From time to time it’s nice to take a break from the world of OCR, and to instead challenge myself in a new way. And although there are a slew of local road races to choose between, there’s something quite refreshing, and almost therapeutic, about tackling an off-road adventure and experiencing the beauty and mystery of the tangled Florida trails.
Although the Masters Of All Terrain had not originally been on the race schedule, just weeks ago my husband brought to light the idea that we should take on a new endeavor. He eagerly came home one evening, proudly proclaiming that he had signed up for a race. Upon inquiring, he excitedly explained that he knew we had a free weekend coming up (which is rather rare in our household), and had decided it was finally time to take on a half marathon. And not just any half marathon, but a trail run that also required that participants carry 14% of their body weight throughout the course. Never one to back down from a challenge, I quickly signed up as well, and it was official, we were going to take on a half marathon ruck challenge.
Race weekend arrived, and before we had a chance to realize what we had gotten ourselves into, we found ourselves rising before the sun in a remote hotel in Sanford, Florida, about to spend a few quality hours with our ruck sacks out in the Florida wilderness.
The event was to begin at 6:30am, with all participants of the 5 mile, half and full marathon departing together. Those of us who had opted for the ruck challenge (offered for the half and full marathon only), greeted each other eagerly, excited, and perhaps a bit apprehensive, of the task ahead. The morning was comfortable, and the slightly overcast skies kept the heat of the rising sun at bay as we embarked.
The course itself wound us through the gorgeous trails of Seminole State Forest, and provided an endless opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views for those who took the time to enjoy the natural surroundings. The directors of Masters Of All Terrain truly have a knack for selecting some of the most beautiful locations for their trail runs, and the variation of single track trail winding through the woods, rolling hills (complete with energy sucking sugar sand) , and expanses of wide open fields kept the journey constantly interesting.
The miles rolled along, and although the weight of our ruck began to bear down on our shoulders, we proceeded with enthusiasm. Knowing we were not competing, but simply participating to finish, myself along with my husband and newfound friend Jillian enjoyed encouraging other runners, joking with volunteers, and taking many photo ops throughout the thirteen miles of our journey. And once the burden of our ruck sacks increased in intensity as we marched on, we pushed each other onward with a resolve to finish what we started.
We rejoiced upon crossing the finish line, feeling as though we had just conquered the world! The elated feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming, and we happily rested our weary bodies under the shade of several palm trees while cheering those completing the full marathon across the finish line.
This race itself was well thought out, and executed with precision and care. From the excellent pre-race communication, to the meticulously laid out course, not to mention the gorgeous medal and wood-carved medallion that were received upon finishing, this race was the kind of experience which ignites a fire in your soul to experience the high of accomplishment again. Just days after, my teammates and I are already talking about challenging ourselves at their next event (perhaps even taking on the 50K!), as we know that this race is one we don’t want to miss!
This was the second Masters Of All Terrain event I’ve had the pleasure of participating in, and they have yet to disappoint me in an way. I admire the passion of those behind the scenes, and the quality of their event proves that a lot of thought and care goes into making each race a memorable experience for each participant. Their next event is set for December 6th, and offers a 5 mile, half marathon (regular or ruck division), 50K, and 50 mile ultra event! I’m hoping to add this event to my upcoming race schedule, and highly recommend this as a quality trail event for those looking to get off-road but to forego the obstacles.
Perhaps I’ll see you there!