“Running has taught me that I am capable of more than I ever imagined.”

That was written on the back of a woman’s shirt at the Vortex Half-Marathon this past week. She had full knee braces on each leg, a big sweatband around her head and a slow jog with just a bit of a limp. Needless to say, I felt an immediate kinship with her. She was my kind of people.

Her shirt resonated with me because running has indeed shown me that I can do the unimaginable. I think back to walking my very first 5k several years ago and I certainly never would have imagined that I would be setting out to run my fifth half-marathon this year. More than that, running has taught me that I can dream big and set some scary goals and that somehow, someway, my body will make it happen.

The race this past weekend was a big one for me because I was seeking redemption.

As you may recall, my last attempt at a trail run half-marathon went horribly wrong. I found myself miles down a dusty trail in the middle of nowhere, dizzy and puking in the bushes. A combination of being at high altitude, taking a new medication with dizziness as a side effect and running too fast because I was a little too cocky for my own good led to one of the most miserable experiences of my life.

I wanted a do over…a chance to prove to myself that I could do it.

I started this half-marathon with my friend Michelle and her dog Denali.


This was Denali’s first half-marathon. She wasn’t at all nervous. I guess if I had four long skinny golden-doodle legs like that, I wouldn’t have been nervous either.

Michelle and Denali soon left me in the dust…or to be more exact, they left me in the mud. I’ve never seen so much mud.


The mud was so thick and sticky (yet slippery!). My feet wanted to slide out from under me with each precarious step.


Slipping and sliding down the trail. The heavy mud was caked so thickly on the bottoms of my shoes it felt like I was wearing leaded boots.

My feet would slip and slide with each step, threatening to leave me face down in the mud if I got at all distracted. It took nearly an hour just to traverse the first two miles! 

At around mile three I came upon a split in the road.

Turn left for the half-marathon, turn right for the 10k. A choice between 3 more miles or 10 more miles. I was sorely tempted to cut the race short. The first three miles had taken well over an hour to complete…what if the remaining miles continued to be a mud bog?

But I wanted my chance at redemption – and the only way to achieve that was to slog through 10 more miles of mud if necessary.


Eventually, the trail dried out and became an enjoyable jog through the forest.


There were some good sized hills. But I had learned from my previous mistakes and I walked them instead of running up them. 

The trail took runners past the fish hatchery located in the middle of the Milo McIver State Park. I got to know this area well because I missed a turn along the running course and ended up running past the fish hatchery again! That little mistake added not quite a mile to my route. I learned an important lesson about not zoning out and always watching for trail markers during races like this.


Missed a trail marker and ended up having to backtrack, adding almost a mile to my already long run!


Once I was back on track the trail meandered around some beautiful meadows.


At times the trail became a narrow footpath weaving through the ferns and moss.


The reward for climbing the big hills was beautiful vistas of the Clackamas River.

Between the mud and getting lost it took me a long time to cross the finish line. But I made it!


Although I finished almost dead last (they were already packing up the celebratory beer and chili stand!), I finished. And best of all I didn’t have to stop to puke in the bushes along the way this time…so there’s that!


Denali…caked in mud and enjoying a well earned after-race snooze.


5 comments on “Redemption

  1. Are you two going to do the Chuckwagon this year? I checked the Mazamas site recently and did not see a date for it yet. It would be such fun to see each other again.
    Seattle Judy

  2. You continue to amaze and inspire me Michele. This is a wonderful story of coming back a second time to something that challenged, scared or was just a pain. Your mid race adjustments demonstrate your tenacity to get ‘er done. You had a positive attitude and an open mind. A good reminder for every day occurances. Nice race Girl!

  3. The mud looked absolutely awful & that’s so tough on the knees over a firm trail. So happy u stuck it out & finished the 1/2 marathon. That’s so Great! Bev

    • Thanks Bev. It was a great park – maybe a place to add to your list of places to visit for a nice day hike (in the summer, when the trails are dried out!).

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