I was feeling pretty choked up with emotion as a local girl took the mic to sing the National Anthem. I was deep in thought when I realized she was fumbling the words or losing her place, and that’s when she stopped singing and apologized. She explained it was her first time singing in front of a group and she was nervous. She asked to start over. Then a really cool thing happened: all the runners, wet before the race even started and about to head out for 13.1 waterlogged miles on a dreary morning, sang with her. I totally admit to being the biggest sap ever, but it was really a special moment. This community of runners that I felt so out of place in before is just such an awesome group of good people, and I was so proud to even be standing there among them.
When it ended, we shuffled to the start line where with little fanfare the race director counted us down and we were off.