We had heard the stories beforehand: The time when Shannon almost died. The steep hills. The shoe-sucking mud pit.
But nothing prepared us for just how hard it would be to get through one of two loops for the Old Farts Running Club‘s The Mummy Trail Marathon and Half in Lowell, Mich. It kicked our butts!
With a bum knee bugging me for the past couple of weeks, I signed up for the full marathon on race day, thinking that I would DNF (did not finish) halfway if I had to. I really wanted the gear, which was pretty awesome and included a zip-up jacket, neon-yellow running T-shirt and a towel. All items had either the mummy logo or the name of the race.
I arrived at 7 a.m. for an 8 a.m. start. Registration was super quick and organized.
There were stacks of jackets, T-shirts and sweatshirts to riffle through, but each runner got to pick exactly what they wanted. There were stacks of even more clothes after the race and each runner got to pick another item which now included stacks of sweat pants, track pants and shorts.
There are flush toilets in a building right by the start line and the race is small enough that the line was short.
Speaking of the start line, the race director gave clear instructions, we all lined up and we started right on time.
The trails were very clearly marked with small flags, spray-painted arrows and homemade signs that both encouraged and taunted us.
The race organizers also have some sort of sick love for Chuck Norris who managed to make us feel unworthy every time we saw his face.
Water stations were tidy with plenty of cups and big trash cans. The station at around mile 8 had three of the Old Farts whose names grace some of the toughest spots along the course. They lulled us into a false sense of security by giving us sliced watermelon, cookies and Coke.
It quickly became apparent that if we were going to do two loops and finish with 26.2 miles, we were going to have to reserve some energy, so we did a lot of walking. Looking back, that was one of our biggest mistakes. One mile had hills so steep, it took us 45 minutes.
How steep, you ask?
But because climbing up steep hills wasn’t hard enough, this one had huge rocks.
And the trees. Oh, the trees. Trees blocked the trail so many times that even when we were running, we quickly had to stop to go over — or duck under — downed trees. At least two of us banged up our knees and got nice cuts and bruises. Never say I didn’t bleed for my running!
No happy ending
Toward the end of the first look, the course gets a lot less technical, so my friends and I discussed going back out to do a second loop. My knee was holding up pretty well, but we were all plum tired. And we must have looked it because one of the race organizers (who happens to be a coach) basically told us we were done.
And we were perfectly OK with that. He even gave us half-marathon finisher medals and told us we did great. So we technically didn’t DNF and it felt like we earned those darn medals.
There is no way I could do the full marathon at Old Farts. Well, maybe at some point. This was definitely not my year.
Would I sign up for the half? In a heartbeat. And I would run a lot more than I did today, knowing that we “only” had to do 13.1 miles (or more like 13.5 by my watch), making it a shorter trip.
I also was very glad that I had my friends’ support. I can’t imagine going through all of that by myself. There were many times when we encouraged each other, helped each other face our fears and pushed each other to get to the finish line.
In the end, it wasn’t the race I had signed up for, but I wouldn’t trade the experience — or my crew — for anything.
What’s the toughest race you’ve ever done? Would you consider our change of plans a DNF? Have you ever DNF’d? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)