Running around Tahoe
By David BunkerAfter several months of lackluster training, Saturday was the big day to prove that my legs could still propel me 26.2 miles without falling off.
My finishing time of four hours and 12 minutes in the Lake Tahoe Marathon was decidedly mediocre, but there’s nothing quite as spectacular as running from Tahoe City to South Lake Tahoe on a crisp fall morning … and into the afternoon.And the Tahoe run had a lot to live up to, since my last marathon was the Big Sur, which winds through some of the most dramatic twists and turns of Highway 1, California’s famous coastal route. Saturday’s competition delivered in altitude, leg-withering climbs and incomparable views. Cruising by the pebbled beaches near Tahoe Pines led to heart-pounding climbs up and around Emerald Bay. The day was magnificent, and a strategically-placed bagpiper on the top of the race’s longest hill truly rounded things out, urging runners through the final stages of the marathon.
Tahoe’s fall beauty was on display along the course. As the starting gun fired, dark clouds still hung over the south shore while early sunlight bathed Commons Beach. But the clouds cleared as the line of runners progressed toward South Lake Tahoe, and a light wind stirred the multi-colored aspen and birch leaves. The last few miles following Emerald Bay seemed eternal. It’s the point where, if you haven’t trained adequately, your body begins to let you know. As I descended the switchbacked curves of state Route 89 near Cascade Lake, my legs had just about had enough. My fellow marathoners, who had been chatty at earlier stages of the race, fell quiet. And the aid stations, which were giving out energy gel and water before, were now handing out Advil tablets by the hundreds. I had reached the cruel finishing miles of the marathon.I pushed myself over the wooden bridge spanning Taylor Creek, where the Kokanee salmon were engaged in their own marathon up from Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake. And then I caught a whiff of the finish line beer wagon less than a mile ahead. The smell of rich, amber hops, wafting on the breeze, carried me through to the finish line.
Collapsed on the sand at Pope Beach, surrounded by groaning finishers, I looked across the lake to where the race began four hours earlier. And it felt good to trace my eyes along the beautiful shoreline and realize that I had run all that way. And my legs didn’t fall off.Sierra Sun reporter David Bunker walked up the office stairs a bit more slowly than usual on Monday.