I didn’t have a plan for the Creede Mountain Run, other than “keep moving forward, even if it means stepping on a chipmunk.”
I had increased my mileage and done a few long runs in preparation, but other than that? There was just a lot of “I think I can, I think I can,” with vague memories of my one previous experience with this race four years ago.
Standing at the start with my sister and her husband, I felt optimistic. Conditions were clear and calm with a touch of chill. In other words, perfect. Erin and Adam knew a few of the other runners, so there was some friendly chit-chat — always an effective deterrent of pre-race jitters. I had gotten a good night’s sleep the night before.
Hmmm, I thought. Maybe this won’t be so terrible.
Fast-forward to the third mile. Erin and Adam were up ahead (I had firmly told them to not hold back on my account), and I was in a loose knot of runners spread along a dirt road that felt basically vertical. I pumped my arms. I more or less lifted my feet. I kept my head up. I peeked around, seeking inspiration from all the awesome runners who were sharing in this ordeal.
All of them were walking.
I know that in mountainous races, walking can be strategic and sometimes the downright smartest thing to do. But for some reason, I really, really didn’t want to walk in this race. My time wouldn’t be record-breaking, but the least I could do was run the whole thing!
…Said the woman, i.e. yours truly, who was watching walkers pass her by.
At that moment, it ceased to be about finishing. It ceased to be about making it to the top of the mountain, or even to the top of the current hill. It became solely about Choosing To Not Take The Easy Way.
Was this a pride thing? Absolutely.
I dug around in my brain for scraps of mental toughness. I came up with “Put one foot in front of the other. Now keep doing it. Work those arms!” Practical words, but I needed more than that.
“Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I know, it’s paraphrased within an inch of its life — there’s heavy paraphrasing of the Bible during footraces — but those words from the book of Joshua stuck like glue.
Kinda funny how, when something becomes a “pride thing,” God sticks his head in the door, isn’t it?
Anyway, it helped. I kept running, and made it to the point where the challenge shifts from running up a mountain to running down one. Screaming quads, anyone?? But as I charged downhill — involuntarily; gravity forces you to charge — I looked around. The view of the surrounding valleys and mountains was spectacular. The weather conditions were still perfect. I breathed that high-altitude air deep into my lungs, and told my legs to just get me to the finish line.
They did (no chipmunks perished), with Erin and Adam graciously cheering for me in the homestretch. After we collected our finishers’ schwag (engraved rocks as a nod to Creede’s mining history), we lurched over to a coffee shop. Sipping much-needed java, I reached two conclusions. One: It might be at least another four years before I tackle that run again. Two: If you do a mountain run, you may as well have gorgeous views, and for that, Creede is pretty tough to beat.