First in Reverse or Last Mule to the Barn

“It hurts up to a point and then it doesn’t get any worse.”

~ Ann Trason ~


First in Reverse or Last Mule to the Barn


Yesterday I ran my first 25K trail run. It was a race for some, but for me it was a run with the intention of working on my mental attitude when things get tough. To be completely honest I should have done more long runs in my training; nevertheless, I had a decent base to accomplish my goal of finishing without getting frustrated.

Before the race started I was talking with my wife and Bob about how many really good runners were in this race. It was clear that they were going to push the front of the pack along. I joked that they would be home showered with their feet up when I finished and I hoped not to be last but if I was, so be it. I received some advice from Eric Orton to be patient for the first 20K and try to blast the last 5K. So why not give it a try.

The start came and I held back because I did not want to get caught up in the initial push. We headed up Sander’s Mound and back down knowing that this would have to be done again at the end of the race. For the first few miles I settled into a comfortable pace with a small group and I was hoping we could stay together for most of the distance. Then we came to the first aid station which was also the 10K turnaround and I was not going to stop. One person in the group was doing the 10K and another was going to look for a band aid, so I stayed on the trail but hesitated since I didn’t know if they were all stopping. Two turned and two went past me.  I realized I didn’t know who was who because they were behind me and I did not know what they looked like. I waited for a minute and went on, and would be on my own for a while.

 I knew I was near the back of the pack but I worked to stay focused and keep my pace. After the halfway point I stuck an earbud in my right ear and turned on my trusty old ipod shuffle.  At that point I started walking the hills and running the flat and downhill sections (I turned off the ipod with a couple of miles left to focus on what I was doing).  By mile 12 I was now pretty sure that I was the last runner out there and was having some muscle spasms in my legs. I thought of the quote at the top of this page and knew that I was hurting but it was not going to get worse so I kept pushing on.

The intended blasting of the last 5K turned into determined forward progress. I came around the corner almost to mile 14 and in my head I was saying “Talk to me Goose”.  I looked up and saw my wife and one of the photographers from Mile90 photography ( They were a sight for sore eyes and tired legs and gave me encouragement as I approached. I smiled at Kristen and said “what was that we were talking about being the last mule to the barn?”

Now I came out to the turn that would lead me down the hill and up to the top of Sander’s Mound for the last time; then it was time for the home stretch back down and up two more hills to the finish. At the top of the mound I allowed myself a little celebratory moment throwing my arms in the air Rocky style. I thanked the photographer for waiting for me and headed for the finish.

As I came up the last hill I saw my wife again and glanced at the nearly empty parking lot. I turned the last corner to a small but enthusiastic group of people cheering me in. I am pleased with my run and my longest trail event to date. Mostly I was able to work through some things that previously led to an unhappy death march to the finish. Even though I finished last, I actually feel better about the effort in this run than I have in other races. Thank you to everyone’s support and encouragement along the way. 

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Comment by Eric Welsh on December 5, 2014 at 8:09am

Thank you Allen. I like to tell people that I am running back here to make sure everyone gets off the trail safely! 

Comment by Allen Rothery on December 4, 2014 at 10:40am
Great effort, And great story. Thanks for providing some inspiration to this mule.
Comment by Eric Welsh on November 25, 2014 at 6:35am

Thank you Robert! It was a good day. The night after the run I was trying to find a semi comfortable position to sleep and my wife asked if I wanted an ice pack. I laughed and told her I had no idea where I would put it unless she had a really big one. 

Comment by Robert Burpee on November 25, 2014 at 3:46am
Congratulations Eric, well deserved, you overcame & prospered, where you finished does not matter, what matters is you found a way, now for the next one. Thanks for sharing
Comment by Eric Welsh on November 24, 2014 at 12:55pm

Thank you Carolynn! It has been my intention since starting my blog to be honest and share my successes and failures. it is sometimes funny how blurred the line can be between them. 

Comment by Carolynn on November 24, 2014 at 11:26am
Thanks for sharing your story. I am very moved. I hope to be able to do as well as you some day !
Comment by Lori Enlow on November 24, 2014 at 9:16am
Comment by Eric Welsh on November 24, 2014 at 9:05am

Thank you so much! It is strange to think of being pleased with a last place finish but I am happy with this run. As for the pictures; Mile90 does a great job and let's face it, I had them all to myself at the end.  ;)

Comment by Lori Enlow on November 24, 2014 at 8:21am

Awesome work! Great pics too! Congratulations, sounds like you had a really good race and had the willingness to "run your own race" which is sooooo crucial. In many cases giving in to ego early on is what leads to the death march, you overcame ego, a HUGE success and stepping stone in ultras. You will do well in the ultra world! Work to your own success, not anyone elses.

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