Running Around Cleveland


2011 Ridge Runner Marathon (Or How Body Glide Saved My Life)

For those of you who don’t want to read my whole report, here’s the brief overview of the 2011 Ridge Racer Marathon at the North Bend State Park in Cairo, West Virginia.

&*#%  %$^!@^?$ @*#$* #%$# &#@$% !)#$>?!

Now for those of you who want to know the whole experience, this race was a very different from any other race I have ever run. First it was a last-minute decision for me to run. I found out I was going to be out-of-town 8 days before and that the marathon was going on about an hour from where I was staying. The website didn’t have much information about the race, so I was in the dark about what to expect. But I signed up anyways. This is a tiny race, less than 60 runners, so no expo the night before. There was a packet pickup if you could make it, but this marathon actually allowed you to pickup your packet on race morning. So I arrived in town, late the night before the race, just in time to get 5 hours of sleep. I set out my things for the next morning to help get ready quicker. Then disaster struck, I forgot my running socks. I only had cotton socks with me.

If there is something I know about running, it is never run in anything cotton. It only leads to blisters, chaffing and blood. And there is no place worse for that to happen during a marathon than your feet. Of course it is too late that night and the race is too early the next morning for me to get new socks at a store. I got pretty stressed at this point and sent out an “Oh No!” tweet. My Marathon Maniac buddy Jessica tweeted me back. She said she always runs in cotton socks and I’d be fine, just remember to lather good with Body Glide. I decided to take that route, got myself calmed down and went to bed. 3:00 AM comes early.

All week-long I had been playing weatherman and checking forecast every hour. The high was predicted to be 96° and humid. Not the conditions I wanted to run in, but the Ridge Runner Marathon gives it runners the option of starting an hour early at 6:00 AM. I gladly chose this option. I arrived at North Bend State Park and checked in a little after 5:00 AM. My race packet consisted of my number, a t-shirt and 2 pieces of paper. The first was a Xeroxed map with our route highlighted by hand. The second was this:

What the heck did I get myself into?

Oh my. This will the most brutal course I have ever run. There were giant hills, and in between those giant hills, were huge hills. Then course squeezed large hills between those.

So I proceed to the start line for the early start with about half of the runners. Once there, a race official was asked by a runner if the course was a Boston Qualifier. The official laughed and said “It sure is, but a lot of times the 1st place finisher’s time isn’t good enough to qualify.” With that it was time to start. I took my place right on the starting line for once, and did my impression of an actual competitive racer marathon start. And the horn sounded.

The first mile of this course started with a hill. But I couldn’t see the top because of all the switchbacks. I just keep running up the hill never able to see its end until I got there.

Halfway up the hill on mile 1 and still can't see the top because of all the switchbacks.

At the end of that first mile hill, I was in the pack with the lead 5 runners.

The hard part of this race was not the 4 giant hills, but all the rolling hills in between. They were what gave me the beating.

The hill from mile 6-10 was the longest hill I have ever run on.

It just kept going and going.

Around every turn there was more of this hill.

At the end of the end of the mile 6 to 10 hill, I was still in the lead pack of 5 runners.

Fortunately hills were not the only scenery there was along the race course. It was over all a very scenic race. The most memorable site for me was at mile 6.5, this was something I had never seen on a race before. Of all the houses I passed in the entire race, only about 5 of them looked like what you would call a stereotypical redneck house. Of those 5, the one at mile 6.5 outshines the rest. It had something the others didn’t, a goat chained to a truck running back and forth and bleating at the passing runners just like a chained dog would run and bark. Unfortunately the picture did not turn out as well as I hoped.

When I saw this, all I could think about was the Adam Sandler comedy routine about the talking goat chained to the truck. This actually kept my mind off how long the hill was while laughed to myself reciting the comedy sketch.

The most scenic part of the race was the 6 mile rail to trail path that started around mile 18. This 6 mile section was not only a joy to view, but it was relatively flat too. The problem was that the hills had taken enough out of me that I wasn’t able to make up any time on this section, only maintain my pace. Since the trail was on an old rail bed, the scenery was what you would see riding a train across county. There were man-made canyons so a train could go through the mountains without needing to go up or down.

I don't have to run over this hill!

There was also 4 abandon train tunnels we had to run through. Two of them were just rough cut into the mountain.

And the other two were built out of bricks.

These were long, dark tunnels and you couldn’t see anything. Even the other side wasn’t visible until you made it around a bend.

It's the light at the end of the tunnel!

At mile 19.5 the unforeseeable happened, I was passed. I was now in the pack of 6 race leaders. Of course the one who passed me was the leader from the 7:00 AM normal started time. I actually expected to see him sooner, and was quite impressed with myself to hold him off that long.

