|Photo by Clay Wells|
It's organized by Pretzel City Sports and takes place in the Wissahickon Valley Park of Philadelphia. The 10k trail wanders back and forth across the Wissahickon Creek while dragging runners up and down nervous looking switchbacks strewn with a healthy amount of rocks. It also includes a giant red covered bridge. It's a challenging trail, to be sure, but over 600 runners showed up today to give it a go.
"How many of you are running the race for the first time today?" the race director asked over a megaphone before the race started. A few raised their hands. "Hope you like suffering," he said with a wry smile.
The first half mile of the race is on a wide gravel path, and then crosses a road and abruptly shoves the runners up a half mile incline before petering out into sunny single track in a large meadow. By this point, the race director told us, crowding will dissipate as the race will have sorted itself out.
Trail racing can be a pain, because on single track the people in front of you dictate your pace until you can safely pass. This is probably a good thing, though, because it forced me to keep my pace in check. As I've written before, I tend to go out too fast in races and hang on for dear life by the end.
In the second half of the race, I was feeling amazing. I felt like a mountain goat as I bounded on top of and over large rocks to pick off one runner after another. Could I truly be suited for trail racing in a way I'm not for road racing? Might just have to do more trail races to find out.
It helps knowing a course because I knew when to kick today. In the last half mile I fell into a manic sprint that threatened to send me careening off the trail at each turn. In the final tenth of a mile the course leveled out and I gave all I had left just to take out one more runner. I could barely breathe after crossing the finish line. Last year I finished in 55:25 and 85th place. Today I improved my time by almost two full minutes and finished in 66th place.
If you're in the Philadelphia area and want to experience a proper trail race, then I can't recommend this race enough.