It’s the half mile mark, and we’re already drenched in rain, and mud. We’re scurrying down a steep Forest Park trail decline, which is more like a mudslide than a trail on this misty morning. We’ve got another 12.5 miles to go.
Helen, our in-house ultrarunner, leads the pack. She organized today’s half marathon to raise funds for the Forest Park Conservancy, where she runs most of her dogs each day -she knows these trails like the back of her hand. She and her canine companion Marley speed ahead.
Jen follows close behind. She’s a race veteran with a lot of miles under her belt. Today’s half marathon is great training for the Banks-Vernonia Marathon that she’s gearing up for next month.
Helen and Jen are small dots on my horizon- I’m running significantly slower than my coworkers. This is my first half marathon, and I know I wouldn’t be out in this rain if it weren’t for Helen’s encouragement. She made a good point when she convinced me to do this- on any given day I’m likely running at least 13 miles with all of my dogs, so I might as well do it all at once in good company.
So I’m here, and I’m running. I’m actually finding my stride as I chat with fellow racers about my dogs – Elsie the speedster, Remy the herder, Bella the happiest dog alive, and Maxwell the crazyman. I tell stories of how high Elsie can jump and how Remy reminds me of my German Shepherd growing up, and suddenly… I’ve arrived at the halfway point. That wasn’t that bad.
And then suddenly, I can see the finish line, and Helen cheering me on.
“You just ran your first half marathon!” she yells.
Wow, I guess I did. And thanks to my dogs and fellow dog runners, it was a breeze.
– Emily Hutto