“Falling back” the night before worked out rather well, mitigating staying out too late at a friend’s (non-Guy Fawkes) bonfire. The extra hour of sleep made getting up for a morning race not-so-terrible, especially given the 9 AM start. I even woke up to a bit of daylight!
After an easy drive to Wheaton, I picked up my packet – a lovely white long-sleeved tech tee (finally! a light color!) and matching mug with the race logo. I ended up with lucky #13, which I hoped wasn’t an omen. As I returned to my car, I found my friend Ilona.
We milled around before the race, stretching and trying to stay warm. We agreed we were there to enjoy the scenery and conversation, and to take it slow and easy so we could finish with smiles and without injury.
We set off on damp grass and ran the first mile or so around the equestrian loop before launching onto the crushed limestone paths of the forest preserve. It was so pretty and tranquil, even with about 500 runners. I imagine the trees would have been even more vibrant two weeks earlier before they lost many of their leaves. But it was such a great way to spend a crisp fall day, crunching through leaves and spotting hold-out leaves.
Ilona let me set the pace, as she’s been running far more lately. We ran the first five at a nice, pleasant pace, stopping only for the aid stations. Once we got moving, the weather was nearly perfect – upper 40s/low 50s, with a brisk wind that occasionally abused us. I was comfortable in long sleeves and pants.
When we hit mile 5 – officially, the farthest I’ve run since July – my knee was complaining, so we started walking the first tenth of every mile. The last half mile was back on the grass of the equestrian loop – tough to run on! – but I found a bit of a kick towards the finish line.
Post-race was nice – the titular hot cider awaited us, along with bagels, Gatorade, cookies, and – brilliantly – caramel apples. Ilona and I sat in the grass, stretching and chatting until we realized how cold the wind actually was.
I didn’t have big expectations for this race, and I had thought about scrapping it. (Though I suppose I set a PR, since it was my first 8 mile race.) But I’m very glad I ran it, albeit slowly. I had a fantastic conversation with a long-lost friend and proved that 8 miles is indeed possible. And it was a great way to spend a pretty, crisp autumn day.
Thanks, Ilona, for the photos, and for a fantastic day!