by Eva Basehart
They say you don’t know a person until you run a mile in his shoes. I’m not sure about that, but I do know about running a mile over and over again for 6- 12- 24- 48- or 72 hours. Three Days at the Fair is a timed race around a one mile course. To date I have run this mile 466 times, including 115 over the weekend of May 14. I have it memorized. It may sound monotonous, but there is comfort in knowing the trail. Let me take you on a little tour of the race:
Start/Finish – This is the happiest place on the course. It features the one aid station. They are known to cook to order and deliver hot food right on to the course. Nothing beats hot chocolate chip cookies at 2 am!
The “Hill” – this thing grows exponentially from barely noticeable to OMG! Before you tackle the hill you have the choice of stepping a few feet off course to hit the bathrooms or simply continue on.
Tent City – Turn right at the hill, take a few steps, turn left for a few more, then one more right. Some of the superstars camp here.
Out and Back – Many of the campers set up here. This is where you will find “crowd support”—friends and family supporting runners are housed here. You are likely to find someone playing guitar, passing out ice or simply cheering. The out and back culminates in the garbage can musical chair turn-around. It can be humorous watching runners hug this corner to get momentum.
The Downhill Slide – Once you round the garbage can, you run down the slightly downward pitch straightaway. Most try to run here. You will go by the chicken coop. These roosters are often confused by the time, and will crow at all hours.
Right at the Fence – Take a few steps, go through the gates and watch out for cars.
Ouch – After a few steps, take a sharp left, and no more than three steps over a rocky, sandy area. This transition from pavement to dirt hurts every time. Yes, every time.
Round the Bend – You next spend about a quarter mile going around a bend. The bend is marked with an odd assortment of lawn ornaments. Apparently the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 marks are also indicated. I didn’t learn this tidbit until I had been around over 400 times. Here are some of the lawn ornaments:
Stained Glass Dinosaurs – Back to running.
Angry Birds Part 1 – Many start to slow their pace here.
Angry Birds Part 2 – Lots of walking happening.
Stained Glass Fish – Paces begin to pick up again.
Kung Fu Santa – A marker for many to begin running again.
Cyclops Squirrel – Entry to the long straightaway back, and a character that will enter my nightmares.
Old Bitty Owl – Keep moving
Seen-Better-Days Puppy – The straightaway is ending.
Quiet Zone – The one turn on the course. Yes, I’ve missed it, but shouldn’t have as it is very well marked.
Grass/Gravel Straightaway – Relief for the feet and often a chance to view a horse show.
Back to Gravel – Turn left and go back on the pavement. Run past the barns where less adventurous campers hang out. Start thinking about what you want at the aid station
Heavenly Left – Make the turn and you are back at the Start/Finish. You just have to grind up a very small incline.
I have learned to love this course. What it lacks in diversity it makes up for in many other ways. Aside from the logistics of not having to carry any gear, as you are never more than a mile from aid, you get to watch some amazing human spirit quests. I can think of no where else you can share the same trail as a man setting the 72 hour world record, a Barkley finisher, a heavy grandmotherly-looking lady completing a marathon, a smarty-pants walking encylopedia, friends working hard and hanging out, a special lady I watched come close to finishing 100 miles several times who finally did it, and a multitude of others endeavoring to get out of their comfort zones.
As a group we battled sun, rain, wind, cold and a Relay for Life with horrible music. Spirits soared, crashed and were resurrected. Friendships were built and strengthened, while bodies were beat up and torn down.
I was never alone. I could always see another runner, and was often buoyed by their journeys. I was supported by those with me and by those who reached out to me, all helping me dig deep within myself to go the extra mile.