I focused on my daughter Jenny’s bright orange trail shoes as we ran down the far side of the insanely steep hill we’d just climbed. The pace was fast for me, but I was keeping up, and that felt good. Golden sunlight streaming through the trees formed a green and amber canopy over the rocky trail. The air was cool and crisp against my skin, and the finish line was less than a mile away.
I’ve never felt so alive as I did at that moment Sunday, flying down that hill, following those orange
shoes, headed toward the finish line.
This was the second year my husband Tim, our daughter Jenny and I ran the 15K course at the Bass Pro Outdoor Festival’s Dogwood Canyon Trail Runs. Last year, with my heart pounding and lungs heaving, I struggled up and down those steep and rocky hills, stopping several times along the way for much-needed rest breaks. This year, my feet were light, and my legs were strong. We didn’t stop once. And it’s all because of a pink tutu, a magnificent mustache and a highway patrolman.
Idiots Running Club members, some in pink breast cancer awareness shirts and some wearing the famous bright yellow were seen all over the trails at Dogwood Canyon Sunday, Oct. 20.
This photo of David, taken at Dogwood Canyon a few years ago, gives a glimpse of the beauty of the trails and creek crossings, but doesn’t come close to showing how steep the hills are over there.
David Murphy, wearing his famous pink tutu to raise money for the American Cancer Society, was running more than three times the distance my little family was attempting. Adorned with ribbons bearing the names of 80 people who have battled cancer, the tutu and its owner would be out on the rugged trails a little more than five hours, covering more than 31 miles – 50 kilometers. The distance is nothing new to the 41-year-old Wasola ultra-marathoner, who’s now training for his fifth Rocky Raccoon 100-mile run in Texas this February.
April and Jon Wilson ran the 25K
David and his friend, Gainesville High School teacher Jon Wilson, who has the most magnificent mustache I’ve ever seen, started the Idiots Running Club a little more than a year ago. Astonishingly, the club, an online social media group of runners, has grown to almost 2,000 members and will be featured in the December issue of Runner’s World magazine. The IRC is one of the biggest reasons I was outside Sunday, running on those hilly trails in Lampe, instead of lying in my soft bed that morning.
PrsFit Coach Jeff Kline
Through the IRC, I met Coach Jeff Kline of PrsFit, who designed a training program specifically for me – a struggling, constantly injured, often-whiney, wanna-be runner. His encouragement and knowledge have proved invaluable over the past year. Running is very hard. It’s hard for everyone – even the gifted runners like David. I’ve started fitness programs many, many times before and always quit when things got uncomfortable. I probably would’ve quit running too if it hadn’t been for the support and help I got from the Idiots Running Club and PrsFit. Without those brilliant and dedicated “Idiots” and Coach Jeff, I’m not sure I would have made it through the pain required to reap the benefits of running.
As I was skimming down that hill, my muscles feeling strong and light, focusing on those orange shoes flying in front of me, I couldn’t help but gush, “This is it, Jenny. This is why we got up all those mornings to run. This is what all the training is for!”
That wonderful feeling of accomplishment made the run worth every drop of sweat, every aching muscle, every heaving breath.
As we were running our 15K, the shortest distance offered at Dogwood Canyon, I thought about several other Ozark County IRC runners who were out on the same trails that morning. The fastest was Charley Hogue, a Missouri State Highway Patrol sergeant. A four-time winner of the White River Marathon in Cotter, Ark., Hogue is the first “real” runner I ever talked to about running. I was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, I’d just quit smoking and I got out of breath simply walking across my yard. It was the Fourth of July, and we were at a barbecue at my sister’s house. Charley was hungry that evening because he had run some huge distance that morning. I was amazed at how far he had run and said, “Wow, I wish I could run, but I’ve never been able to, even when I was young. I just can’t do it.”
The famous Charley Hogue
He said, “You can do it, Norene. All it takes is time and effort, but you can do it if you want to.”
I didn’t believe him at the time, but I never forgot what he said.
How powerful those words turned out to be: You can do it.
Out on the Dogwood Canyon Trails Sunday morning, Charley yelled “Go, IRC!” as he flew past Jenny and me like we were standing still. He went on to take first in his age group, placing third overall out of 325 runners in the 25K distance. His mother, Evelina Hogue, took second in the age 55-59 female division of the 15K. On Nov. 3, they’ll both be at Bass Pro in Springfield, where Charley will run the full marathon and Evelina will take on the half.
Tim, me and Jenny. I’m hoping my other daughter, Jessica, will be with us next year. She just started running a few months ago and it would be a blast to have her with us in 2014. All four of us will be at Bass Pro Nov. 3. Tim and I are running the full, and Jessica and Jenny are running the half.
I knew my husband Tim would finish long before Jenny and I did, and I couldn’t wait to hear how he did. Sure enough, he was waiting for us as we crossed the finish line. He had already changed out of his sweaty clothes, so I knew he’d had a good run. He finished 40 minutes faster than he did last year! I wound up finishing 21 minutes faster, and Jenny was also faster than last year. We all shared a big group hug to celebrate.
Melissa Hayes of Gainesville won third place in the age 30-34 female division of the 15K. She often runs with her friend Mindy Pippin, who was taking on her longest race ever, the 25K. Mindy’s husband, Billy, was also running the 25K for the first time and came in a few minutes behind his wife. “I’m already thinking about next year,” Billy said later.
April Wilson, Jon’s wife, also ran the 25K for the first time. “Whew! That was tough,” she said.
No kidding, I thought. I was having a hard time imagining going that far over all those hills. But now that it’s over, I’m thinking … maybe next year …
But for now, I’m concentrating on Nov. 3, when I’ll run my very first full marathon. Who would’ve thought that a pink tutu, a magnificent mustache and a highway patrolman could make such a difference in a chubby, middle-aged grandma’s life?