RR: Annie’s Run

 

Pre-Race

On Wednesday I run into Lucas, a new friend I recently met at a coffee shop, who is also running JFK. He’s a 6 time Ironman and a 6 time marathoner with a personal best of 2:47. As we chat he mentions that he’s running a race called Annie’s Run on Saturday and invites me to join. It’s a 6 hour all you can run race on a 1.25 mile hilly wood chip trail a half hour south of the city. Registration is $3 and I’m scheduled to run 16 miles anyway. After consulting with my 50 mile coach and some friends, I can’t decide if I want to run for 16 miles or the full six hours. It’ll be a game day decision.

Race Day

Lucas, a Pittsburgh native, told me it would take 45 minutes to get to Upper St. Clair; it takes half that so I beat the RD to the course at 5:15 am. Lucas and his dad, Lou, aren’t far behind. I have no expectations for today, so I chat with Lou as Lucas runs around, registers, stretches, and finds out that the course record is 32 laps (40 miles). It’s interesting for me to see the game face of someone who I perceive as being very mellow and laid-back.

More people start to arrive and I befriend Mike, an electrician who has run two 50Ks (but never a marathon). I meet Kyle, who must be affiliated with Fleet Feet (he was giving out Fleet Feet tech shirts), who recognizes me from the Post-Gazette article. Kyle tells me he’s a Marine and thanks me for my efforts for the Semper Fi Fund. As I chat with Sam, the RD, I see Rick Freeman, the current Laurel Highlands RD, and he introduces me to the former Laurel RD (and former record holder). I recognize another Laurel 50Ker from this year, and I realize that this is not as casual a race as I first thought. I look more closely at the competition and I realize that at 5’8” and 135 lbs I easily outweigh the female competition by 30 pounds. The other female runners cumulatively have as much body fat as I do; they are cut and they look like they are about to crush this race. What is this race about that drew so many skilled athletes?? Maybe the 6 hour thing scared off anyone not insanely hardcore.

The clock creeps towards the start time of 6 am and Sam gathers the attention of the runners. He announces that for the past several years, his wife Annie had hosted a birthday run for him. He tearfully continues that he lost Annie to cancer in December so this year he renamed the race in her memory. Both Sam and Annie are accomplished ultrarunners and a quilt of Annie’s favorite races is hanging and some of her trophies are on the registration table. I’m simultaneously saddened by his loss and feel privileged to be part of honoring her memory and her love for the sport.

We begin running counterclockwise (three hours later we switch direction) and start by passing a sweet vegetable garden with male and female scarecrows who are dressed to the nines (tux and beautiful red party dress). Next there are cows and their calves. Along the course I’ll also see: bunnies, deer, a wild turkey, chipmunks and an enormous groundhog (comparing him to the size of my cat, I’m guessing he’s about 20 pounds). We turn a corner and there is a hill. The vets immediately start to walk- I trust their judgment. The hill is easily runnable, but running up it 20+ times would probably destroy my legs because I’m human.

Lucas, however, is not human. As the leader, he laps me three laps in and he is making it look so easy. His blond hair is waving in the wind (no, seriously, it is) and even though he’s coasting at a great clip, he makes it look effortless. The man should be a model- he makes our sport look graceful and beautiful as he bounds up the big hill and into the forest.  As I clod along I simultaneously hate him and want to be him.

The loops aren’t as boring as I think they would be. Lucas laps me like a dozen times and some of the other runners lap me a few times, but everyone is exceedingly encouraging and it’s kind of nice to see people and chat with them as they run by you. Being lapped isn’t as demoralizing as I’d imagine- I’m running my own race and I’m not trying to kill myself since I have my first Olympic triathlon next weekend.

At mile 16 I take a break for a drink and chat with Lou for a minute. He’s a loyal spectator- watching us run loops over and over and over for 6 hours. He cheers for me when I see him and calls me baby which I find really endearing. At one point I run by him as he’s sitting and ask if he’s having a good time and making friends. He responds that he’s doing what he likes- being lazy. I joke that I need to pick up that hobby and he suddenly snaps into Dad mode: “Oh no you don’t! Don’t you dare!” So I run on 

I decide I’ll push for 26.2 to round out a marathon- I’m feeling good and it’s a great day- why not? In my mind I’m weighing two factors:

  1. It would be cool to shoot for 50K
  2. I have a triathlon next weekend, I don’t want to kill my legs.

I waffle and then realize that at my pace 50K would take me 6 hours and 1 or 2 minutes. I’m not sure how strict Sam is, but I’d be livid if I missed a 50K by such a narrow margin so settle for 26.2.

 

I walk a lap after my marathon and Sam runs by me yelling: “Make sure to stick around! We have a prize for you!”

Me: “A prize?”

Sam: “Top three men and women get prizes,” and runs ahead like he just told me something as obvious as the sky is blue and we are running today.

But this is not insignificant news to me: I’m not even an age grouper (okay, I have one age group award that was a sham). There is no way I’m a top three female out of these thin, sinewy, muscled, insane women. I finish my lap, look at the tallies and realize two things:

  1. I can’t count when I run. I ran 28.75 miles, not 27.5 (which also means I could have finished a 50K in time! Argh!)
  2. I’m not just top three, I’m #2!

Lucas not only won the race, he shattered the course record with 36 laps (45 miles) on his first ultramarathon. It was inspirational to see such athleticism and the support on the course was fantastic.

This was a race I’d surely run again. It was challenging but not brutal. And my prize was a pie! Clearly my kind of race! The most incredible thing to me is that I found out about this race on Wednesday and ran 29 miles on Saturday. Saturday night I went out in 4” stilettos and Sunday morning I felt darn near 100%. I always wanted to be the type of runner who could wing a marathon, and now it looks like I am.

 

 

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