The Dreaded Druid Hills 10k is tagged as a “torturous race by runners for runners” that’s run on/around the summer solstice every year. I volunteered as a course marshal last year and loved the atmosphere of it.
I’ve had my eye on this race for years but have never felt prepared for it. And because it’s a small race, and I’ve never been the fastest runner, I’ve always been afraid of finishing last. As runners we frequently deal with the self doubt of wondering whether or not we’re prepared for the challenges we face, so I just decided there was really no point in waiting and wondering any longer. I sucked it up and signed up for the race a few weeks ago. Either I’d be ready or I wouldn’t – three’s only one way to find out.
It was weird. I’ve been nervous before races before, but for some reason I had no nerves going into this one. Two other friends of mine, Steph and Lauren, signed up for this race as well and they both said the same thing.
Usually race day is ungodly hot and humid but the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for us this year – low to mid 70s with low humidity. The course runs through Druid Hill Park, just outside of downtown Baltimore, which has tons of trees, so there’s lots of shade on the course, especially on the hills.
The course it notoriously brutal. It starts out with about 2 miles of rolling hills before you settle into a flat section before the monster hills in the back of the park. On the easy part we actually passed the house where my grandmother, who passed away from Alzheimer’s this past December, used to live, which I wasn’t prepared for. It was weird, but I imagined her sitting on her porch (in an oh-so-Baltimore way) cheering me on, which helped immensely.
I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, so I just pushed whenever I could. It was great hearing encouragement from Lauren and Steph as I was entering the hills and they were working their way out. I’m not used to hearing people cheering for me on the course, so it was a huge pick-me-up. I actually did really well until about mile 4.5 – then the hills got really tough. I pushed as hard as I could, but even walking up the hills was brutal. With it being in the back of the park, where basically no one goes, there wasn’t much course support, but the volunteers and course marshals were awesome in their support of us. Mile 4 – 5.5 was the hardest for me, both physically and mentally, but I met another woman, Lisa, out on the course at mile 4.5 and we paced each other through much of the remainder of the race. The awesomeness of the running community never ceases to amaze me.
When I saw the sign for mile 5, I knew I was in the clear. We had fared the worst of the hills. I remembered that when I ran the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler a few years ago, my dad bet me $1000 if I ran it in under an hour – I came up just short that year. Even with the brutal hills of the Dreaded Druid Hills, I hit 5 miles in under an hour – that made me feel amazing. I lost a bit of steam just after that point, so I downed half a Gu, and pushed all the way to the end. As I got closer, I realized that my 10k PR was actually in danger – on the Dreaded Druid Hills!! I kept pushing through the discomfort of the heat, knowing that it was a downhill finish. Although I didn’t set a new PR, I missed it by only 51 seconds.
51 seconds. Think about that. They advertise this race as “NOT a PR course!” and I missed a PR by less than a minute. It’s amazing to think of how far I’ve come in just two short years of running. For the kid who always finished last in the mile in gym class to come this far is just mind boggling. I honestly could not have been more proud of my performance yesterday.
After the race I stretched out my hip a bit (those hills did it no favors) and then attacked the fruit trays they had waiting for us. The watermelon and strawberries were so deep red and amazingly sweet… I swear I could have devoured an entire tray of strawberries if given half a chance.
Steph had to run off as soon as she finished to take her daughter to swim lessons, but Lauren and I hung around a bit longer to enjoy the post-race festivities. This race really is unlike any other race I’ve ever done, and although I was intimidated by that before I found it to be absolutely amazing. I truly can’t wait to sign up again next year.
On our way back to our cars, Lauren helped me take a picture for the #RunChatHunt. One of the photos is supposed to be of roadkill. Ew. Totally not going on my phone or my twitter feed. So I got creative instead 😉
I ended up napping for almost an hour an a half yesterday afternoon, but then finished out a great day with a glass of wine in front of the fire pit.