It's ironic that one of the reasons I chose the Big Elk marathon was for the cheap, easy travel, because my trip home took 25 hours longer than I planned and ended up costing almost double my original budget thanks to a massive storm hitting Baltimore. Dealing with problems as they arise is a critical skill in both endurance running and travel.
A two-loop trail marathon on mostly single-track trails through the woods, Big Elk reminded me of running on the local paths at Wyandotte County Lake Park - hilly and muddy with plenty of horse shit, yet also tranquil and stunning with dells of ferns.
I twisted my ankle on a rock around mile three. It smarted, and while I was able to walk it off, the tenderness revisited me throughout the race. Miles 9-11 were my darkest moments. My ankle was bothering me, my knee started to ache, and I started playing with the idea of quitting at a half. We had the option to simply cross the half marathon finish line at the end of lap one and call it a day. Thankfully, I gained my second wind around mile 12 and stayed to the right in the chute to continue on for lap number two.
Around 19, my knee really started hurting, so I walked a little, ran a little, walked a lot, ran a little more. I was in one of my walking modes with less than two miles to the finish line when two other runners came along and encouraged me to join them. I did and managed to run the last mile and a half. That social support was exactly what I needed and a powerful example of being stronger together than individually.
Since it was a gun-timed race, the three of us all finished with a time of 6 hours and 43 seconds. I managed to finish 56th (out of 70) and 3rd in my age group. One of the benefits of getting older is my peers are finally slowing down to my pace. Big Elk was #13 on the New Hampshire Compulsion and #12 on 50 in 50.