I loved this race so much I accidentally wrote a novel on it so if you want the short version, here it is:
- Beautiful and hilly two-loop trail race at Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton, LA benefiting the New Orleans Mission
- Saw a wild baby boar and almost peed myself
- Had a blast
- 10/10 would run again
- Favorite marathon yet
One of my weirder hobbies is race reconnaissance, a delicate art form in which I research marathons and stalk them obsessively until I decide which ones look awesome, all while in bed. So, one night I was looking up trail marathons in nearby states and saw that there was only one trail marathon in all of Louisiana AND it had an early-bird registration price of $26, what what?!? Of course, I had already missed the early bird price but I didn’t care, this was the Louisiana race for me. After confirming with my main crew (aka my ridiculously supportive family), I decided to sign up. Just minutes after hitting submit on my registration, I got a phone call from the race director, Cesar Torres. He was calling to welcome me into the Q50 family and make sure I knew to call him personally if I had any questions about the race. I thought this must be a tiny race or one crazy, committed race director.
Getting down there went as well as an 8 hour drive with two toddlers can go! Leaving the snowpocalypse that was in Tennessee, my husband and I met my in-laws and my parents at the science center in Birmingham then continued south to a strange but accommodating rental cabin in Bogaloosa. We spent Saturday at Bogue Chitto State Park (apparently pronounced Bo-guh Chit-uh but don’t ask me to say it), mostly playing at the playground and enjoying the perfect weather. On race day, Matt and I drove to the start of the race and joined the group of runners waiting for the pre-race meeting. Cesar Torres introduced himself and was a little choked up because of the number of runners that had come out for the race. His remarks were funny, touching and sincere. The race hadn’t even started yet and I was already glad to be a part of something with so much passion driving it. The race benefits the New Orleans Mission, who also came out to volunteer for the event! One runner, I found out after the race, ran with a full back pack of rice which she donated to the Mission on completion of the race. How awesome is that?!
Lined up at the start, I couldn’t wait! It would be my first time running a two loop course so I was very curious to see how that would effect my mental game. Would I get bored or would the knowledge of the course give me an advantage on the second lap? The race started off on a gravel trail going mostly downhill with plenty of room for people to pass each other. The half-marathoners and full marathoners started in the same wave so I tried my best to settle into a comfortable pace and not worry about those passing me. Many runners were walking up the hills within the first mile and so I ended up playing leapfrog with a few people over and over again. I chatted with a man named Paul each time we passed each other and we joked about the hills, which he had experienced in the race just the day before. I told him it helped to have trained in Tennessee and as we approached a particularly steep hill he asked, “So you don’t call this a hill?” I said, “This is a hill, alright! But I’m just glad I can see the top of it!” My enthusiasm stayed pretty strong for all of the first lap and I ran up the hills, slowly but surely. But Paul, if you’re reading this, know that the hills got even bigger on the second lap and I may have walked one or two.
There was a sign that said the bathroom in cabin three was available for runners so I decided to make a quick pit-stop since it was unclear when the next one would be. The cabin was super nice but finding the bathroom wasn’t as intuitive as I expected so I felt like a total snoop looking for the bathroom. I laughed at myself but made mental note to double check the sign just to make sure I hadn’t accidentally entered the wrong cabin. Writing this, I’m still not 100% sure I went into cabin three…
After this, the run got a little flatter and we passed a small pond with some calling frogs that I was compelled to identify to fellow runners, I couldn’t help it! Then we passed the playground that my family and I had spent time at the day before, continued on some road for a short time, then turned on to a horse trail through a pine forest. There was supposed to be a creek crossing here but the heavy rains made it a big mud puddle. Cesar Torres indicated in the pre-race meeting that he thought he should keep it as it were but decided to eventually lay out a piece of plywood for the wimpier runners. I scurried across that plywood with a walk of shame but I’d do it again for my poor feet. The first place female (and some other brave souls) ran straight through it, thus her well-earned position in first!
Soon after this section we passed the aid station, which I opted to hit up when I’d see it again in two miles. The volunteers were telling runners they were halfway there but since I was running the full I was only a quarter of the way there. Man! I thought. Wish I had decided to run a half marathon in every state..
