After the temperatures rose out of the single digits, the rains started. The polar vortex left a slightly warmer but soaking wet blanket over much of the state. By the early morning on the day of the inaugural Fit4Life Village Creek 10K/25K Trail Run, the rains had subsided leaving behind damp air that sent a chill to the bone on the brisk morning breeze. That didn’t seem to concern the 132 runners who arrived at the park, many with family or friends in tow to run with them or to be cheerleaders. Some were already running, warming up, others huddled in cars with heaters on, and many wandered about picking up race numbers, t-shirts and timing chips.
By 7:50 Race Director and Muckas Running Club member Ethan Cook was on his box, ready to deliver the address to the troops, giving them the rundown on the course mark colors and instructions. And then he said, “when you get to that end of the field there is a bridge, the bridge is blocked, you WILL go across the creek.”
There were graceful crossings, not quite so graceful crossings, and a few shoes lost in the deep mud. Of course, Joe was there to digitally capture this, the first of many potential shoe stealing mudholes to come.
I was toward the end of the line of runners where a bottleneck had formed while people stopped to consider the best method of crossing that first obstacle. I planned to run the 10K version of the race with my friend Katy. I hadn’t even decided to come to the race until the night before having struggled with a cold of the nastiest nature for the previous week. I needed to get out and have a little fun, get my legs moving,and fill my lungs with fresh air. Once we were past that first big creek, the runners spread out again and we were on our way down the wide multi-use trail, continuously dodging mud, muck, water and horse droppings. There was a little stand up mud glissading on the steeper downhills, a lot of stabililizing muscle work getting through the fields of mud which now, having been trampled by most of the other runners, were miniature mine fields of ankle deep peaks and valleys made by running shoes. Being on the slow end of the pack had some advantages, whenever there was a question of whether or not we were on the right route, footprints usually led us in the right direction even if we couldn’t find the route marking ribbon right away, which happened a couple of times. We never got truly misdirected but we did have to search for the next blaze or trail ribbon more than once. The course was a lollipop: a stick that was out and back with a loop. When Katy and I saw the sign for the left turn to enter the 10K loop, we realized that we needed to turn back onto the “stick” or we would be on our way to a second lap. Unfortunately there was no sign that indicated that the finish was in that direction so we warned the ladies that were already several yards on their way to a second loop and we turned away from the sign, hoping our trail skills were intact. Luckily, we were correct but we heard a few stories of those not so lucky. It’s an issue that really wasn’t a surprise for a first time race but an issue that I’m sure will be fixed for the next one since everything else seemed to be very well organized and executed.
In due time, Katy and I finished our joyful, laughter filled run in the muck with our lower halves encased in the Village Creek State Park spa treatment mud to be met at the finish line by a great group of cheerleaders and a super snazzy woodcut finisher’s medal which was promptly dubbed the race “woodallion”. There was also pizza that was still somewhat warm despite the chilly air that was still hanging around and cold drinks that got a helping hand staying cold in that same chilly air. Donuts and fruit rounded out the offerings for hungry runners.
I decided to take a friend up on his offer of another kind of cold beverage and took a second beverage out to join Joe on the course to watch the 25K runners. I was about 50 meters from the finish line when the two side by side leaders came across the creek and headed into the open field on the way to the finish. I watched as Daniel Kirwa overtook Chris Block by just a couple of strides for them to finish just 19 seconds apart with Ted Herget of Gearhead Oufitters just 14 seconds behind Chris. Certainly a great finish to a race made much more difficult in the cold mud. The first female finisher and 9th overall for the 25K was Mary Ellen Kelly of Memphis, TN. Full results for the 25K are listed on Stearns Race Timing. The finish of the 10K wasn’t quite as close with nearly five minutes separating 1st place Cody Lemmons and 2nd place David Blaske and exactly five minutes between David and 3rd place finisher Joseph Smith. The first female finisher was across the line just a few minutes later. Full 10K results are here.
This race in Eastern Arkansas was a great draw from the local area as well as a lot of runners from Central Arkansas and the Memphis Metro area.
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