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Taking on 20 in Clarksburg

The 20-mile run is the pinnacle of marathon training. In a training cycle it’s the training run that is often feared. It’s also the one that most would-be marathoners rejoice about when it’s over.

It’s daunting for many reason. For me, it’s been incredibly more daunting for the past couple weeks. I was considering not doing this race. I figured, if anything, I could go out and do my own the same day. I knew the likelihood of me actually doing the run on my own was really low, though.

So I was more than glad when Jennie decided to head up and run with me. Overwhelming glad.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. after having a not-so-great night on Saturday. I just didn’t want to leave the bed. So I laid there until I fell asleep. I put on my running clothes, opting for long capris over my winter running pants, and headed out the door when it was still dark.

By the time I go to Jennie’s house to pick her up, the sun was rising. At that point, my nerves were killing me. I’m trying to stay away from things that trigger my anxiety. I felt okay, though, as we got on the freeway and started our 60-mile drive to Clarksburg.

Clarksburg is a little town right next to the Sacramento River. We run along the river in many areas (including a beautiful levee that I just seemed to fly on) and on country roads that go by vineyards. Needless to say, it’s an amazing run.

Jennie and I got to the southern part of Sacramento around 7:15 a.m. I had a moment when I didn’t know which way to turn…but then saw the signs.

This race was good for more than a couple reasons, but one was the signs leading the way.

Immediately upon exiting Interstate 5, there were signs pointing the way. There was one pointing over the only bridge to access the levee road leading to Clarksburg. From there, a man with a bright-orange flag led us into the Delta High School parking area, in an athletic field.

Jennie hadn’t pre-registered, but we had a good amount of time for me to pick up my race packet and her to do so.

We were greeted with only a small number of people, being that the half marathon started 45 minutes after the 20-mile run.

There was a lot of space, not a ton of people.

I waited in the pre-registration line for about five minutes. That was it. I was handed by bib number and some safety pins and then pointed to the shirt table.

By the time I was finished checking in, Jennie was done with her registration too. We were there early enough that, even though she registered that day, she was able to get one of the event shirts in her size. Kind of a win with smaller races.

We headed back to the car and started getting our supplies ready, including our water bottles.

Then we headed back to the start line area where there was zero wait for the portable toilets.


That’s a runner’s favorite site ever. There were ample enough portable toilets for everyone. The wait, even about 20 minutes later when I decided to go again, was minimal at best.

One of my favorite things to see are portable toilets. I won’t lie. It’s beautiful.

We watched the beginning of the children’s races as we waited for the 8:30 a.m. start time.

And pondered the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing the finish line for likely some time. I estimated it would take me around four hours, maybe a little more, to finish. But I was running naked — it’s been almost a month since I sent my Garmin 405CX to Kansas for servicing. It still hasn’t come back. I figured it would be back for this run.

No go. So I ran without.

I’m starting to think that might have been why I did so well.

Jennie and I started getting prepped for the run as we waited.

Jennie was checking her phone for the last time before she put it away for the run. We were talking, at that point, about moving to a sunny area. It was cold. The temperature was in the 40s it seemed. I’m not really sure what it was exactly, but there was frost every.

Jennie also got a photo of me stretching.

Apparently I’ve lost weight. I’ve also dyed my hair red, in case you can’t tell from previous photos. I haven’t been eating well, but I’ve been running miles upon miles. I also, lately, felt as if I need something new in terms of my hair. I’m not sure how much I like it.

For the first week I had it, the dye seemed to get all over my workout clothes every time I ran.

But I digress.

Soon, it was time to line up at the start.

The gun went off before we knew it and we were off.

The first three miles were tough.

I started wondering how I’d make it through 20. Even though large groups aren’t the biggest trigger of my anxiety, I’m afraid of what could potentially trigger it. Familiarity is huge for me right now. It soothes me.

But Jennie hung with me for the first five miles or so before she had to cut off and go to the bathroom. I kept on. I didn’t see her again until right after mile nine. At that point she was only about 10 minutes before me.

I kept pushing, along the roads (with cars going by in some cases, yikes), and it didn’t seem that long until I hit mile 10.

After that, we hit a levee area as we ventured into mile 11.

That’s when I really hit my stride. I just kept going. I was running like I’d never run before. Why? I don’t know. There were very few people around me. I even past 10 or so people.

Jennie always comments that I tend to get stronger as a runner in the later miles. She was completely right for this race.

I just jetted.

And then I found myself at mile 13, then 14, then 15, then 16 and so on.

I just kept going. I walked through aid stations and drank both water and Gatorade. There were the perfect amount of water stations. The volunteers were amazing. They cheered as we went through and offered words of encouragement.

I walked here and there, but never for longer than a minute.

I had no idea what time I was running. Not at all. As I came up to mile 19 and slight hill, I walked a little before deciding to push it to the end.

When I came around the corner into the finish shoot I noticed the clock still read in the three-hour area.

I finished at 3:59:17. Below the 12-minute mile mark, but just barely. I would have likely done better if I hadn’t had walked so much here and there, but I didn’t want to risk injury with a half marathon next week and a full in three.

Then I waited for Jennie.

She came in looking strong as well, finishing about 20 minutes after me.

Jennie always seems to have a lot better form than me when she runs. She got a little behind in the run, taking care of some personal stuff on the phone, but ended up passing a ton of people to get back into it. Plus, she was so nervous about running 20 miles when her longest run had been a 15-miler with me more than six weeks ago.

But she did great.

And I did great. I felt great too.

After we finished, we were told the race officials had run out of medals. After 20 miles, they’d run out of medals. As bummed as I was, it didn’t matter because I finished in under four hours. (They have promised to send them to us when they make some more, though when I had to find the person to put my name down she asked “do you want a medal?” which I thought was weird. Of course I do. The medals were fairly epic, though, from what I’ve seen.)

We got a hot, free pasta lunch too. We sat down, a little sore in some areas, and enjoyed the spoils after such a long, and successful, run.

As we started to get ready to leave, we noticed something strange.

This portable toilet had tape preventing people from entering. I was looking for a toilet with paper, because the rest didn’t seem to have any, and was wondering why, so we approach.

Turns out if had a bit of a hornet problem.

That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that at a race. Jennie and I had a laugh about it.

The Clarksburg Country Historic 20-mile Run turned out to be an incredible experience. Not only did I feel accomplished after the run, but a day later my legs feel fine. I’m really proud that I got up and out instead of avoiding it altogether like I initially wanted to.

This experience gives me hope for next week’s Big Sur Half Marathon. A lot of hope.

Why was it so good?

It was a small race, with only about 500 people doing the 20-mile run. There were enough portable toilets to accommodate everyone without any problem. The people were friendly and nice. The runners were cordial, for the most part (I could have done without the Obama/Romney debate I heard for more than a mile). Getting there was easy, as was parking.

The shirt is pretty swell too.

For what that’s worth. Plus, the cost of only $45. That’s an incredibly good deal for the amount of supplies along the course, which included bananas and oranges at every aid station, as well as Gatorade and water. It also included the free lunch.

My only qualm would be that there was only one portable toilet at each of the aid stops, which meant lines went deep. That’s one of the reasons Jennie finished so far behind me, as she had to stop and go to the bathroom near mile five.

I felt supported along the entire path, though. And it was a fun day. I definitely recommend this race for anyone training for a marathon, specifically California International Marathon.


Run with me!

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