Once again, I tackled Salisbury’s toughest trail during the Naylor Mill 7K

Female runner sprinting toward the finish line of a race as a man cheers her on.
Here I am finishing the Naylor Mill 7K. (Craig Young photo)

Although summer is my least favorite season in which to run and race, I’ve run every Naylor Mill 7K that’s taken place so far, and I’m not about to stop now.

This race — the Bacon vs. Scrapple run — is always on a Friday evening in August at the Naylor Mill Forest Trail in Salisbury. Although the trail is Salisbury’s hilliest, most difficult single-track trail, I find myself doing this race year after year because it is fun — and it’s close to my house, too, so it’s easy to fit into my schedule. I’m now one of only a few people who has run it every year, so I also feel I have to keep the streak going.

After an extremely hot Naylor Mill 7K in 2021, this year’s race, on Aug. 12, was much cooler, with a temperature of 82 degrees (“feels like” 83). Although this course is always tough, I actually felt like this year’s race went by the fastest and involved the least amount of struggling.

It’s hard to compare times for this race, because the course often changes — it was slightly different than last year — and I think the distance has changed as well. I really struggled during the Naylor Mill Tour de Salisbury segment, so I wanted to beat my time from that and also beat last year’s race time. However, I did know I wouldn’t be too fast on this trail.

Female runner in bright yellow tank top running on a trail in the woods.
Here I am on the trail, right before the aid station. (Nikki Rittling photo)

Although the courses weren’t the same, it took me 1:22:43 to complete the race this year and 1:28:01 to complete the race last year. The 7K course also did not cover the entire Tour de Salisbury segment, but my average pace was faster (18:36/mile for the Tour vs. 17:31/mile for the Naylor Mill 7K). The Naylor Mill 7K also included about a half-mile around the baseball/softball fields at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex before the trail portion, which helped spread people out and get runners into the right place in the crowd, and also allowed us to go at a faster pace during that section.

I felt like I landed in a great spot after the beginning portion — I was passed by a few people, but for the most part, I was pretty much on my own between other runners while we were on the trails.

After a couple miles, I came across the aid station that Michelle and Nikki were working, and had my water bottle refilled. Right after that was a splash zone, where Otto sprayed me with a water gun — very refreshing!

Vanessa Junkin takes a selfie holding bacon.
Here I am with some post-race bacon.

The trails were cleared out and extremely well-marked, making it simple to stay on the path and go in the right direction, even if there wasn’t someone super close in front of me. I did notice some new hills, including one super steep one, with the pink arrow marking sprayed on the dirt mound. I walked up most of the hills.

In this race, the trails are so twisty that you end up seeing people running in all kinds of directions. You’ll see people that you knew were in front of you heading back toward you, and the same for people who are behind you.

Unfortunately, I also had a cough that kept my place in the line recognizable. This was not a covid cough; it’s been going on for years and I’ve been trying to figure it out — I have another doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Despite the cough, I really didn’t feel too bad.

I spent most of the race not far behind the same runner who I was also right behind at the RRCA Club Challenge in February — Michelle, from the Kent Island Running Group (a different Michelle than the one at the aid station). I got to meet several runners from the Kent Island Running Group at this race, which was the evening before the Eastern Shore Running Club and Kent Island Running Group met up for a group run at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. I also saw plenty of ESRC friends.

Photo of Vanessa Junkin, wearing running clothes, standing under the Algonquin Ultras inflatable arch.
Here I am after finishing the race.

Prior to the race, participants choose to participate on Team Bacon, Team Scrapple or Team Veggie, and the places of the Top 10 runners from each team count toward the team points. I knew I wouldn’t be in the Top 10, but I’ve run as part of Team Bacon each year.

Once I exited the trail, there was a stretch on grass and sidewalk. Once I got onto this much easier terrain, I had a decent amount of energy left and really picked up the pace. I ended up finishing toward the end — 93rd of 104, but that’s OK.

After finishing, my friend Lisa handed me an ice pop and a water bottle, and I also had some bacon. Once again, I’d conquered the tough trails. It was fun, as always, and I really enjoyed the cooler summer weather. Swag included a National Forest-themed shirt, sticker and custom race bib. I’m planning to keep up the streak next year!

Splits

Mile 1: 12:55
Mile 2: 19:29
Mile 3: 20:12
Mile 4: 19:45
Last part (watch had .72): 10:16 / 14:16 pace
Time on watch: 1:22:39 for 4.72 miles / 17:30 pace
Time on results: 1:22:43

Read my BibRave review — and write your own — here!

Vanessa Junkin stands outside in a light yellow Naylor Mill 7K shirt and jean shorts.
Here I am in my race shirt.

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