Over the River and Through the Woods…

I think the internal conversation went something like this: “Ok, this is crazy. What am I doing here? I should be in bed. In my warm, cozy bed, wrapped up my down comforter, awakening to the smell of fresh cooked bacon and eggs brought to my bedside.”

Ok, so maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.

There I was, at 8:45 on a cold, foggy, damp late November Saturday morning with almost 7,500 other people, crowded on a narrow farm road waiting for the starting gun to sound. By choice. Usually I don’t operate well before 9:00AM, but on Saturdays any interaction before 10:30 is probably for the worse. Yet, there I was, and that starting gun would signal the beginning of my first cross country race since my freshman year at VMI. So how did I get here?

Well, for starters, I guess I can thank the Wii Fit.

This past spring, Missy and I finally bought the Wii Fit to expand our tiny collection of Wii games. We had actually been looking for the Wii Fit for some time, but every time we went to look, the store was sold out. Anyway, that’s beside the point. We had the fam over dinner one evening and wanted to show off our new toy…so of course, I had to demonstrate! If you’ve never played the Wii Fit, you are asked to do fitness test before you get into the actual exercises…and well…to make this long story short, the stupid Wii Fit told me I was fat and over weight! In front of everyone! Thoroughly humiliated, I vowed that this would never happen again!

So, I knew that I wanted to lose weight, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to do it. I’m not a big fan of lifting weights or going to the gym, and I didn’t really want to diet or stop drinking beer and eating pizza, so that left one thing…running.

I started taking running seriously in high school. I was a band nerd throughout middle school and high school, but by junior year I was itching to expand my horizons. Football was out, and Soccer wasn’t an really an option either, so if I wanted to do a fall sport, my options thus were limited to Cross Country and, um…Women’s Volleyball. So, I chose Cross Country, but by the end of the first practice I was questioning my decision. None-the-less, I ended up actually being pretty good at it, especially for never once running competitively before then!

That skinny mug in the red, center frame, is yours truly, circa 2000...

Back to the future: the week after the “Wii Fit Incident” I went out and bought a new pair of kicks and committed to a schedule. My personal goal was to run three times a week. Distance was to be determined on how I felt…but soon enough I started finding my rhythm again and by the middle of summer I was knocking out three and four milers, no sweat.

I started looking around for more action, and a few of my high school guys from Ignition mentioned that there was an amazing cross country race in November that we all needed to do…seven miles through woods, over streams, and up muddy hills. Sign me up, I said!

Famous last words, I suppose.

The race they were refering to was the Living History Farms cross country race, seven miles of pure outdoor excitement. “North America’s Largest”. That, my friends, how I willingly ended up outside at 8:45AM on a cold, foggy, damp Saturday morning in November. This isn’t just your typical cross country race. This race literally takes you over land, under the interstate, up muddy hills, and through frigid, knee-deep streams…

None of these racers are me, but this pretty much gives you the idea...

…much like that.

The three of us, myself, Nick Lucs, and Jacob Havel, made a team and entered as “The Big Gulps”. I made t-shirts (that’s another story for another day), gathered the troops at my place just after 7:00AM, and made it to Living History Farms just after 8:00. The crowd was awesome…people dressed up in costumes, loin cloths, leisure suits, and old prom dresses were all over the place. It was one big (and very early) party…check out more pictures here!

The race was absolutely amazing, and I had the time of my life! It was so much fun…the weather was great (it could have been a lot worse for late November) and the fog created a surreal atmosphere…you couldn’t see where you were going, so you just had to keep running! I was soaked, cold, and muddy by then end, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Sign me up for next year!!

Post race attire was quite muddy.

Team Big Gulps, post race, and ready to get clean!

So for now, I think I’m going to keep up with this running thing. I might need to join a gym, just so I don’t feel like a creature of the night when I run in the dark after work. Maybe a 1/2 marathon, or even a full one might be in my future, but we shall see…I will make sure to keep you posted!

Oh, and for the record, I’ve dropped over 15 pounds…take that, Wii Fit!!

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About Tom Hardinge

Loving husband to my wife Missy, loving father to my four daughters Sienna, Rowan, Jovie, and Lola. I'm a chronic over-packer who loves good coffee, good music, running, waffle tee's, fleece pants, and Jesus Christ!

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