With a bit more than 3 kilometers to go, I look over my shoulders in those dark, sparkling eyes. She’s smiling. That happy, naughty smile that always sends butterflies to my stomach. We’re running over small, muddy single tracks. Up and down sand dunes and she’s having fun. Lots of fun, at this Eindejaarstrail (End of the Year Trail) in Giersbergen, the Netherlands.
The trail is beautiful. Pine trees, a few wide forest paths, but mostly small single tracks, either soggy or covered in pine needles. The smaller the path, the more fun Sara has. Same for the trees that have fallen over, and are blocking the path. The more she has to jump over them, or crawl underneath them, the more fun she has.
All the climbs, all the fallen trees on the path, are making this trail beautiful, but not easy. Maybe only the start was. We had a mass start. That doesn’t always work on trail runs. However, it could have worked here, because the first paths were nice, wide paths. Wide enough to overtake for the fast runners. That is, if those paths still would have been paths. But they weren’t. They were little waterways.
In summer trail runners are always happy to do river crossings. Seemingly not in winter, because everybody was trying to walk on the side of the path to keep their feet dry. Which meant a little cue at the start.
Okay for us. The Eindejaarstrail is Sara’s longest run ever. She’s done 10 kilometers, never a 12,5 trail run. But so far, so good. We only walked a couple of times, when the hills were steep, or when lots of runners before us started to walk, because of the amount of fallen trees on the path. For the rest, she’s been running it all.
And that on a breakfast of chocolate marble cake, a hard boiled egg and focaccia. Probably not the best race food. Although the cake had a chocolate topping and candles on them. But still… A noodle soup might have been better, but how do you put 44 candles on a noodle soup?
See, today is a special day. It’s her birthday, and you can’t start your birthday with noodle soup for breakfast. Pancakes? Maybe, if you’re not Italian. But if you are, cake is the perfect start of the day. Followed by focaccia.
Maybe it’s the magic focaccia, maybe it’s the gel Sara took after 7 kilometers, but now, with 2 kilometers to go, she’s still going strong. Her left knee protests a bit, but it’s in good company, as mine does the same.
It’s not just our knees that are in good company at the Eindejaarstrail. We are as well. People who are passing us, people we are passing, all make a little chat. It’s one of the nice things off trail running. Hardly anybody is here to run fast. Almost everybody is here to have a good time, to enjoy being in nature.
Her first medal ever
With just 300 meters to go, I give Sara a kiss and leave her on her own. Quickly I sprint to the finish, grab my camera and film Sara’s last meters. As soon as she’s over the finish line Jeannette Smelt, vice president of the organizing foundation, hangs a medal around her neck – her first one ever – and gives her a big hug. A well deserved hug for running her longest trail ever. And that at age 44.