I say "pseudo" because this race wasn't your typical race--it was an experience. A 44-mile course spanning the distance between the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, KS, and the Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, KS, is hardly your typical race. It can be run solo (egads) or relay-style, which is what most "competitors," including my team, opted to do.
I was contacted by a running buddy early last week asking if I had any interest in filling in for someone who couldn't run his leg of the race. My leg would be 5.3 miles, marked "easy" on the course map. I would be an early start, but I could be back home by 1:30 if I chose to hitch a ride back early. The rest of my team would be comprised of women from my early-morning run group, some I knew well, some I barely knew at all. But at least I knew some of them were fun. I'd known about the event for years, well before I'd ever considered being a runner. Even then it sounded fun and something that gave you a certain clout to be able to say you did. I couldn't pass up the offer, so I agreed to participate. There ended up being a bit of confusion as far as fees, shirts, etc., which soured me on it at first, but I eventually realized there wasn't much I could do about it and that I needed to make the most of the situation.
Fast forward to last Sunday, and I'm up at 4:40 to shower, make a PB sandwich, pack a clean shirt, socks, deodorant and anything else I think I need to be away from the house all day after a run. Weather forecasts called for hot, sunny and windy, so at least I wouldn't need to worry about staying warm. I arrived at the house of the person driving, and we hit the road.
Arriving in KC about 6:30, we managed to see one of the early waves take off. People were in costumes of all kinds, some themed, some just silly, and others were "serious runners." We find a parking spot and head to the line for the bathrooms. And hey--look free beer! This is my kind of race. ;) I did pass on the free beer--it wasn't even 7:00 after all--but I did snag another cup of coffee and we waited until it was time for the first two runners in our group to head out. As soon as they were off, we were off too, packing it back in the car to get ourselves to the next stop where we'd tag off and I'd run my leg.
We got there in plenty of time--thank goodness, because the port-a-potty lines were ridiculously long--so we sat in the car and waited. And waited. And waited. There was a lot of that this day. Finally, we opted to watch for them as we knew they'd be coming any time now. We stood next to a highway in rural KC, KS, and cheered on other runners as they came in. Oh, and we tried to steady ourselves against the CRAZY west wind. Eventually they arrived, we tagged and off I went. Up a hill. Into a 30mph headwind. For the next 5.3 miles.
The longest 5.3 miles of my life.
Running on the shoulder of a highway isn't glamorous, especially when you're dodging trash and road kill (ew) and you're generally miserable from the heat and wind and incline. My legs were sore from a previous workout and I ended up having to take several walk breaks. I was pissed and grumpy and was cursing myself for allowing myself to get talked into this thing. I wasn't even getting a shirt, for Pete's Sake! I paid $43 to run uphill and I didn't even get a GD shirt!!
It was about this time that I realized the road had leveled off and my legs didn't hurt quite so bad and heck, I might even be enjoying it a bit. And that was about the time I noticed that the next station was just around the bend and I was done! HA! Oh well. Thank goodness. I tagged the next two runners and off they went, and my work was done.
Of course, I'd forgotten to start my watch so I have no idea how fast or slow I ran the leg, which is probably for the best. I'm sure it was embarassingly slow and I'm better off not knowing.
The rest of the day was a blur of costumed runners, cold beers, driving from stop to stop, standing outside in the heat and wind and dust. Rinse. Repeat. I felt bad for some of our later runners, as temps eventually soared into the upper 80s/low 90s. The last half of the run was tough. And as tired as I was (I hit a wall about noon and about fell asleep standing up), I was glad my run was finished before 11:00 and I could relax the rest of the day.
We eventually made it back to town for good around 3:00 and waited for our final runner to cross the finish line. She made it, which is no small feat considering the conditions, and we all headed to Free State for free food and beer. I finally got home 12 hours after I'd gotten up, tired, dirty and sunburned but with the memories of amazing experience with a great group of women.
One of the best parts of the day was that it allowed me to get to know some of those women better and bond with them over a unique experience. I'm happy for that. Another thing I really enjoyed about this race was how it didn't feel like a race. Yes, there were plenty of people who took it seriously--VERY seriously. But there were more people who were there just to have fun and enjoy a day of running and camaraderie...and beer. I liked that it didn't matter if I was slow or had to walk--no one was depending on me to perform. It was all in good fun.
Unfortunately, one of my friends took advantage of my tipsy, sleep-deprived state and may have convinced me to do a marathon. MAY HAVE. The jury's still out on this one, so don't look for a marathon race report any time soon.