Run For The Toad 2019 is over for all the runners who ran it, for the volunteers who made it work and the spectators who watched it—it’s also over for good. This was the Toad’s last year, and I was lucky enough to take on the 25K distance as my first major trail race.
I only had a soft half-knowledge I was stepping onto the trails the likes of world record-breaking elite ultra runners and also Death himself but… We’ll get there. I just wanted a challenging Fall race, which is exactly what I got.
So without further ado, here’s my Run For The Toad race recap for the first—and last—time ever. P.S. It’s in two parts because Hollywood is doing it, so I am too. Part II is here!
The Scottish Play
• The volunteer waiting at the drive into Pinehurst Conservation Area smiled at me.
“Good morning! You ready to run?” Lol probably not. “Well I guess I better be by now eh?”
• By that token, everyone was SO nice. Every volunteer. Every racer. The trail running community is a tougher, wilder, gentler more welcoming place. When people say trail running is fun, you can actually believe them.
• The sky was blue and I hate to say it, but the air was downright crisp. Also, there were bagpipes.
• Someone sang the American AND Canadian national anthem. There was something moving about hearing the entire crowd softly joining in with O Canada under their breath, misting in the cold.
• George and Peggy said some words. I don’t remember what they were exactly—brief and sweet and grateful.
• Then George helped to fire a cannon to kick off the kid’s 1k Toad Pal race. Yep. A cannon.
• Pre-race nerves (or 1.5 Tim Hortons coffees) started to kick in, so I started looking for people I know. And I found them—the mayors of Trail Running (@_the_vikings_) and my friend Sarah. They gave me hugs and pep talks and also introduced me to a bunch of people whose names I instantly forgot because my mind was bees.
• I also spotted the Grim Reaper from Around The Bay. I guess he felt responsible to show up since the End of the Toad was near.
The Race Begins
• The view from the start line:
• We set off trotting in a pack. As the trail wove through the woods, the hills rolled and the path wove its way through the landscape.
• The forest was gorgeous with broad streaks of sun slipping through tree branches, pooling on a ground blanketed with soft pine needles. The course had its share of running through open fields and even parking lots, but I loved the bits in the forest best.
• We kept passing the Reaper on the course, listening to his words of encouragement—“Come on, I don’t have all day!” Occasionally he would dart past us in a flurry of black robes only to torment us further on down the trail.
• …I actually really love the Grim Reaper.
The Achilles Dilemma
• By 6.25km, the first half of the first loop, my left foot was starting to ache. (Context: felt this discomfort during marathon training last year. It’s not an actual injury…. yet.)
• I had to complete the loop before I could make any choice to stop or keep going. Was it stubborn to go on? Was it stupid to continue? The constant runner’s dilemma.
• The only way to stay calm was positive self talk. Focus on the first loop, don’t think too hard, just move. Keep moving at any cost.
Is That The Hill You’re Gonna Die On?
• We finally hit the infamous Skeleton Hill, which is close to the end of the loop on the course.
• I say infamous because oh yes I had NO IDEA THAT IT WAS A THING.
• I was so shocked I lost composure to not talk shit about absolutely anything. “What the hell is THAT?”
• The Grim Reaper was beside me. “Want to carry me up that?” he asked. I glanced at Death to my left. “You might have to take me this time.”
I glanced at Death to my left. “You might have to take me this time.”
• We power-hiked up the hill, my calves cursing in all caps while a volunteer watched us, offering idle encouragement.
• There was a plastic Halloween skeleton at the top, crawling like I’m sure some of us wanted to. It’s the little touches, you know? #runnershumour
Double Or Nothing
• Close to the end of the first loop was when the first ultra runners started lapping us.
• They looked like they were barely sweating, gunning without hydration packs, powerful like the running equivalent of Monstars from Space Jam.
• Finally finished first loop and headed for the bathroom, trying to assess my left foot as I went.
• My foot felt okay so I headed out again to take on my second loop. I was going to cover my 25K even if it meant limping back into finish line at tent city.
• Tried to fuel with half an Endurance Tap packet and some beef jerky. I chewed and moved at the same time. There wasn’t time to stop now—I headed back out into the woods, carrying my hopes of finish (or just surviving) with me.
Check out Part II here!