Cook Forest Half Marathon, Cooksburg, PA

March 29, 2008 - Having not toed the line in a foot race since last July, just getting out to stretch the legs and lungs in the camaraderie of other running enthusiasts felt mighty good. While road racing is no longer my forte and may never have been my greatest passion, to run in Cook Forest along the scenic Clarion River is a good compromise as a departure from trail running.

The 11 a.m. start gave temperatures an opportunity to rise to the high twenties and the wind whipping along the river a head start before we began our out-and-back journey. In that the river meaders dramatically between the steep hills it has carved on its way through the Alleghenies, there always seems to be a head wind no matter what your orientation to the compass. Still, with the sunshine and adequate layers it never seemed too chilly.

This was the third time over the years that I participated in this event. While I was younger previously, and faster, the field seems to have slowed along with me with the passing of time, so that I surprisingly have gained ground in the overall placement even though I have slowed down. The first mile covers a flat and slightly downhill paved course before winding up the river on a very mildly undulating road. In previous years a sub-six-minute pace was fairly easy to accomplish over the first mile without breathing hard; this year I covered the distance at about a seven-minute pace, with all due respect to my lack of speed training. It felt good and continued to feel gentle through the halfway point in a time of 49:24, at an average pace of 7:36. Considering that I train at a 10-minute per mile pace for ultra event preparation, the increased tempo seemed not to bother my legs and carried me through ten miles before I slowed over the last three miles to finish in 1:42:58, a 7:52 average pace, in 69th place of 300 finishers; third in my age group behind age group winner, former race director, and friend Keith Hileman, by four minutes.

Mentally, it sometimes torments me to watch college-age runners and especially older codgers just blow by me during the final stages of an event such as this, but today I kept it in perspective as this really was not a racing event for me, but more of a test of legs, breathing, and injuries before the more serious part of my schedule begins. Going anaerobic to best someone I don't know in the final few miles serves no benefit. It is of greater import to stay disciplined and steady, to complete the event without soreness and aggrevation to injuries. I've been there in the past where you gave the last full measure of your will and ability to squeeze a few additional seconds out of a result. With aging one learns to appreciate the achievement without regard to the numbers, but only in regard to the purpose for doing it in the first place.

While I finished nearly a half hour behind the 1:15 finish of the young winner, I appreciate the limitations of aging and reduced flexibility and smile to think I had covered the same distance in my fleetful youth four minutes faster than today's winner. May the victors forever cherish their accomplishment.

The following day finds me rested and without soreness. If anything, the quicker footwork in yesterday's effort seemed to reduce the pain of my lingering Achilles and IT Band injuries. I am encouraged by the results of the effort and ready to back off a bit in the next two weeks before my first ultra event of the season in Illinois - the McNaughton Park Trail 100 mile race. Did I say race? I don't really look at it that way.

As for road racing, I don't expect to dream about or do very many of the shorter, faster events like today's in the future. My body and mind are better attuned to the longer events requiring patience and persistence. I do stand atop the running memories of my youth with a smile, however, as I look forward to continuing challenges of activity in a body that most of the time feels like it is getting better with the years.


Larry Creveling
Vulture Bait 25K - 2004
London, Ontario