Challenging Myself With a 50K Run While Observing National Hiking Day
I’ve participated in four Sylamore Trail runs in recent years, which take place in Sylamore National Forest in Allison, Arkansas. Every February, hundreds of people line up to run through the forest, check out the wildlife, wade through a freezing river, and just enjoy themselves. While I’ve always enjoyed outdoor activities, I never considered entering a race until a group of friends and colleagues started planning to run the Sylamore Trail. This particular trail has two courses: a 25K, which is about 15 miles, and a 50K, which is over 30. I decided to start with the 25K to see how that went for me, and I discovered that I really enjoyed it. For the next few years, I ran in the same race, but I really wanted to know what the 50K would be like. The longer trail led participants through another part of the forest that I’d never experienced before. One year, I finally decided to go for it … and I got exactly what I asked for — 30 miles is a lot for one person to undertake. While I started this race running, it ended up being more of a leisurely hike through the forest. I walked a good portion because I just wasn’t physically able to keep up the same pace throughout the entire race. I probably wouldn’t have finished the 50K if it weren’t for a friend of mine who was participating alongside me. When I started, I wasn’t too worried about finishing the race; my focus was more on enjoying the experience while I could. At one point, though, I decided I had seen what I wanted to see and done what I wanted to do and was ready to hitch a ride to the finish line just before I met up with my friend at a checkpoint.
on nutrition and water. Typically, once you start on the trail, you’re on your own until you can reach the next checkpoint, where people can give you a lift to the finish line if you choose. My friend, even though she’d stopped at one of these checkpoints with an injured leg, was planning on pushing through the next 10 miles to the finish line. I didn’t want her limping through the forest alone, so I decided to accompany her for that final stretch. Her determination was very inspiring. If she was willing to finish the run with an injury, then I could finish it too. Around mile 25, we looked like zombie extras in “Walking Dead.” In fact, I told some folks near the trail head that the vultures circling overhead were for me, and they should try and shoo them off of my body should I keel over. Thankfully, it was not necessary. We managed to cross the finish line a little over the nine-hour cut off time, but we were both pretty proud that we completed the 50K together.
If I ever enter the Sylamore Trail run again, I don’t think I’ll sign up for the 50K, but I’ll definitely still be up for the 25K. I’ve always enjoyed running, and, since entering these races, I’ve appreciated it even more. I think it’s a great way for most people to enjoy nature, and for me, it’s an excellent way to unplug. The run starts with hundreds of people, all standing at the starting line. For the first few miles, you’re surrounded by people. But pretty soon, you don’t see anyone, and it’s just you and the trail. That solitude is what I enjoy most. Happy trails!
As with most races, the Sylamore Trail provides several checkpoints where you can stop to take
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