I ran the state cross country course — and I would have finished behind every competitor

Here I am posing with the dip in the background after running Hereford High School’s cross country course on Sunday. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Eleven years ago, I ran Hereford High School’s cross country course at the Bull Run Invitational.

I ran cross country during my senior year. I was a lot faster in high school than I am now, but I didn’t make it to states. I covered the state meet for RunWashington on Saturday, Nov. 10 (read the story here), and since my mom and stepdad live so close to Hereford High School — less than 15 minutes — I figured I would return the next day to see how I fared on the course while it was still marked.

The answer was not that well. I came in more than 10 minutes above the time I posted in high school — which is an awful lot for a course that’s only three miles. In 2007, I ran the course in a time of 24:43, which is an 8:15 pace. I haven’t run that kind of time in years, even on a flat, paved course. I’m proud of my high school self!

I rarely run on grass, so that was going to slow me down from the beginning, even if there weren’t crazy hills — which there were. I remembered there was an infamous incline called “the dip,” but I didn’t remember that much about the course. It was a long time ago. This sounds crazy now, but I remember thinking the course wasn’t that bad.

If that was indeed something that I thought back in the day, I was wrong. This course was pretty brutal. I also lived in a hilly area growing up, but after living in Salisbury for the past decade, I’ve definitely become accustomed to the pancake-flatness of the Eastern Shore.

Although I did not have the environment of being in a race — which always helps me — when I ran the course on Sunday, Nov. 11, I did try to run the course at a fast pace. I went back to take a couple photos, but I didn’t stop for any photos as I ran. A mom and daughter had come out with the same idea, and they ran the course, too, arriving and starting a little after I did.

I figured I might be able to run the course in about 30 minutes. I ran the first mile in 10:14, which would have been relatively close if I could stay consistent for each mile. However, the first mile wasn’t anywhere near as hilly as the other two.

Here is the dip. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The dip presented an interesting challenge on the downhill. It was extremely muddy — there had been eight races run the previous day, with the different school divisions, so that probably had an impact — and I slipped and fell, sliding a little bit down the hill. This, of course, slowed me down. I wasn’t hurt, but I didn’t want to keep sliding. I also had a bunch of mud all over one of my hands, and I tried to get at least the worst of that off.

Right after that was a steep incline. I logged the second mile in 13:25 — clearly not helped by the fall and sliding. There were also some hilly areas where I walked.

Although the last mile included going up the dip — where I actually fell again in the mud trying to go up — I was able to improve over the previous mile, running it in 11:41.

Although I think I stayed on the course for most of my run, I did mess up the end because I didn’t see a marking for where exactly to go to the finish — that would have been obvious on race day. There was also one other spot I wasn’t sure which way to go, but both inclines seemed to go to the same location.

When I stopped my watch — something I did not have back in 2007 — my time was 35:24, an 11:47 pace.

Every high school competitor who finished the race would have beaten me. There were eight races, with each division’s boys and girls running separately, and there were 1,165 finishers.

I checked the results, and the slowest time that I found was 32:47 in the girls’ 1A race. Across the eight races, there were also one Did Not Finish, five disqualifications and two times with an X — but even those times with an X were ahead of mine.

All of the boys’ winners ran their races in less than half the time that it took me (the times, for 4A through 1A, respectively, were 15:44, 16:16, 15:58 and 16:36). All of the girls’ winners had finished the race before I reached the two-mile mark (4A through 1A times, respectively, were 19:06, 18:59, 19:38 and 20:52). The results can all be found here — but you should also check out my story for more.

Running the course definitely gave me more perspective on the event I’d covered, and the runners’ times, which were already impressive, became even more impressive.

I will say that I did go out for my sister’s birthday the night before, but I don’t know how much that actually affected me. Probably not very much.

Maybe I’ll see if I can run this course again next year and if I can at least get my time closer to 30 minutes. I definitely think I could improve my time if I didn’t slide on the mud. It might be a good place for some hill training when I’m visiting my family, too.

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