Still undecided if I will attempt a 100-miler in the near future, but in case I do, I continue to sign up for appealing long-distance races for motivation to consistently train. In the second week of October, noticing how rapidly colder Nebraska was becoming and I may not be able to participate in another race in the state until winter passes, I hastily and almost instinctively signed up for a trail half marathon at The Ranch Run, taking place on October 29, 2016, in Elkhorn, 15 miles west of Omaha. I even convinced a friend who had never run outdoors to run a 5K in the same event, assuming the trail to be flat. Unaware the event website provided an elevation chart, I had no information on the conditions of the racecourse; “Is it flat? Is it hilly? Is it entirely run on a trail?” I wondered. The race director answered me the course, with the exception of one immense hill in each of the two loops, would be relatively flat, which proved to be utterly false from my perspective.
The weather stayed ideal for running, with no significant rain or cold, for several weeks prior to the event. At the starting line, the director announced, “The course will probably be a little over 13.1 miles,” after which he shot the pistol to commence the race. I, along with fellow runners, immediately disappeared into the wilderness. I was caught off guard by the technicality of the course, as I hardly saw any set trail meant to be walked on. I had not imagined the vast majority of my running to be done on steep hills, untrimmed grass, uneven trails and gravel, and occasional mud. Kearney, where I currently reside and work, holds mostly flat concrete; I, the king of generalization, therefore supposed all of Nebraska to be flat, but I no longer think this after weirdly joyfully suffering physically at The Ranch Run. Due to the hilliness and difficulty of the path, I pounded my legs to the floor more powerfully and overwhelmingly than I had in any of my previous eighteen races in the past four and a half years. Temporarily losing my way around mile four did not help ease the pain that had kicked in early on, although, thankfully, drivers passing by and a runner behind me instantly led me to the correct path. Consequently, I only thought about covering the entire race without walking, even on the brutal uphill, and did not obsess myself over achieving a personal record or pushing my body to the brink of injury. I felt I was running on a mountain but continued to remind myself, “This is supposed to hurt,” and find reasons to suck up the torment.
I sprinted to the finish line, with sufficient energy remaining to cheerfully pose to the photographer simultaneously, in 2:08:58. Taking a sip of Powerade that tasted like a drop of Heaven, I saw salt covering parts of my face and arms, reminding me of my 51-mile experience in Needville, Texas, in December 2015. I can confidently accept The Ranch Run as my hilliest and most technical race to date, and I thank God for protecting me once again.