As a recent transplant to New England, I soon learned that Fall is considered trail racing season in the region. So, with cooling temperatures upon us, the calendar quickly became filled with weekly trail races throughout the month of October. The first taking place this last Sunday was the Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Races, part of the Grand Tree Series, offering a 10.5 mile or 2 mile option. After having decided to dial back my training following a couple of recent back-to-back relays and a slight injury, I elected to register for the 2 miler while my boyfriend took on the longer race.
Chilly temps and threatening rain greeted us during the early morning drive out to Western Massachusetts. As we finished warming up and started to pin on our bibs, Tom good-humoredly asks me if I am going to win the race. Rolling my eyes, I reply “Hardly.” As a fairly new runner, I’ve never assumed I’d have a chance to sail across the finish line first—partly because I don’t consider myself very fast, and partly because of my inexperience (this was only to be my 4th trail race). Today wasn’t any different as I sized up the competition. Even though the 2-miler field was only 19 racers deep, I saw a few men and women that definitely “looked” like runners.
As the race took off I found myself in a comfortable 5th place, and easily picked off two high school boys ahead of me within the first quarter mile. Now part of the top three, we quickly put distance between ourselves and the rest of the pack. By the time I reached the 1-mile turnaround, I had managed to pass the other two runners and take the lead. And to my utter amazement, I knew that the improbable was about to transpire. With emotions wavering between my first runner’s high and anxiety over maintaining my footing, the thoughts battling through my mind varied between “Damn, I could actually win this thing!” and “Don’t screw it up now by twisting an ankle.”
The out-and-back route of the single-track course meant significant dodging of slower runners on my return trip. But the congratulatory “good jobs!” and “way to go girl!” from the other racers made it totally worthwhile. With a half mile to go, a quick glance back revealed no one in sight. With no competition on my tail, I now raced against my watch as I sought to beat the previous year’s first place time. With a hundred yards to go, I pushed the pace faster and breezed across the finish line—simultaneously breaking my first ribbon and taking nearly a minute off of last year’s winning time.
I now debate whether I should return next year to defend my title, or graduate up a class and tackle the 10.5 miler instead. But I guess I have a year to decide. For now, I’m enjoying basking in the glow of my first victory.