Thirty-one hours and forty-one minutes. Eleven runners, two vans, four hours of sleep, 202 miles, new friendships, new perspectivers and memories that will last forever!
This year’s edition of The Smoky Mountain Relay did not disappoint. It was every bit of what I experienced last year and so much more. It was an experience that is hard to describe unless you experience it firsthand. The race was filled with adrenaline, laughter, comradery, great conversations, new friends, lots of scenery, and yes, challenging runs.
The five runners in our van started the race knowing only one or two others on our team. By the end of the race, we were planning the next race we wanted to do together and even started making plans to all do dinner or just hang out. The race wasn’t just about getting from point A to point B as fast as we could but much more than that. To me, it was about the people I was with, the raw conversations, our individual stories, our similarities, and how we all helped and interacted with each other along the way.
The people and the experience made the running part seem so relaxing and much more fun than it would have been otherwise.
Not only was the relay an amazing experience that created lifelong memories for me, but it also provided me with a perspective on the difference a year of training has made on me physically.
“Get off your asphalt” is the motto used for the relay. Quite fitting, especially for me and the motivation last year’s race gave me to do just that.
Last year, when my buddy invited me to run with his team, I weighed 212 pounds and could barely run two miles. “Why not, but put me on the shortest legs of the race,” I told him. Even on those short and flat legs of the race I struggled and had to walk a lot.
I remember thinking that I could never run some of the legs that were longer or had miles of climbing a mountain. There’s no way, I thought!
For this year’s race, I was in much better shape than I was last year. After last year’s race, I got off my butt and got active, ultimately proving my doubts wrong and gaining so much confidence in myself and my abilities. Since last year’s race, I have run over 600 miles while training to achieve my triathlons goals. I also lost 22 more pounds in the process. I have been training hard and it has paid off.
During this year’s Smoky Mountain Relay, I ran some of the longest and most challenging legs in the race. Two of the legs I ran were described as steep and wicked steep, combining for 10.2 miles uphill. The elevation gain for those legs was 3,652 feet. Because of my training, and the miles I have put in this past year, amazingly, my body was ready. I ultimately ran 22 miles at very respectful times. I didn’t stop nor did I walk, except when my loving van-mates made me drink water to stay hydrated.
What seemed physically impossible to me last year, wasn’t impossible. Training and exercise made such a difference, not only for the race, but for me personally. The physical improvements didn’t happen fast, but over time, with consistency, they happened for me.
It’s May 2 and I’ve been back to focusing on my goals for my big triathlon next month. I am, however, still reminiscing on the amazing experience and perspectives gained from running in The Smoky Mountain Relay the past two years. The relay will always be an event that I look forward to participating in. If for no other reason, it was the event that truly was the start to my fitness and triathlon journey.