I caught up to a runner that had been just ahead of me the entire time so I joked with him about how he’d be passing me as soon as we got to the top of the hill. Instead, we ended up talking about running stuff and ran at a solid pace together until the turnaround. At some point we saw a gator stuck in the mud (the kind with four wheels) and Cesar saying “what you see on the trail, stays on the trail!” His partner in crime posted about it on facebook and now here I am writing about it so no such luck there, Cesar! We ran on and Casey told me some neat things about the race director but I’ll refrain from bragging on him since I think he’d appreciate that – you’ll just have to sign up for one of his races and find out for yourself! If you do meet him, I’m sure you’ll hear him encouraging men and women with his peppy, “Lookin’ good, baby! Lookin’ good!”
We reached the finish line for the half-marathoners and I said goodbye to my runner buddy, sad that he got to be done running and I didn’t! My husband Matt and my mother-in-law had just gotten there so I ran over to them and shoved some food in my face. Normally I would walk while eating but I was confused where to go so I just stayed put – was I supposed to turn around at the aid station or did I have to go to the finish banner and then turn around? They probably said what to do during the prep talk but I apparently missed that bit. Then back out on the course for my second lap! It was actually nice to know what was in store, it wasn’t completely boring as I was worried it might be.
I started feeling better with my food in my belly and people were commenting on how weird it was that I was still smiling and running up (most of) the hills this far in. Around mile 16 I passed a runner heading the other direction toward the finish line and I thought she was the first female marathoner, miles ahead of me. I told her she was doing great and was the first female I’d seen and she just looked confused and said, “Yeah? Ok.” Later I realized she was doing the 50 miler and that is why she was so baffled. I don’t know who you are or what you thought I meant but if you’re reading this I AM SO SORRY! While on the topic of apologies, I want to apologize to the 50 miler man who had to wait on my toddler to use the only men’s toilet at the turnaround point! From the bottom of my colon, I’m so sorry that you had to endure that! With this kind of record, my family and I are going to be banned from running events in the future!
I passed several other 50 milers at this point and tried to encourage them as best I could. One lady moved over for me and apologized for going slowly. I told her she didn’t have to move over for anybody – she had earned it! I randomly told another runner that my water had run out and I was looking forward to the next aid station. He offered me some of his, despite being low on water himself and also on his first marathon! Not sure if it was just the culture of this race or trail runners in general but everyone was so considerate!
During the horse trail section, I started to hit the doldrums where I was wanting to be done running and a little bored. Out of nowhere, I heard a loud crashing noise to my left and saw a baby boar running away from me. I heard even more thrashing and crashing to my right, screamed like a little girl and hurriedly pulled my whistle out, imagining that I would blow it in the momma boars face if I needed to. As if that would stop an angry momma boar. They ran off (read: I survived) and I started running with a little more pep in my step, ready to get to the next aid station. When I got there and recounted my story, they responded, “Awww! We heard that there are three babies. Did you get a picture?” How were they not surprised that I was simply alive? So nope, I didn’t get a picture.
They told me the next female marathoner was just four minutes ahead of me and so I kept going. I kept looking over my shoulder, all guilty like, just to make sure no other ladies were going to pass me.
I hit my last hill before the finish line, spotted my family in the distance and burst out in a smile! My oldest son Linden was so happy to see me so I reached out my hand and had him run with me to the finish line. I still had some energy left so I jumped and clicked my heels through the finish. Guess I should have run one or two more laps 🙂 Totally kidding, I was dead tired and MORE than happy to sit on my butt in the car for the next 8 hours.
I finished as the second female with a time of 4:53:20, six minutes behind the first female. Only twenty-three runners finished the full and I think only five of them were female so being second wasn’t as big of a deal as it sounds. Still, I won an awesome hand crafted vase!
So in sum, I had a blast running the marathon at the Q50 Trails Extravaganza, an amazing event held at Bogue Chitto State Park in the middle of nowhere, Louisiana. Of the marathons I have run so far, this was my absolute favorite, hands down. The course is beautiful with rolling hills going through multiple habitat types on a range of surfaces – from gravel, to packed dirt, to mud in some spots, sand in others, squishy pine needles, and a tiny bit of pavement. I have never really been interested in running the same race twice since there are just so many amazing options out there but this one is tempting me. The least I can do is recommend it to all my friends.
One final thank you to the race director, to the volunteers at this race and most importantly, to my support system – my family! Without them, I could not even think to do these crazy races. Thank you all!