This weekend’s scheduled long run was 13.1 miles with only five weeks out until our next big race at the Fort 4 Fitness Half in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While the miles could have been logged on the Maple Heart or Pumpkinvine Trail, we decided to complete the distance in a race environment which is how we came to find the hidden gem at Oak Ridge Prairie Park in Griffith, Indiana.
The Dew It Half and Quarter Marathon was a perfect race for our training run. The location was only 90 minutes from home, including arriving an hour earlier when entering the Central Time Zone. We were able to sign up just days before for a bargain rate and were pleased with the organization of the budget-friendly race that also donated funds to help with Juvenile Diabetes. In fact, we were so excited to run this race that we accidentally drove out to Oak Ridge Prairie on Saturday only to realize that it wasn’t until the next day.
Northern Indiana has had an overwhelming amount of rain this week so the race director advised us to be careful on the trails since he had already rerouted part of the course due to flooding. During our warm-up run together, they seemed to be in good condition and we enjoyed a flat, grassy path into the woods and through the prairie. The Half Marathon course was an adventurous two loops around the park with each loop including a lap around the lake, shaded trails through the woods, grassy prairie paths, pavement bike trail sections, a steep hill workout, and a muddy nature-created steeple chase.
This is the joy of trail running that is such unfamiliar territory for the road-running in us. When high kicking through water up to your knees, you learn to laugh along with your fellow runners, accept that your shoes will be soaked, and enjoy the circumstances that come your way. Derek and I have only participated in a couple trail races including the weekly Goshen Reith Runs with the Two Rivers Running Club and the Spruce Scoot 5K at Eby’s Christmas Tree Farm in Bristol, Indiana. Running a half marathon on the trails made for an ever-changing environment that required mental toughness as well as a lighthearted nature.
Not only did we run our first trail half today, but Derek placed 1st in his age group with a time of 1:57:00 and an overall placing of 14 out of 60! No racing speed for either of us, we enjoyed the trails and did not push for time. Nice to run a race with smiles throughout the course and mingle with other runners and volunteers.
We are looking forward to our training this month leading up to Fort 4 Fitness Half Marathon and then our ultimate goal at the Monumental Half Marathon in November.