Paris Mountain Half Marathon - Greenville, South Carolina
Elevation Gain:  2300'               RESULTS

October 16, 2021 - The last time I ran a half marathon was three years ago in Hawaii. That one took two hours to complete; this one took three hours. The difference was a little mountain to climb, lots of roots and rocks, and the unavoidable incidentals of aging and injury. After a night of restless sleep - either because of the waxing moon or the approach of fall's first cold front - I felt off my game from the get-go. My hobbled left knee was aching just hiking from bed to the bathroom, so when I hit the starting line at 0800 I wasn't harboring any great performance expectations.

My local racing ambitions have largely focused on learning new places to run close to home. I had no idea what Paris Mountain State Park was all about. Nestled in suburban Greenville, I could only imagine it was a typical domesticated wilderness. The race would surprisingly demonstrate otherwise. This is a fantastically beautiful park with trails I will want to make tracks on again and again. It has everything from gnarly climbs to considerable technical rooty and rocky single-track to wide runways where one can virtually fly. The race organization is spot on and the runners friendly.

I started slow, dragging my tired legs into the race, immediately looking for a place to pull over and relieve myself. Watching from the sidelines as slower runners crept by, I seemed possessed by a devil-may-care attitude. Winding along a frisky stream, the trail finally got technical with more and more rocks and roots as it gradually tilted up on the climb to the top of Paris Mountain. As the trail became steeper and steeper, I reached down deeper and deeper inside for the magic that keeps me coming back. The climb made the day seem all worthwhile as my attitude shifted to attack mode.

After walking for too long behind a half dozen others on a narrow technical section I became impatient, down-shifted, and bolted ahead up the climb. By the top I caught everyone who had crept past me while I was taking a pee. The trail leveled off as it wound slightly down for most of a couple miles to a cheering aid station at mile 5.7. I was feeling better and better by this time but was still protecting my knee with deliberate foot placements and refraining from speeding up on the downhills. Consequently a few people rolled past me.

After seeming to fade by 7 miles, steadily losing ground to the rest of the field, I had a resurgence out of nowhere. Maybe it was a hard stuble and fall that bloodied my arm, but more than likely I had just reached a point where everything was loosened up and working efficiently. Once the trail tilted up again and got incredibly technical, I laid it down and took off, catching and passing perhaps 15 people in the final miles to the finish. Once loose, I could confidently let gravity work for me, and I just raced as in days of old.

Wearing my game face again felt good. My knee was still tentative and mildly painful, but I felt strong and capable of running aggressively. Breathing was good and my knees were high as I carried on to the finish well back in the pack, but very encouraged with my healing progress. My knee is more sore than I would like on the day after, but I'll keep on training for more and more challenging endeavors ahead... 'cause I dont know any other way!