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Rothrock Trail Challenge Tests Physical and Mental Strength

by on June 09, 2014 2:07 PM

There were plenty of exciting events in the State College area over the weekend, like the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, First Friday in the downtown area and the Celtic Fest at Tussey Mountain.

But there was also another event, under the radar, that drew more than 300 participants from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Ohio and California.

It was the Rothrock Trail Challenge that kicked off at 7 a.m. Saturday at Tussey Mountain and led trailrunners and hikers through 18.6 miles of mountain trails through Rothrock State Forest testing participants both physically and mentally along the way.

To be clear, we're not talking about paved paths or rails-to-trails routes. We're talking about rocky, muddy tracks with streams and slick log "bridges" and the fear of snakes along the way.

We're talking about trails where the only option is to hang onto a rope while scaling down boulders and then a hundred yards later – after you've carefully walked across a horizontal tree trunk – you find yourself using your hands and feet to scale up a mountain side of boulders.

This is no walk in the park.

This is a challenge where the only goal is to finish. If you finish – you're a winner. It doesn't matter if you finish in two hours or 10 hours – if you finish you've done more than the majority of people in the world can say they did on a Saturday.

David Roche, 25, of Palo Alto, Calif., finished first at 2 hours and 32 minutes.

At 8 hours and 43 minutes -- I finished last.

I spent more time on the trails Saturday than the average American workday, all the while forcing myself to finish, telling myself I had to finish, no matter how much it hurt, no matter how much I wanted to quit.

My sister, a marathon runner, stayed with me every step of the way -- even when I was at my breaking point at mile 12 and I was crying because the thought of climbing a mountain of boulders was simply devastating.

I was already exhausted. I already fell twice on the slick trails. I already had pain in my kneecaps from navigating down hills. I already had blisters, wet socks and muddy sneakers. I already had sore, bruised toes and ankles from rocky trails forcing my feet and ankles to bend and twist in ways they don't normally bend and twist. I'd already climbed to the top of mountains three times.

I didn't know how to keep going, but somehow I did.

Somehow, a woman whose idea of fun is taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon, managed to make it to the end where my sister and I crossed the finish line together, hand in hand.

Even though we were the last two hikers to finish, I still think we are both winners.

Congratulations to all 322 "Rothy" winners!

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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