28 degrees in February is no harsh predicament on a day that promises no wind and the hope of 63 degrees of amiable sunshine. Frost decorated crisp fields as I approached my running destination with excitement. My legs blushed with the chill of winter and my arms rested snugly in a warm fleece. Cars lined a beautiful field and behind them was formed a parted sea of support tents, favorite snacks, and friendly spectators eagerly awaiting a good (long) adventure.
With our smiles ignoring future pain and embracing future glory, we departed the starting line for the first time. The loop was just shy of 1.7 miles of southern charm. A field gave way to a tunnel of regal pine trees. The golden pine needles cushioned each of our swift footsteps. The still frosty trail promptly wound around a hidden lake blanketed with ethereal fog. The sunrise pointed at us with such an angle as to give us a shadowy friend to run with. Massive trees stuck out of the water, gentle giants whose reflections waved serenely and steadily to each passerby.
The path pushed us on a delightfully slight downward incline into the kind woods. A creek flowed beside the trail, collecting cool droplets of frost that had just turned to liquid. And we trotted down into a harmonious scene of nature.
Quickly, the trail became a celebratory finish line and it was our trustworthy mission to begin another lap of all the strength and speed we could muster.
This beautiful cycle continued for all the laps one could handle in 24 hours or fewer. Perhaps weariness made it seem less beautiful lap by lap as participants became (not ironically) delirious on account of running. But the mental effects of exhaustion could not subtract from the inherent and actual beauty that existed along the trail.
The company was just as warm and pleasant. There were no rotten egos or viciously competitive agendas, but we were encouraged, gregarious, safe, and in good hands. I met some of the friendliest people. The kind who effortlessly exhale a greeting of "Great Job!" to every runner they pass, mile after tiring mile.
And although it was the last year for this well-loved and well-organized event, the perfect weather waved its sincere farewell. And the best was saved for last.