michael harr, mba
Summer Night Trail Marathon
by Michael J. Harr, MBA on June 7th, 2015

Starting Line of 2015 Summer Night Trail Marathon at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis
Okay, so this one was going to be a stretch - coming off of my first marathon at the Flying Pig and turning around to run another marathon only five weeks later on trails (a first) and at night (another first) was a little ambitious. Overly ambitious, in fact, because at the Summer Night Trail Marathon, I received my first DNF. The final tally was 22.14 miles over 4 hours 49 minutes and 46 seconds with aches and pains all over my body to get three beautiful letters - DNF.

Training. Leading into this race, I had spent the prior five weeks running trails at Big Bone Lick State Park. The out and back trail repeats that I used for training were both more technical (more roots and rocks) and had greater elevation change than the course at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. My training pace put me right on the cutoff time of 5 hours and 30 minutes. That said, I knew it would be tougher to run at night on unfamiliar trails, and also knew I couldn't afford to burn time by getting lost.

Getting Lost. How does Murphy's Law go? Oh, that's right, if you can't afford to get lost, what's the first thing that's going to happen? You're going to get lost. And that's precisely what happened barely two miles into the marathon.

Shortly after reaching the first aid station, I and many others came up to the second aid station. This was a clear sign that we were off course. We looped back around, got back on track, and I saw race officials pulling signage out from behind some bushes as we passed the fork on the trail where we got lost. That sucked.

Getting Lost Twice. Now, the first one probably added up to a half mile, the second was about the same. We got off course again - again following a group - and that cost another half mile. This was time that I had to recover by running a little faster.

Cruising. After getting lost twice, I remained calm and continued to run at my pace - there was plenty of race left to make up the time, so I stayed in my shoes. The next 10 miles or so was a breeze with lengthy conversations with fellow runners.

Falling Down. While out on the course, I heard and watched other runners trip and fall down. There were plenty of roots and downed trees on the trails and after running a long way, your feet sometimes get lazy. The first time I fell, I mostly caught myself, wound up with a weird cramp in my left ass cheek, stretched it out, and moved on.

The Second Fall. The second time I fell, it was bad. Shortly after completing the second loop (13.1 miles in), I was running through a section with low hanging branches that forced me to duck. During this stretch, I caught a foot on a root and took a pretty hard fall, face first. That one hurt. My knee was bloodied, muscles were strained from breaking my fall, and a nice bruise would reveal itself the following day. After moving on, I realized I had lost a water bottle and circled back to pick it up - more time wasted.

Battered, Bruised, Behind Pace. Somewhere around mile 16 or 17 is when I realized that I wasn't going to make it. I came up to another marathoner who had similar struggles, and we wound up DNF'ing together. We had some great conversation, as we were both just outside of our first year of running and both planned on working up to an ultramarathon. Even though we knew a DNF was coming, we completed the third loop, and were very happy with our efforts.

Next Year. I'll definitely do this marathon again next year. It was great fun to get out there, see 500 other runners with headlamps on, and run trails in the middle of the night. A few things that I'll do differently next year include wearing a hybrid/mixed-use shoe that can handle trails and pavement, doing a couple training runs on the course to gain greater familiarity, and carrying more fluids on my hydration belt. Despite the DNF, it was a great experience and one that I've already learned from.
2015 Summer Night Trail Marathon - RunKeeper Screenshot
2015 Summer Night Trail Marathon - Headlamps in the Distance at Eagle Creek Park

Posted in running    Tagged with 26.2, Summer Night Trail Marathon, Marathon


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