Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.~Langston Hughes
The morning could have started with a list of disappointments. There was a cool rain that was oscillating between a gentle trickle and occasional stinging downpours. The marks so carefully placed by race director Chrissy Ferguson the night before were being washed away by that rain. And my plans to take part in the Big Rock Mystery Run had been thwarted by a sprained ankle.
In spite of the rain, 61 brave souls gathered under the pavilion near the skateboard park in North Little Rock ready to set out on a wet and potentially muddy adventure. The run started with a steady climb on the road up to Ft. Roots and back down again where runners would turn on to the trails. The route would take runners up and down the hills several times as well as across gullies, into culverts, and into dark tunnels to gather the playing cards that would be proof that they made it through every portion of the planned 8-mile route.
At the entrance to the tunnel was a bag of small flashlights waiting for those who would make the trip into the darkness to retrieve the necessary proof of their bravery. “John”, who chose to protect his identity (I think he may be Wanted), teased his running partner Nicole about the alligators that live in the back of the tunnel as she searched for the cards. Her response? “I’m not scared.”
I’m still not sure about the alligators but I know that sitting in that tunnel awaiting runners did give me a chance to have fun with the lighting challenges as Paul Turner, the eventual overall winner came speeding through.
In all, runners went to the top of Fort Roots three times. Starting by going up the road and back down it, then up the gravel road, across the top and then down the Emerald Park Trail, into the tunnels and back up a “goat trail” to the top and along the bluff line before heading back down and to the finish.
There are no course marshals or judges or anything like that out on the trails. To keep everything legit there are playing cards. Thirteen “checkpoints” along the way keep runners honest, you show up with one of each card to prove you did the entire course. The mystery of the race is that no one knows the exact course and where the checkpoints are so it pays to concentrate…in a driving rain…going uphill…again…
In 2012 the weather was near perfect, this year, not so much. Which one do you think people will remember and talk about the most? Don’t ever let a little bad weather keep you from an adventure.
Results are already posted on the ArkansasUltras website. The next Arkansas race in the ultra running series is Hoof it for Heifer on April 13th. Feel free to fish through the rest of the photos from the event on our Facebook Page.