Alison Mundell writes about taking 2nd place in the Tecumseh Trail Marathon six weeks after fracturing her skull in a bike crash.
October 28, 2017—After a night of camping through a cold rain it is evident that it is going to be a chilly race day morning. At 8:30 AM, nearly 200 runners, all dressed in warm layers, begin to board school buses at the finish line. The bus ride to the start line, in Monroe-Morgan State Forest, takes over an hour. On the bus it is crowded and conversations echo—some runners talking about ultra marathons they had completed and others expressing hope about finishing under the 17 minute/mile cut-off pace—I sit quietly and try to avoid thinking about my lack of training.
Just before 10 am the buses arrive to the start line: runners file towards the line, a small “start” banner hung crookedly near a gravel road. After pulling off warm layers and huddling around the start line a few minutes, the race director starts the race.
The first few miles of the course are relatively flat and take place on a one-lane gravel trail. I start fast, trying to warm up—the course eventually turns to a single-track trail comprised of switchbacks— and the pace steadies. There are aid stations with water, Gatorade, and assorted nutrition every 4 or 5 miles; volunteers and runners’ family members and friends are at the aid stations and cheer encouragingly. Three or four other runners are running near me, a comforting reassurance that I haven’t gotten lost and gone off course.
We cross several paved roads, a nice break from the uneven trails, and a chance to pick up the pace a bit. The volunteers at the last aid station informed me that I was the first female, an exciting feeling: it would be great to win, though I am unsure if I can maintain this pace for 26.2 miles.
I am feeling great until about mile 16. Slowly my joints begin to ache and I start to question whether I should even be racing. The last 10 miles are tough: the hills are steeper, the footing is more rugged, and a girl passes me who looks like she feels a lot better than I do. I can’t stop thinking about the accident I had six weeks ago. It is hard to believe that this time six weeks ago I was lying in the hospital, my skull fractured in several places, a large laceration across my forehead, awaiting to go into surgery; I had thought that I may never be the same again, let alone be able to be back running trails.
The last few miles are dreadful and seem as if they might never end: there are several steep down hills, a freezing stream crossing, and noise from the finish line echoes from across the lake. After what seems like forever I am back in Yellowwood State Forest, where the buses departed from a few hours ago, and where the finish line is located. I cross the line in 4:03:41, it feels great to be done, and even better to know how far I had come in the past six weeks.