July 13, 2009

Civic Duty

I've posted here and here about my experiences with the irrepressible Wildwood Trail. This weekend I adopted a more altruistic relationship with my nemesis. I volunteered a Saturday morning of my free time to work the aid station for this week's long run, a 16-mile jaunt through Wildwood Trail and down the path to Nature Trail. I figured it was the least I could do in exchange for all the wonderful fully supported training runs that the Portland Marathon Clinic provides, free of charge.

Due to a slight misunderstanding at the beginning, I had to walk 2 miles down the road to reach Aid Station #1. At least I got my legs moving, and gorgeous scenery to boot.

The table was completely set up by the time I arrived. Check out our gourmet spread.

That morning, someone had mentioned that one year, Runner's World Magazine rated Wildwood Trail the #1 marathon training trail in the US. I can see that.

As a Portlander, I feel incredibly lucky to have such amazing natural beauty at my fingertips.

Sunlight filtering in through the dense tree cover.

A long and winding road.

The path to Nature Trail, the second half of today's 16-mile route.

A fallen tree...

...and its mass of thick, gnarled roots.

It was interesting to witness the differences between the various pace groups. The first few groups of fast runners were obviously Aid Station experts. They burst forth from the trail entrance, sinewy and focused, spending only a few quiet minutes hydrating, eating pretzels, and refilling sports bottles. You could tell this was old hat for them. They thanked us graciously and were off quickly, moving single-file like a well oiled machine.

The subsequent groups stayed progressively longer, chatting with us and smiling, milling about and stretching their muscles.

The 5-hour plus marathon group were the stars of the show, because they were all heart. It was easy for the other "fast" groups, but this brave group ran on guts alone. They kept going with determination, making it all the way to the finish line. When they thanked us for being there to help, we saw the sincerity in their eyes.

Sometimes it feels good to be needed.

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