The moose. It’s synonymous with the Top of Utah Marathon held in Logan, Utah, each September. On the finisher medals, he’s a cute little guy. All happy and fun-loving. Kind of like a cute little Disney character.
This week, however, the moose takes on a different meaning.
The Top of Utah race is a favorite of mine. It’s a relatively small marathon with just under 2,000 finishers this year. The volunteers, many of whom had been awake more than 48 hours in preparation for the big day, are cheerful, helpful and as excited as the runners.
The course is well-marked and I love that the aid stations are a predictable two miles apart, with stations every mile for the last seven miles. I always know where I am and how far I am from a port-o-potty. Priceless information.
I’ve run Top of Utah more than any other marathon for these very reasons. My goal is to earn the “10-year clock” given to all those who complete 10 Top of Utah races.
This year was my fourth attempt, and to conjure up a familiar cliche, it was the best of times and the worst of times.
The race organizers always do a fantastic job, whether it’s putting together a convenient and efficient race expo and packet pick-up or organizing buses to take runners from their hotels to the shuttle buses. It’s all so streamlined and simple. They know what they’re doing.
So race morning found me toeing the line with the happy running masses. My foot, which has been bothering me, was taped up courtesy of the free taping offered at the expo. My drop bag was securely stored in a bus to meet me at the finish. I have yet to have a lost bag. Over the loudspeakers, runners were encouraged to get to the start as they were beginning on time. A good sign.
And then, the heavens opened. I like a good shower, but only after my morning run. This was all reversed! But it’s part of the marathon experience, so while others ran for cover, I and a few other crazies, braved the elements and waited for the gun to go off. As I surveyed the others nutty enough to welcome the rain bath, accompanied with a fair amount of thunder and lightening, I made a couple of friends.
That’s what running does. It creates an instant bond between perfect strangers. In this moment, I bonded with a girl named Heather. We quickly discovered our pace and time goals were similar, so when the gun went off, so did we. Together.
Not far into the race, we picked up another friend, Rebecca. She, too, had similar goals and joined in the fun.
Then came Shelah. We actually had a mutual friend, but quickly became running friends ourselves.
As we made our way down the beauty of Blacksmith Fork Canyon, and in between stabbing pains in my foot, the thought crossed my mind that I am one blessed girl. I was running through one of my favorite canyons, made only more beautiful by the fall colors and inclement weather. I was running with new friends who loved to do what I love to do. And we were doing it together.
We were cheered on by happy campers, literally people camping and cheering us on the side of the road. We ran surrounded by green, amber, and gold speckled mountains and calming waters. Not even the rain could dampen my mood.
So Mother Nature let it hail. Yep, at Mile 12 I realized I had forgotten to bring an important piece of racing equipment - my helmet. What do you do when an insane task becomes absurd? You laugh. Really. What else can you do? Sure, it’s ridiculous to run in rain, lightning, thunder and hail, but at least we’re all ridiculous together! I kinda liked it.
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