By Daven Oskvig
A lingering soreness tells the story of what was faced, though even the time that has passed still leaves a struggle to process it. Things began with thick fog reflecting back the individual lights of participants peering for the path through dense clouds. Many had spent restless nights in school gym, tent, and local lodging curious about course conditions given some rain through the week prior. While trail conditions proved largely unaffected by precipitation under the canopy of branches, none predicted this cloud cover. It held strongly to the trail and river valley fighting the morning sun for real estate and shrouding those upon it.
While autumn’s display remained hidden beneath this cloak of cloud, eventually it lost this battle as the sun rose high revealing a hidden display of color. A few vantage points provide runners a moment to revel in it, but mostly this would be reserved to crew, spectators, and volunteers. Runners would ultimately come to know fall more intimately beneath the trees and under foot. For them, colors came to life as the light changed from headlamp to dawn, midday to afternoon, dusk to dark, and for some back to dawn. The spectrum varied like a box of crayons with changing light on ridge, in sky, on head, and under foot.
While this spectacle is an incredible testament to a unique seasonal moment, even more is the community on display. There is the community of runners sharing the trail and their toil. There is the community of crew and family sharing the back-and-forth race between start/finish and aid 2 halfway through each 50km loop. And there is the community of Titusville, PA. They truly show up, giving generously and freely of their time to run aid stations, cheer, and offer help. They open their school, businesses, lives, and hearts for this undertaking far outside what could be defined as normal. This is a witness to the unparalleled dedication of an RD who coordinates this event in concert with this community. As much as October’s best colors in full array or an incredible trail littered with history and marked to perfection should be reason enough to choose this race, this collection of communities is the ultimate reason to partake of this offering.
Pausing on swinging bridge with only a few miles to go looking up into a sea of stars twinkling back in a clear crisp autumn night, a wish is cast/a dream already realized. A sweet victory has already come sharing this day with these communities (racers, crew, family, town/area/region) perhaps the only success that truly matters. Nonetheless there is a mutter “I wish I may, I wish I might … Finish this race this night” and perhaps a second “I wish I may, I wish I might … Have this experience, be part of these communities another night.” And then into the dark abyss of the night they go to “strike oil or move on.”