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Rock/Creek Trail Series Race Report from first time Trail Runner

Rock/Creek’s Trail Series race this past May, the Scenic City Marathon and Half Marathon has been one of the most enjoyable races to be apart of. A month later, our office is still receiving success stories and personal testimonies in regards to the fun and great experience participants had. Below, we happily share Mike Jenkin’s race report on his attempts at his first half marathon trail race at the age of 50. Enjoy!” – Rachel

“Scenic City half marathon on May 23 2009 was my very first trail race. To
be fair with my comments, let me give you a very brief background; I am 50, ran 5 road half marathons last year, and 1 this year (Country Music Rock n Roll), but I rarely run off road. My longest run since the Country Music 1/2 has only been 6.5 miles, so I’m a bit under-trained! Oh, and I just moved to Huntsville from New Mexico, so to say I am not used to humidity is a gross understatement. Started the race with my friend Don, towards the back of the pack, with 2 goals in mind: 1) finish in under 3 hours (my typical road half time is around 2 hours); and 2) finish with all my teeth. I figured I would trip and fall a few times, but as long as none of them were too serious, I was okay with that idea.

Anyway, the first half mile was gravel road, and then we entered the trail. It was single track, good packed dirt, under heavy canopy. Beautiful. By the end of the first mile, I was already worried about finishing the race. On roads, you climb hills, but on trails, it’s nearly constant (up 5 steps, down 2, up 50 feet, drop 25 feet, up 10 steps, etc.) It never stops being a challenge that requires constant vigilance, and my heart rate went through the roof right away! At 2 miles, Don had gone on ahead, leaving me to ponder if it would be better to just turn around and walk back to the car in defeat. I was breathing hard, heart pounding, and was only 2 miles into 13. Ugh! At that point, 3 women passed me, and the 3rd one was not going very fast, so I decided to drop in behind her and see if I could keep up. This decision proved to be my saving grace. Grace (no, her name was actually Claire) was around my age, and doing a “run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute” cycle. I asked if I could run/walk with her and our friendship was born. I let Claire set the pace, and to my delight I found that I could keep up with her, and I even started to settle down.

The canopy broke and we emerged briefly to overlook the valley below with amazing views. Back into the canopy, around the bend, and there was the 3 mile water station. I was very impressed with the amount of goodies at these stations; oranges, bananas, potatoes, chips, pretzels, and water. It was a welcome break to stop briefly. I must also compliment the course marshalls on how well the trail was marked. Except for one junction at the top of a brutal hill, the entire course was marked with yellow markers on our trail and junctions had red markers for paths we were not to take. I tried to take in the views offered to us all along the course, but found that I had to glance quickly up and around and then back directly at the ground to keep from tripping over something.

Claire, followed by her pacing friend Mike
By mile 8, I was running comfortably and actually enjoying myself! I could not believe the difference from how I felt at mile 2. Having someone to run with and talk to made all the difference. Around this point, we picked up Lori and Susan, 2 other runners who found Claire’s pace to their liking. We ran the rest of the trail together, all chatting up a storm and really enjoying the trail, the views, the weather, and our company. When we exited the trail for the last half mile to the finish, we were ready to be done, but really happy we had made the decision to run this day. I made both of my goals, finishing in under 3 hours and with all my teeth!

My score? Only 7 trips, but no falls to the ground, having managed to catch myself each time. I’m told that this was one of the “easiest trail runs, and a great beginner course.” I found it to be a challenge to navigate and a real workout on my body, but definitely runnable. I’m not sure I would do a “tough” trail race anytime soon, but I would certainly consider doing another trail race of this same caliber!
And lastly, to Claire and Lori, you are my heroes! I hope we meet again at another event.”
Mike recently moved to Huntsville, AL from Albuquerque, NM, where he
organized and ran a training program for first time marathoners called
Albuquerque Fit. Mike has run 11 road marathons and closing in on 50 half
marathons, but this was his first trail half. Mike is a rocket scientist
for Redstone Arsenal (his “real” job), and looking forward to exploring this
new part of the country with his wife Karen.

Thank you Mike, for sharing, and Rock/Creek looks forward to seeing you run our Trail Series Races again in the future!
If Mike’s words have inspired you to take up trail running, consider signing up for Rock/Creek’s next few Trail Series races:
Greenway 5 Mile Trail Race
August 8, 2009
Greenway Farms, Chattanooga, TN
Rock/Creek Stump Jump 50K
50K & 11 Mile Trail Running Race
October 3, 2009
Chattanooga, TN