A half-mile from the finish line at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., rests the state’s most feared incline in the minds of most cross country runners.
Suicide Hill, as it is lovingly referred to, is dreaded as much for its steepness and sneaky turn half way up that fools novices into believing they’re near the top as it is for its location close to the finish line. Many a talented runner has had championship or state medalist dreams shattered by this strength-sapping hill.
Still, Suicide Hill has nothing on the inclines at Wyandotte County Lake Park — site of the Kansas City Trail Nerds’ Veteran’s Day Fantastic 4-Mile Trail Run this morning.
After spending the past couple six or eight weeks running with the Nerds on Wednesdays at Shawnee Mission Park and mixing in runs of my own two or three more times during the rest of the week, I figured I could handle four miles with no problem.
The goal was to finish, not to win the thing.
Less than a mile in, however, I began to wonder exactly how I’d be getting back to the starting/finishing line.
In addition to going out a bit too fast (as usual), we quickly found ourselves ascending a steep, rocky incline with tricky footing that turned a once-comfortable pace into an awkward stumble upward. Moments later, we weaved our way back down a steep grade on the other side that was covered with large, loose rocks. The trend repeated itself about three or four more times before reaching the turnaround point where — after a quick cup of water — it was right back up another hill as we did the whole thing in reverse.
The only reprieve for weary legs was that some areas were so steep and rocky that it was nearly impossible not to slow to a walk for 30 or 45 seconds simply to avoid falling.
Finally, after hopping over a creek and settling back into my pace during a level, clear stretch, another steep, rocky downhill section emerged. I lost my balance after a bad footing, and picked up speed on the hill to avoid falling. I went with it, expecting the momentum to carry me out of the woods and back to the finish line — only I’d forgotten there was still one more open stretch, then another 50 meters back into the woods. My legs kept pumping through all of it, and soon I burst out into the open, only to be greeted by one last hill.
Normally a mild, grassy hill, it felt like a 14er thanks to the wear and tear of the previous four miles. Fortunately it only required one more quick burst to the top, and then it was on to the finish line.
The Trail Nerds’ Web site advertises the course as “one of the toughest 4-milers that you’ll ever run.” They weren’t kidding.
Compared to this, Suicide Hill is a piece of cake.
Place: 34th out of 107 people