HIT THE TRAIL
by Elaine Doll-Dunn
It began in the scenic city of Rochford; a tiny town nestled in the upper reaches of the Black Hills. Rochford, elevation 5,200, population 6, boasts a chapel, a bar (the famous Moonshine Gulch Saloon), a university (true! I saw Rochford University painted on the side of a church!), and, of course, a mall. Yes, a mall. Says right over the door, “The Small of America” so there.
Eighty motivated marathoners toed the line on Main Street (the only street) in front of the University, and, at the starter’s command, loped down the pavement. Two tenths of a mile later, double right turns spilled them onto the Mickelson Trail where they began the breathtaking (well, in a couple of ways…) 26 miles on into Historic Deadwood and the fabled Seventy-Six Rodeo Arena; the finish line.
Twenty-six beautiful miles of a lovingly tended old railroad bed, sentineled by spruce, pine, maple, ash, aspen; a veritable arboretum. The running surface of crushed quartz and fine gravel glistened in the early morning sun and provided a forgiving trail for wearying feet and legs…hard to focus on pain when running through beauty.
Thus began the inaugural Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, brainchild of Terry Smith and Jerry Dunn. A gradual climb for the first twelve miles, beginning at 5200 feet and climbing to 6200, could have tested the mettle of the seasoned and the novitiates alike, but the drop from 6200 to 4800 over the next fourteen miles did much to assuage the mentality if not the quads…(if it were easy we’d call it football) Paced by the sparkling brook, the forest birds trilling soprano harmonizing with its throaty contralto, running was as much a musical adventure as it was a physical challenge.
The creek tumbled through slate and granite passageways; a tunnel rising from the pre-dawn mist curved the runners to another panoramic vista. The harmony of birds and creek provide accompaniment to the syncopated rhythm of four score of feet.
The second weekend in June, hills lush with the first rains of spring, a fine time to test the training and enjoy the view. The slumbering sun was back on the job, and it just felt good to move through time and space in nature’s pine studded masterpiece.
Finish line comments confirmed the location’s draw for a runner, and even the support people (saints of the course!) after a long day, were positive and up beat about the event.
“Don’t change a thing!” (This from a man just having crossed the finish line in 5 plus hours, still smiling!)
“When you’re running through beauty, it doesn’t feel like running.” (Homer Hastings, poet laureate of marathoning.)
“I stopped to investigate so many fascinating plant forms, I think I spoiled my time!” (Etymologists might want to avoid this course.)
“Oh, the altitude was much like home…” (The tongue-in-cheek gentleman from New Jersey.)
“I love it! My first marathon, it was so beautiful! (So was she, in spirit, spunk and soul.)
“Next year, it’s gonna be even better!” (My husband, Jerry Dunn, operating on zero sleep and mega adrenalin.)
“Hey Jerry! Good to see you again!” (Me.)