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Why We Run

Bernd Heinrich is a retired professor and life-long runner who lives in a log cabin in the woods of western Maine. His story below is inspirational to me. Tomorrow I run the Tecumseh Trail Marathon for the third time. I’ll be chasing the antelope…

2012 tecumseh trail marathon

This past Saturday, I ran the 10th annual Tecumseh Trail Marathon 26 miles through the woods and hilly terrain of central Indiana. This was my first marathon and the longest distance I’ve yet to run in my life. There’s nothing you can’t work out with a long run; sometimes you just have to run longer. I came to the event on Saturday with mixed emotions. My mother had just passed the night before after a 15 month battle with breast cancer. It was hard watching her decline–especially in the final On the Trail Running the 2012 Tecumseh Trail Marathon Running the 2012 Tecumsehdays of her life. When she passed Friday morning I debated whether I should go to Tecumseh, but in the end I decided I would. She would have wanted me to. Even towards the end, she continued to ask me how my training was coming along–ever concerned about the details in the lives of the people she loved. So, I ran. I ran inspired by my mother’s strength, her resolve, and her memory. I’d been training for the last six months for Tecumseh in eager anticipation; however, on Saturday, I met the trail with a heavy heart.

One foot in front of the next, I pushed through the woods and in the end met all of my goals for the day: I finished, I didn’t get hurt, I had fun (considering), and I beat my “secret” time goal at 5:40:37. The weather was quite nice–maybe a little warm actually hovering around the the mid 50s. I was half-hoping for more of a weather challenge; I even bought some microspikes on the off chance there would be some serious snow, but I’m not complaining. I have to say, the 10am start time is a nice feature of the Tecumseh Marathon as I’m not much of a 4am riser. I opted out of the infamous bus ride to the start line and we drove as a family instead to the trail head at the Morgan-Monroe State Park. We arrived just before 9 and there wasn’t a soul to be found. Before long, though, buses starting arriving, a tarp was strung between two distant trees with the sign “Men’s Room” taped to it, and runners gathered. As the watch ticked past 10, we learned that there was some “trouble” with one of the buses and the start would be delayed until the final bus of runners arrived. So we stood around for nearly an hour. Once the bus arrived, there wasn’t much fan fair–a few muffled words over a bullhorn and we were off across an open field, past a modest start banner, and into the woods. We had a long day ahead of us.


 My TTM in Photos

Honestly, the run went quickly with the company of others. Single-track racing is an experience that’s new to me. I’ve been training on single-tracks for months now, but never in the company of 700 other runners. Needless to say, my interval-based race strategy went out the window once I found myself locked into running formation with a dozen others. On the trail, there was little to no real opportunity to pass (unless you were racing very aggressively, which I wasn’t), so I found myself “power walking” most the uphills and running the flats and downhills. I had planned to run some of the hills and take some walking breaks on the flats, but this didn’t quite work out. In the end, the adjusted approach served me well. I was running right around a 12-minute pace for most of the race. This slowed a little as the day went on, but all in all my overall time was better than I had expected considering the elevation profile and challenges of the terrain.

There’s nothing you can’t work out with a long run; sometimes you just have to run longer.

Aidan and Chris were a wonderful support during the race (not to mention over the past 6 months). They were an awesome “trail crew,” cheering me on at several points where the trail crossed a road, handing me my special trail mix blend, and taking lots of photos. Honestly, I couldn’t have done this without their support. (Hell, I couldn’t do anything without their support. I love them so much.)

I crossed the finish line of my first trail marathon (first marathon ever) around 4:30 in the afternoon–welcomed by Aidan’s screaming cheers, the love of my beautiful wife, the company of other supportive runners, and a cup of hot soup. Not a bad way to spend a day really. It gave me time to think of my mom. I felt her with me on the trail.

tanglin’ with the tecumseh

This past weekend, I took my second trip to beautiful central Indiana to visit the Morgan-Monroe and Yellowood state forests. More specifically, I went to train on the Tecumseh Trail where I will be running my first trail marathon (first marathon overall) on December 1st of this year. I’ve been training for months now, but there’s nothing quite like hitting the Tecumseh (nothing in my neck of the woods anyway). With 3500 vertical feet of ascent and 3800 of descent, running Chicagoland doesn’t quite compare. The weather was a mild 64 degrees, clear, with a slight southerly breeze–good running weather and a great time to be in the woods (wearing a little blaze orange for safety, of course). Despite my best efforts, the hills continually reminded me who was boss, as my pace was slowed a good 3 and a half minutes from my usual training pace. With about four miles to go, I ran out of water. This proved to be discouraging. I respect the trail, the terrain, and the distance–truly I do. After a good 4 hours and 55 minutes, I staggered out of the trees and across my 20 mile mark south of Yellowwood Lake–a little beaten and bruised, but still breathing and feeling very much alive.

Psychologically, this 20-miler has served me well. I know what I’m dealing with, so I will remain humble come the first of December and dance with lady Tecumseh once again. I hope she receives me kindly.

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