I was once again passed at mile 20 by the eventual race winner. But this time was the last time I would be passed. I was still in the lead pack of 7 runners. Just forget about that 1 hour early start thing and let me bask in the glory of triumph.

The rail trail ended at mile 24 and turned into a 2 mile up hill battle until mile 26. This hill was not as steep as the others, but who am I kidding this was mile 24, and I had already run so many hills. I final had to take a couple walk breaks around mile 25. Until then I had only stopped for the water stops or take pictures, but the Ridge Runner Marathon had chewed me up and spit me out. I did about a half mile of mostly running with a few 20 second or less walk breaks till I got myself back together. There was a water stop with about 1.75 miles left, I stopped drank my water and never walked again because, I am a runner and I was going to beat this race!

The last 1.2 miles were downhill. However I was tired. I ran it, but I could not go for my normal all out downhill pace. I crossed the finish line at 4:25:15. And if you don’t count the early start time, I was the 7th person to cross the finish line. Taking the H’s (hills, heat, and humidity) into account, I was figuring that my finish time to be over 4:30. So I am happy with my 2nd fast marathon time ever.

The runners at a small race like this were different from the ones I’ve encountered in larger races. First, I talked to more runners about more things than in any other race. This might be a little sad since I ran the race only seeing 6 other runners after the 1st mile. But they seemed to be a friendlier sort. They were more about the passion for running then running a marathon to check it off a list. I ran most of the race with a guy who was running his 213 marathon, I don’t even know his name, but we talked for hours. Before the race I met Marathon Maniac #120, Larry Macon. Larry is in his 60s and set the world record for running 106 marathons last year. The record he broke was his own for running 105 marathons the year before.

The race was well-organized. It was in its 33rd running. I got a medal, a t-shirt, and water stops every 2 miles for an entry fee of $35.00. Yes it was a tough race, but would I do it again? You bet I would. I’m a Marathon Maniac!

It's all about the bling.

The real question is how was my post race condition? I was tired, but not sore in any way. There is a secret that the Maniacs know. Once you get your 1st marathon done after training, the recovery for every other one after, as long as you maintain your fitness level, is easier. Sometimes it is nonexistent.

But that still leaves the issue of my cotton socks on such a hilly, hot and humid course. In those conditions I expected to see blood and have to throw away the socks. But the Body Glide worked. I didn’t even have a single blister. I can’t remember the last time I have gone on a run over 15 miles and haven’t at least had a small blister on my feet afterwards in running socks, let alone cotton socks. Thanks Jessica! Thanks Body Glide!

What is the hardest run you have ever gone on?

What major equipment have you forgotten when at an out-of-town race?


10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

i ran 4 miles when I was camping last weekend and the hilly were killing me so I cannot even imagine running a marathon. You rocked it though, can’t beleive you had your 2nd fastest time, that is awesome! I have a love hate thing with those tunnels though. They seems really coool but they kinds scare me they are so dark! So glad my sock/bodyglide tip worked for you!

Comment by mojamala2

They were very dark, and the ground was uneven. When I went through the first one, I noticed there were glow sticks on both sides of the tunnel on the ground. But they so dim like they were put out the night before and didn’t help at all. When I got out of that tunnel I realized I had left my sunglasses on. The rest of the tunnels were slighty easier to see in.

Comment by Justin

Holy elevation profile batman!!

Comment by @Beal88 aka Matthew Beal

Just imagine seeing that profile only 15 mins before the start of the race.

Comment by Justin

That elevation chart looks awesome 🙂 Amazing amazing job!!!

Comment by Kali

Thanks! It was awesome and really brought me sense of accomplishment when I finished this one.

Comment by Justin

Great write up, Justin! I enjoyed reading about this friendly, two-goat town. Larry is amazing! I’m going to guess that there were no D-tag timing devices or professional race photographers involved in the making of this awesome marathon experience. Adding the cotton socks and hardcore hills make it even better. You rock, Justin! Great job!
~Lee Anne (neofit)

Comment by Lee Anne

No chip timing at all, but I don’t think you need them when the entire athlete field can fit across the startline. I wish there had been a professional photographer, I imagine they could have got some great pics in that scenery. I guess I should not have wrote about being fine in my cotton socks the week before we had our clothing seminar for NEOFit. I probably won’t do it again unless it is an emergency, no need to risk fate.

Comment by Justin

Wow! That sounds like some race. I enjoyed the race report and now I won’t complain about the hills in Akron! Really incredible job! Your time was trualy amazing. Jody (NEOFit)

Comment by Jody

Akron has hills? LOL

Comment by Justin




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