The Race to Robie Creek is coming up on Ray Mullenax rather quickly this week.
"I wouldn't mind postponing it for a few days," he said. "But I can't stop it. It's going to happen, and I'm going to be a part of it."
Most people would forgive Mullenax for skipping Saturday's high-profile half marathon, which starts at noon at Fort Boise.
After all, he spent 3 hours and 24 minutes running the Boston Marathon on Monday. If that wasn't physically draining enough, he has also been dealing with the emotional aftermath of what happened at the finish line, when two explosions turned a glorious day for running into one of tragedy and chaos.
Mullenax, 46, is a field director in the School of Social Work at Boise State. So he knows the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I can see some of that within myself," he said Wednesday. "I've been wanting to pull away."
But Mullenax said he owes it to himself, and the running community, to run Robie. Oh, and by the way, he plans to run the Eugene Marathon in Oregon on April 28.
"It's been a long, draining week," Mullenax said. "But once the (Robie) crowd starts coming in the one thing about running is all walks of life come together. The running community, there's a connection that happens, and there's this mosaic of diverse people that come together."
In some ways, that grueling race up and down Aldape Summit will energize him after the week he will have been through.
Mullenax finished the Boston Marathon more than a half-hour prior to the explosions that killed three people and injured more than 170.
After a long, stressful afternoon, Mullenax said he was reunited with the friends he was staying with, friends with whom he's competed with in the Hood to Coast, a 199-mile relay race from Mount Hood, Ore., to the Oregon Coast.
The friends from Idaho, Oregon and Arizona spent that night trying to come to terms with what happened.
"The townhouse I was staying at, hardly anybody slept," Mullenax said. "Most of us were up most of the night. We spent a lot of time talking about our experiences that day. It was an absolutely beautiful day for running, and then why would somebody do that?"
Earlier Monday, Mullenax decided it would be his last Boston Marathon for a while.
"I thought, 'I've been here three years in a row and I need some time off,' '' he said. "But I might go back next year now, given what's happened. I want to make that statement that, 'We're here and we're not going away.' Runners, we're pretty determined."
Mullenax is experiencing a mix of emotions this week. But when he thinks about Robie's mass start, with more than 2,400 runners and walkers, that emotion becomes singular:
It's one of excitement.
Mullenax's first competitive race was Robie in 1995. And then he was hooked. Saturday will be his 17th time running Robie, and he figures he has run 44 marathons. His next goal is to conquer ultra-marathons, and he's already competed in six of those grueling races.
And to think it all started with his first (racing) love - Robie.
"It was a blast, but it was so damn hard going over that mountain," he said. "It was such a rush, and such a great experience. It's definitely the achievement, getting over that mountain and saying, 'I'm going to start here and finish over there.' That's the really cool thing about Robie. It's the most unique race you'll ever run."
And so, even though he jokes about hoping for a delay, he'll be front and center Saturday with bib No. 46. (the bib number is one of the perks of being a Robie committee member. He's been wearing a bib that matches his age since he was 37).
He said it's sometimes difficult to put his finger on why he keeps running.
"I think running is probably for goal-oriented people," said Mullenax, who said his best Robie time was about 1 hour, 38 minutes. "You set a goal, and it's usually way out there, and we're all kind of nuts because we set that goal and we train and we train and we train.
"There's rigorous situations, wet weather, on days that we don't want to train we train anyway. It's weird."
It's a weirdness he looks forward to sharing with others again this Saturday.
"There's such camaraderie among the fellow runners," he said. "Whatever it takes to get over that hill, and then there's an amazing party at the end."
And after running Robie 16 times, Mullenax has an idea of what's ahead of him.
"It will probably kick my butt," he said.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424