Saturday morning, November 23rd, was the day of the Living History Farms Run; one of the premier and largest off road races in the country. There were 7000 entrants in this years event, and the event was sold out in less than 24 hours. I have been told that I had to do this race, and how much fun it was. I had a friend actually begging me to sign up, and texted me during the night of the sign up to be sure that I didn’t forget.
I am usually a road or bike trail runner. I am not fond of uneven ground, and ruts and limbs can quickly lead to injuries unless you are very careful. Since I wear Vibrams, the risk is somewhat increased because of the minimalist shoes. But, I was intrigued by the almost fanatical devotion to this race, so on the evening of the signup, I got online and registered. What’s a few streams, hills, and wooded areas, right?
The race, being in November, has a wide range of weather possibilities. It could be wet and muddy, warm and dry, cold and frozen, or any mixture of them. It just so happens that this years race, the temperature at the start was a balmy 10 degrees with a windchill of -6 degrees. As we stood in the line to start, we were asking ourselves if we were crazy to do this. Looking around, we could see how fanatical these runners are. There were costumes galore; everything from Mario Kart, various superheroes, and even King Arthur and his knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But even with the costumes and the tailgating in the parking lot, the question remained: were we nuts to run cross country in freezing temps, across hills and streams, through wooded areas, just to say we did? One thousand people were no-shows, mostly due to the weather. We were starting to notice that our toes were going numb when the gun went off: it was time to run.
The first part was easy enough, a gravel path that was only half covered in ice. I could see some people sliding and slipping, and I wondered how many people were going to get hurt or trampled if they fell. I determined that I did not want to be the one to find that out, so I watched the ground closely for anything that could cause me to fall.
We made it to the first hill. It wasn’t too bad, as long as you knew how to keep your balance when going up. The back of the hill was another story as if was snow covered and people were falling all over the place.
The trails were icier after that point, and it was nice to see that people were helping each other so that no one fell. Some people actually started sitting down and sliding down the hill. I had to laugh at that idea, because if there’s a will, there’s a way. These people found their way.
We made it to the first of three streams. I could hear screaming in the distance, and realized that these people were getting soaked. Remember, it’s only 10 degrees with -6 wind chills. Yet these people were laughing and wearing their freezing wet clothes like a badge of honor. My friend and running partner Kara found an area off the path where there were some rocks that we could walk across. We had to jump down a couple feet of uneven ground to get to the path, and I slipped when I jumped. Thank goodness Kara was there, as she grabbed me and saved me from an icy bath. She then hopped over the rocks and scrambled up the hill. I started to follow, but I missed one rock, and I went into the water with both feet. Boy, that was a wake up call, as that water was so cold that it should have been frozen solid! But I scrambled up the hill and kept moving.
After a few more hills and a stream, we arrived at the last river crossing. This one had a choice: slide down the mud chute and try to stop short of the water and jump across only to have to pull yourself up to the path; or try your luck at crossing a fallen tree that traversed the stream. Kara headed for the tree crossing, but I thought with my wet shoes that I would be certain to slip off. The fall would be approximately 15 feet and onto rocks. I opted for the mud slide.
The mud slide down was rather easy, and I stopped short of the water. So far, so good. But there was no where to jump across because so many people were trying to crawl up the other side, and the mud wasn’t helping. I finally saw a spot and jumped – I made it! I started clawing my way up the other side when, buried in the mud, I grabbed a rope! It was there the whole time, yet it was to muddy to see! I started pulling and scrambled up the side to the path, and turned to see people now waiting to use the rope!
I looked over and saw that Kara was stuck on the tree. Two teenagers (dressed as dalmations) got on the tree in front of her, and then realized they had no idea on how to cross it. Kara was giving them instructions, and I went to the other end to grab them as they got close. After the kids crossed, Kara made short work of the tree. We started to take off when Kara started to turn back to help others. I grabbed her arm and said “We can’t save them all. The zombies have to eat something!” She laughed and we took off to finish the race.
At the finish line, there were volunteers who were cutting off the timing chips that some runners wore on the trail. That had to be the worst job, as some shoes were so caked with mud that the chip wasn’t visible. I didn’t wear a chip, so I got my medal and went into a tent to enjoy some beef stew and biscuits.
All in all, it was a fun time and a great run. My friend Kara made it really fun, and showed the way like a seasoned trail guide. Hopefully next year it will be a bit warmer, but then that’s part of the fun.
Now to see who we’ll dress up as next year . . .
Live healthy, be happy.