I chose the Spook Hill 4-Miler as my first race back, and here's why it was the right choice.

Bill Susa, a Burkittsville resident for the past 13 years, is the ultimate event coordinator. After getting support from the Burkittsville town council, mayor, and various landowners, the Spook Hill Cider & Wine 4-Mile Run takes over the small, historic town.

Susa gets up early on the day of the race to check that the course markers are still in place and that everything is set and ready for the 8:30 a.m. start. He takes note of the weather.

"The colors in the mountain," he says, "if you look really closely, you can see them turning."

I get up really early on race day, too, but not to wax poetic about the fall colors -- to completely lose my mind. This is my first race since getting pregnant and having a baby this past August. I don't think I've covered four miles at one time yet, nevermind while being chip timed.

I try to find a safe spot at the back of the starting line behind nearly 450 runners who I'm sure are faster, fitter, and better prepared than me. I consider running away and finding my way back into my bed. But that would require me having to duck past the Blair Witch who has decided to make an appearance:

But once I get going, the fear melts away into complete appreciation because Bill knows how to plot a race. The first mile takes runners right up through the center of the historic town. You can tell the homes are old (aged finely like the wine waiting for us at the finish) and the churches are historic (quite a few for a town that only has 150 residents).

Mile 2 takes us off-road. Winding through the nearby vineyards, up and back down some hills, by trees, and through trodden grasses, it's hard not to see the beauty Bill mentioned. I almost forget that I'm running as I'm falling in love with Burkittsville -- even though the cemetery that rests in the middle of town brings back the jarring reality that I certainly feel like I'm dying. But here lies another marker of Burkittsville's history: this cemetery was a temporary resting place for deceased Civil War soldiers. The bodies were eventually relocated to other cemeteries. It's a solemn sight, but still breathtaking.

Mile 3 brings us back through town. Residents, young and old, have lined up along the sidewalk to ring bells and cheer for us. A young girl announces that the next day will be her sixth birthday. The runners cheer for her.

Mile 4 brings the race to an end through apple orchards. By now everyone is breathing heavily, getting a strong whiff of the fresh apples that are going to be picked and turned into cider at the mill nearby.

The Spook Hill 4-miler reminds me of everything that makes running and racing fun. It's a great opportunity to commune with nature, see places you might otherwise overlook, and bond with a community that is somehow suffering and enjoying themselves at the same time. Susa, a runner himself, must understand this -- it's obvious in the race he's set up. These are the things that you have to focus on during any race or any run. It's what makes putting yourself out there, pounding the dirt, and getting in shape -- worth it.

I reward myself and these realizations with a post-race cup of coffee at the nearby Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick.

Now it's time to crawl back into bed! And remember, fitness friends: keep in mind what's really beautiful about your workout -- and why you're there. It'll be easier to stay on track!

How do you stay positive during a workout? Let us know in the comments below!

(Congrats to Dan Jacobs, the overall male winner of the Spook Hill 4-Miler, and to Claire Heasman, the overall female winner! 

Till next time!

In last week's edition of The Run-Around, Caitlin gives us some hints for getting back into shape.