By Caroline Williams
It was an uneventful flight from Reagan National to St. Louis, Missouri. Lore, my sister, met me at the airport; and Gena Bonini picked me up at her house the next day. So far, so good. But then . . . . . . .
We arrived at the campsite (the start and finish of Berryman Trail Runs) at around 9:30 p.m. Much later than we anticipated. It was raining, so we rushed to get the tent up. It took me a while to fall asleep; but once I did, I slept soundly.
It was a cool morning, but it definitely warmed up. The 50-milers face two, 25-mile loops, with one, short, out-and-back section. Lush greenery dominates the primitive campsite, and over 90 percent of the course is shaded. There are no major hills. Switchbacks have reduced all of them. It's also not a technical course. I covered the first loop way too fast, so I was dogging it on the second. There was only one, real water crossing. I only had to endure a small blister on the bottom of my right foot.
The aid people were truly fantastic. They reminded me of the BRR aid folks. Several aid stations had a theme thing going on. I saw a bride, man in grass skirt, pregnant woman, scarecrow . . . They offered me words of encouragement when I felt (and probably looked) crappy. They offered me ice, when I definitely needed it, but didn't think to ask for it.
The next day, I told the race director, David White, that I truly meant what I said when I told him that these aid station folks were the greatest bunch of people I've ever encountered. Maybe I didn't expect such a level of service from mid-westerners. Maybe I thought that we, VHTRCers, have the best volunteers in the entire United States. Maybe I was just so dogging it that I appreciated every little thing they did for me. All I know is that they were just what I needed in that space and time. The icing on the cake was seeing Gena at the final aid station, just two miles from the finish!! So wonderfully surprised to see her there. So thankful that she opted for the marathon so that she could be there for me and other runners!!
The most difficult part of this whole weekend was trying to sleep, without a shower, in a tent after the run. Wet wipes don't cut it after being out there for over 12 hours on a humid day. A sleeping bag, which served me well for Friday night, was too warm for me Saturday night. It rained again on Saturday night. If I do this again, I'm definitely getting a regular hotel room for after the race, or renting a nice RV for the weekend. It wasn't all bad. Gena's excellent filet mignon and corn on the cob filled the spot perfectly!
We finally showered on Sunday morning at a much larger, and more civilized campground about eight miles from the race site. It was another warm, sunny day; and we stopped a few times to eat, and to tour a sculpture garden. At around 5 pm, I was introduced to the members of Gena's hash group for my first hash run. "I'm Caroline." The guy responds, "Be My Friend." I'm kind of bewildered. Gena just looks at me. I see another guy, smoking a cigarette! I walk over to him, coughing, hesitating to introduce myself. Gena tells me, "That's Butt Sucker." I finally get it. I didn't fall at all during the 50-miler, but I fall on some rocks that resulted in sore ribs during this, my first hash run. Sitting in a Thai restaurant near where we started and finished, I am thinking, what a fun group!
I am driven back to my sister's house. My parents came up from their home in Branson. They've been there for a couple of hours. This time, I'm not nervous to face my parents. I face heavy questions. I anticipate Mom's obligatory hugg, and Dad's five-second, "good to see you" one. It's all good.