This had quickly become one of my favorite races! This is the third year Matt and I have run this race, and each year has been different than the previous year. The first year, I ran it with Matt as it was his first race he had done since graduating college (he was a collegiate runner – I’m still jealous…), running in the middle/front of the pack but not really “racing”. Last year, Matt gave me the go-ahead to go all out and actually race it. I had no real expectations since the fall is usually the worst season for training for me. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually won the race!
This year, I obviously was not returning to defend my title, and I actually considered not running it at all since it is a fairly hilly course. But, it is such a fun and absolutely beautiful race (nothing beats the lights in Silver Dollar City) that I just couldn’t pass up the chance to run it again this year, despite my current “condition”.
One big issue I had with the race this year was that it was WAY too late (a 10:20 PM start time) for my exhausted, pregnant self. We went to the park early to pick up our packets and give Kenna a chance to ride a few rides before the park actually closed. By the time the race actually started 2 hours later, I was ready for bed!
Matt hadn’t really had the opportunity to train for the race this year, so he was happy to run it easy with me. We lined up in the middle of the pack and quickly realized that even with running it much slower than normal for both of us, we probably could’ve started a little farther up. We spent the first quarter mile dodging slower runners and walkers, which is still frustrating, even when you’re not trying to race. We finally got to a point where we could settle in to a pace and chat. It was nice to just enjoy the race and not really worry about how fast or slow you are going. Even the first year, it was hard not to race it while running with Matt and I worried about how slow I was going. So, it was really nice to just enjoy our surroundings and talk to each other, mostly about the past 2 years of racing.
My plan was to run as much as possible and walk the hills. If you know the Ozarks and/or Silver Dollar City, you know exactly how hilly it is. There were 2 hills I knew for sure I would be walking, but I found myself needing to walk one long hill early on in the race. My legs were burning and I felt out of breath, which is my sign that it’s a little too much for me. And of course, Matt was a trooper and walked with me, which made me feel a little bit better. He let me set the pace and stuck with me the whole time, even though he could easily run 2-3 minutes per mile faster than what we were running.
Thankfully, this is one race where the more time you spend on the course, the better. The last mile is all in the park, with the hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights lighting the way. It’s a race that you can’t help but want to slow down and enjoy, and that’s exactly what we did. It was a great way to close out this part of my “training” before the baby gets here in just 6 weeks.