When I lined up at the start and looked around, I was already bracing for the half-hearted humiliating cheers that were sure to greet me when I eventually trotted across the finish line.
The 50-or-so participants in the James Madison Eta Sigma Gamma race to benefit Habitat for Humanity were largely undergrad women in decent physical shape. I figured I might finish first in my age group (if there had actually been age groups), in the top five in my gender AND last overall. As it was, about 10 opted to walk most of the way, so my 11-minutish pace was good for a slightly behind the middle of the pack finish and only a few bogus congrats.
JMU, in Harrisonburg, has nearly 20,000 students, making it the 7th biggest university in the state. Originally an all-girls school, U.S. News & World Report has ranked it the top master-level public university in the south and third overall for 16 straight years.
The 712-acre campus has grown dramatically over the last 20 years. The 5K course went up and down the hill that makes up the recently added west campus, with views of athletic fields, campus buildings, an arboretum, solar panels, the 25,000-seat football stadium and the ever-present Interstate 81.
It was a good warm-up for my second run of the day, a series of rolling hills at Massenutten Resort about 10 miles east of Harrisonburg on Route 33 in Rockingham County. Opened in 1973 as a ski area, it is now a year-round resort with golf, ski and swimming. My improvised 4-mile route followed a small paved road by a golf course, horse pastures and small farms.
The resort is just one of many outdoor options in the third largest county in Virginia. Rockingham’s 853 square miles include large sections of Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest. It also leads the state in poultry production.
14 runs down, 120 to go.
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