Beckley Half Marathon & Rafting the Gauley River (Day 3)


For some reason I always sleep terribly before a race, and the night before the Beckley Half Marathon was no exception. I tossed and turned and finally got up at 6:45am. Kat had been planning on joining me to cheer me at the finish, but she also slept poorly and decided to get a little more sleep before another day of driving.

I arrived at the starting line with plenty of time to spare, and feeling pretty good despite my lack of sleep. The weather was cool and comfortable, although I could tell it was going to warm up quickly. My legs had been a little stiff all week after running the Surftown Half Marathon in Rhode Island the previous weekend, then spending eight hours in the car, but the foam rolling seemed to have done the trick. I was ready to run!

Start line Beckley West Virginia Half Marathon.
(Photo from Appalachian Timing Group.)

It only took about a mile for me to realize the West Virginia hills I’d been worrying about were about to kick my butt. I settled in for the long haul, determined to enjoy the scenery and the beautiful morning.

I felt good until about mile 10, at which point I was getting pretty warm, my traitorous left leg was starting to flare up, and the hills seemed to grow exponentially. My mile pace slowed to a crawl, but I powered up the final hills to a Journey soundtrack and ended up finishing in 2:34:22. I’ve never been so relieved to see a finish line!

I returned to the hotel to where Kat seemed much happier with the extra sleep she’d gotten. Then it was back in the car – this time, another five hour drive to Mason, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati where I’d be checking another state off my goal of running a race in all 50 states.

We made good time to Mason, and I knew I’d chosen a good hotel when the exit had signs for both Dunkin Donuts and Chipotle. Our room at the Best Western Mason Inn was small but modern, clean, and comfortable. We scoped out the location of my 5K the next morning, then picked up dinner and headed back to the hotel. Tonight’s plans included a hot bath for my grouchy legs and another round of Lifetime movies. (I know, I’m not sure how Kat handles having such an exciting big sister.)


By way of background, I spent this summer as a raft guide on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, which top out at Class 3 rapids. Class 3s are awesome and exciting, but not overly huge or dangerous.  My trip today was on the Gauley River during one of their annual dam release days during which the Gauley becomes a Class 5 (and sometimes even Class 6) river.

And it. Was. Awesome. Miles and miles of Classes 3,4, and 5, fifteen foot waterfalls, huge rocks — it was amazing. If you ever get the chance, you should do it.

Today was the perfect capstone to my summer: Rafted huge rapids with my friends/fellow raft guides from this summer, made some new friends, saw some insane boats doing insane things on the river, and only thought I was going to die once! I’ll call it a win/win.


I’m the oldest of 12 crazy kids and two pretty awesome parents. My love of travel developed during my early years traveling the globe as an Air Force brat. I’m a runner, a writer, and a reader, and I love cooking up good food and cozying up our camper.

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