Okay, today was more about “me” than “us.” Yes, we scheduled a white water rafting trip for the afternoon, and that was a cool experience but I don’t want to write about that. I woke up at 6:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep. I knew I was going to have to fit in my long run today because my normal Saturday long run time would be taken up with a train ride to our ship. So, I laced up my shoes and headed out for a run. As I was walking outside toward the main lobby of the hotel, I could see my breath! It was about 45 degrees, give or take. It felt great to know I was going to run in this type of weather again. I wasn’t sure where I was going to run, or how long, so I stopped by the gift shop to ask someone. I found a fellow runner who knew where to go. She didn’t tell me that I’d end up running in Denali National Park, but that’s where I ended up.
I ran on the trail along the highway until it ended at the entrance to Denali. I turned right and started the next leg of my run. At this point, it was still relatively flat. Soon, I found myself running uphill. Running in Cincinnati presents many opportunities to run hills. You might have a hill that lasts a mile, but that’s rare. I kept running up the hill and I soon realized that this hill wasn’t going to stop for a very long time! As I was running, school buses carrying tourists headed up the hill. One bus after another kept heading up the hill. I thought that there must be something up there for them to see, so I kept running. Eventually, I passed the welcome center but I didn’t see any buses, so I kept running.
It was at this point that I decided that I’d turn this run into a half marathon. I got to mile 6.2 and stopped at an amazing point in the road. The buses were still climbing past me and I decided, fuck it, this looks like a great place to turn around! I snapped a few photos with my cell phone to commemorate the view, which was an absolutely perfect view of mountains, trees, and clouds. As I was taking the pictures, I could hear a dog sled team barking in the distance. Even though I knew that the rest of the run was downhill, I wasn’t in any hurry to head back. I soaked it in, drank some water, and started running again. On my way down, I saw a sign warning motorists that they were going down a 10 percent grade. I said to myself (actually, I said it out loud), “I just ran up that hill motha fucka’s!!” Not long after, I saw an older man riding one of those recumbent bikes up the hill. He had a great, gray handlebar mustache that I wished I could have photographed. He said, “watch out, there’s a black bear up ahead.” I said, “that’s exactly what I want to see because I’m hungry!”
Before long, I was back near the hotel but I was short of my intended 13.1 miles. I had another mile to go so I ran through the hotel complex. It has trails surrounding and through the middle and I ran both. While running through the middle, I got the most puzzled look from people who must have been on their way to breakfast. Still, I wasn’t finished, so I ran uphill on a short trail in front of the hotel. An elderly man coming down the hill said, “it’s easier coming down the hill.” I thought to myself, “you have no idea” but I said, “you’re right about that!” Not long after, I turned around and headed back down the hill. As I passed him, I said, “you were right!” I don’t think he expected me to pass him and I saw him jump when I said that. Then he started to laugh, which made me smile as I saw that my 13.1 miles was complete.
I walked around to cool down and I felt like Superman would feel after flying for so long. Even though the run was physically demanding, the emotional and therapeutic value of this run was off the charts! Even though I push myself to run at a certain speed, running up that hill for that long made me just accept that this run wasn’t about speed – it was about an experience I will never forget.