In the past I’ve talked about the differences between North and South Jersey. Besides sports team preferences (don’t tell anyone but I give not one iota about sports), city preferences, and the way you say water, there is also a very vast terrain difference.
Which normally is not a big deal. A non-issue really.
Except if you sign up for a run in North Jersey.
When you’re from South Jersey, you’re used to all smooth sailing with the occasional bump that we call a hill down here. But if you sign up for Beat the Blerch at Lewes Park in Morristown you can expect trails, hills, and rugged terrain.
Which I knew when I registered because my dear friend Sharon hosts the Phillips 5k/10k Trail Run/Walk there each year. I’d seen the pictures.
But um, I sorta forgot.
Until we were driving up a deep winding road to get to the parking and the reluctant runner, Jay, turned to me and asked, “So, what do you think the course will be like?”
Not wanting to lie, I said, “Well, I think we’re in for an adventure.”
At that point we made our one and only race goal: don’t get hurt.
Solid plan, right? We decided that we would run where we could and just try not to get hurt and/or hurt anyone else. We arrived early (because we are those people, always) and it’s a good thing that we did because there was a bit of a line for the buses to the race site.
This was the first time that Beat the Blerch came to the east coast, based on the popular comic by The Oatmeal (if you haven’t read it, stop reading this and go check it out. Seriously. Go. I’ll wait!) so we expected there to be a few snafus on the inaugural race. And there were, but we rolled with it. Because it’s so much easier and we were going to expend all energy on the course.
The 10k was slotted to start at 9:30 but from what I understand, there was an issue with many people getting there in time for the half marathon (which started at 9am) so they pushed the 10k start time back to 10am. A small wrinkle as a 10k runner, but one that if I were a half marathoner, I would have appreciated.
We used the extra time to hit the line of portapotties. Given the size of the event, they probably should have had twice the amount, at least.
Visiting with the Blerch was a must and he even offered us a seat on the couch. What a great guy!
We somewhat reluctantly made our way to the start (those couches were really comfy) and soon we were off to the sounds of the Lion King and an announcer in a bacon suit. Mmmm, bacon.
Very, very quickly we realized it was survival mode. Game on. We ran when we were able to. We walked when it wasn’t possible (for us – I’m sure those who run trails regularly were just fine). I stuck to the right hand side, trying not to fall off any slopes and also making myself as small as possible as to not be in the way of those who were confident to run.
I watched the trail runners for tips, their toes pointed slightly out and their quick light feet, especially on the downhill. The trails I have run are compacted dirt and this one was filled with roots and rocks so the tripping potential was high.
The trail was gorgeous but I can’t really say that I got the full beauty feel of it because I was busy looking at the ground the majority of the time. It was also very narrow at certain points so unless you decided to run through the brush (some did, I did not), it was very single file.
While neither Jay or I got hurt, we saw people getting busted up left and right. We saw bloody knees, bloody elbows, sprained wrists, twisted ankles. There were emergency vehicles placed throughout the route and they were being fully utilized.
The day was gorgeous but I felt a bit dehydrated throughout. Thankfully it was cool enough and the tree coverage made it less of an issue, but the tiny cups at the water stations weren’t doing it for me. The volunteers were trying their hardest to keep everything filled but I don’t think they were prepared for the amount of people coming through.
We took a selfie at the stop, hitched up our boot straps and prepared for the second half of the trail.
Here’s where things got a little (more) hairy, because the half marathon and 10k routes converged onto one path. I hugged the right as much as possible while walking and made sure to check behind me if I planned to hit the left to run.
I questioned my sanity multiple times. The miles dragged and while I was fine endurance wise, around mile 5 I was ready for the race to be over.
Soon enough, we came to a clearing and we had about a quarter mile to go. At least that’s what the volunteers told me at the bend. My watch lost signal while we were romping around in the mountains (I might be exaggerating slightly but it felt mountainous).
He tried to sideline me with the offer of a selfie, which I happily accepted. Because when you can take a selfie with the Blerch, even if the finish line is 300 feet away, YOU TAKE IT.
And then I politely said, “Excuse me, I have to go beat you now.”
And then I got my medal and my banana (which tastes really good with Nutella) and the aforementioned Nutella and cake and purple drink.
So the good? The medal, banana, Nutella, cake, and purple drink. And free race pictures! And the Blerch! Also the fact that I didn’t die, fall off a cliff, fall in any which way (and trust me, that was a real possibility for me, the girl who falls often).
The “needs improvement” category is basically just logistics. The Interwebs rumblings are that transportation company that was originally supposed to work the race backed out. There were 6 school buses that were making the rounds for a lot of runners to get to and from the parking lot to the race site.
The line to get to the race was a bit long but bearable.
The line to get from the race site back to the cars was much more tedious.
Additionally, there were just too many people out on the course for the size of the trails. If everyone were going the exact same speed, I don’t think it would have been a problem (or maybe less of a problem?) but it was tough with everyone at different skill levels – it felt very “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
But despite all that, I beat the Blerch. And for that I call it a win!
Have you Beat the Blerch? What do you prefer, roads or trails? North or South? East or West?