Toni Christensen, OPR Board Member recaps the beautiful Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon.
In July of 2014, before OPR required booking entire bars a week in advance, six or seven of us sat in the back corner of the City Club. We’d just finished our three miles and while waiting on drinks and wings Sam Beasley made a shocking confession, he told us that unless he’s training for a race he sucks at running. Sam was signing up for Big Cottonwood and seeking company. Rachel and I were easily convinced that running 13.1 miles down a canyon with a 2800 FT elevation drop was a great idea.
Big Cottonwood was fast. I flew down that canyon and every time I glanced at my Garmin I was congratulating myself on how much I’d improved as a runner. But, Big Cottonwood HURT. By the time I saw the finish I wasn’t sure if my legs could take another step. I had started planning my life as a non-runner, for it wasn’t possible for me to hurt this bad and not be permanently injured.
Like most runners, as soon as that medal was safe around my neck and I was walking away from the finish, I was making plans to do it again. Runners are greedy. I finished Big Cottonwood in 2:09, 21 minutes faster than my record. 2:09 was so close to 2 hours, surely I could finish in less than 2 hours.
We made plans; Sam, Rachel and I were going to run 12 half marathons in 12 months starting with Big Cottonwood as #1. We needed to keep OPR going through the winter if we were going to do it. Although the weather was on our side with a warm winter last year, staying on top of our training through the dark months wasn’t easy.
By Big Cottonwood 2015 Sam and I had finished our 12 half marathons and Rachel completed her 12th back where we had started. Big Cottonwood 2015 had 11 pub runners come down the canyon. At 4:30 AM we loaded onto the buses to head to the start of the race. I love those bus rides. In the dark with your eyes closed you can hear all those conversations in a steady continuous murmur. But if you focus you can make out conversations of those closest to you. You can hear from those who plan to finish in under 1:30 and from those who are just hoping to finish. All of us runners are equal on those bus rides.
After exiting the bus, our first mission was to find the bathroom. That familiar sound of port-a-potty doors slamming shut is strangely comforting. Runners don’t love port-a-potties; running is about endurance and we endure them. REVEL does a thorough job putting on a race, our swag included foil blankets and gloves to keep warm. We looked like baked potatoes wrapped in our noisy foil blankets. We had an hour before the start, giving us plenty of time for selfies and poop talk.
15 minutes before the race we began to secure our drop bags and making our way to the start. My Garmin had failed so I was looking for the 1:50 pacer and I felt a little panicked when I couldn’t find any pacers. For those who’ve run with Sam you may recognize his pre-race dance and it was a welcome distraction from my pace worries. Without warning, we started. I don’t remember a countdown or announcement, the race just began. After a couple miles those pacers we never found, they passed us. The 1:30, 1:40 and finally the 1:50 passed, they must have missed the start.
I have a fondness for canyon races. Having the opportunity to run in the fall colors with the sun rising over a canyon that has been closed for this purpose will never grow old for me.
The finish can be a little hectic and, unlike last year, not only did we have more OPR runners we had OPR spectators! We located the rainbow umbrella with the OPR sign and waited for the rest of our runners. I’m an emotional runner, when I finish I’m likely crying and watching other runners finish also makes me teary.
So how did I do? I was in less pain than last year and finished in 1:56! Maybe in 2016 I can finish in under 1:50, I’m so close!
Congratulations to all of the OPR members who ran this race. Some outstanding accomplishments: