Last year, shortly after we moved to North Carolina, my husband ran the infamous Quest for the Crest Vertical 10K, which has been dubbed the world’s hardest 10K. The day dawned cold and rainy, and many runners were DNS (did not start) that day. I usually cheer my husband on at his races, but the Quest for the Crest is fairly remote, and the start and finish lines can only be accessed by shuttle bus. When J came home muddy, tired, and smiling, he told me all about the race, including his experience sitting on the shuttle bus waiting for a ride back to his car. The cut off time for the race was 4 hours, and the last runner to cross the line with only 33 seconds to spare. As she boarded the bus, all of the other finishers started clapping for her. Here’s her story of her Quest for the Crest race day.
Name: Christine Williams
DFL at: Quest for the Crest 10K
Official Time: 3:59:27
Cut off: 4 hours
Race director: Sean Blanton, Run Bum Tours
Had you run many races before tackling the world’s hardest 10K?
That was my longest race up until that point. I saw the race online and wanted to run it, but it fills up fast and registration was full before I got a chance to sign up. Then nine spots opened up, and I snagged one. I tried to recruit a few friends to run it with me, but to no avail. So I ran it alone.
Were you tempted to quit before the race even started when you saw the weather report?
RunBum is really cool, the race director, Sean, posts live updates on Facebook everyday leading up to the race, so I expected it to be wet and rainy-. The weather was not a surprise. Sean is really awesome at preparing people.
I camped the night before, and it rained cats and dogs. I was afraid my tent might float away while I was running! I have to admit, I had second thoughts for a moment, but then I decided that I need to at least get up and get my t-shirt. And if I’m going to do that, I need to get dressed, and if I’m getting dressed, I might as well run my race. Self-talk is what got me through that race.
What’s the best advice you got before running the race?
Sean told us, “Don’t try to be cute and sidestep the puddles and hurt yourself. Just go through them. You know you’re going to get wet. You know you’re going to get dirty. Just go for it.”
How did you train for the race?
As part of my training, I hiked/ran 11 miles the previous Saturday, and did 8 more miles the next day. So psychologically, I knew I could cover the distance.
What kept you motivated during the race?
I knew I was at the very back of the pack when we started. Part way up, there’s a false peak, and I stopped to take a picture of the view. When I started up again, I heard voices behind me. To my dismay, I realized it was the sweepers. The trail zig zags, and I could hear them because they were below me. So my main motivation was to stay ahead of them. They almost caught me one time near the top. Icalled out, “Are you the sweepers?” and they replied, “Yes, we are. Are you okay?”
I assured them that I was fine and kept going. When I got to the top I waved to the emergency workers, staff, and volunteers. The sweepers stopped at the aid station, so that gave me a bit of a head start on the way down.
I have friends in the service and Marines, so I thought of them when it got hard, and I remembered the staff seargants I saw on an ROTC field trip once at Paris Island. I sang military songs in my head to keep me going.
How was the downhill?
The 4 mile downhill was tremendous- it was wet, muddy, rocky, slippery, and you had to look out for tree roots. Once I started going downhill, I knew I was going to finish, I just needed to stay ahead of those sweepers. I only stopped once to tie my shoe, and I didn’t take a minute to look at the time, I didn’t want to know. I just kept going. I knew I was doing my utmost best.
In the last little stretch I could see Sean across a creek. He was out there cheering for me, telling me I can make it. He high-fived me at the finish, and I found out I’d only had 33 seconds to spare. I was elated.
What was your favorite part of the race?
Everyone was so encouraging of each other. I made friends on the bus that I still talk to today. I think everyone could benefit from the experience of facing adversity and being supported in the face of a challenge.
If someone is thinking about running the Quest for the Crest Vertical 10K, what should they know?
Make sure you can do the distance first. Going into the race, I felt confident because I had trained and ran and hiked, so I knew I could get up the mountain, I just wasn’t sure how fast.
That first initial hill is really tough.Try stair climbing or any kind of hill workout to get ready. I’ve run up amphitheater stairs as part of my training.
If I were to do it again, I’d double up on the amount of trail running and hiking I did beforehand so that my legs would know what to do. The downhill is the easy part. It’s long and stresses your joints, but the uphill is what you really need to train for.