Well, the 10th Country Music Marathon in Nashville was hot. Let’s get that out of the way. Race temperature at the start were in the upper 60s and in the low to mid 80s at the finish. After training all winter, there wasn’t much anyone could do to be ready for those temps (save training in Dubai, and that wasn’t exactly an option. Best I could have done was the United Arab Emirates Embassy four metro stops away… but I digress). To be clear, it was hot and it affected everyone.
Having run the half marathon here twice before I knew what the starting area would offer. We got there early because the anticipated traffic was nonexistent. Lots of free food and drink for the runners, which was nice. Dropped off our gear bag around 6:20am, got into the (long) bathroom line, and made our way to Corral #3 (out of 32! 32 corrals of 1000 people each!) That means we started towards the front of the pack. The race uses a wave start, meaning each corral goes out, one at a time, with a short break between each, in an effort to prevent crowding on the course. One of the most amazing images is standing towards the front and looking back down the street and seeing a sea of people, filling in from curb to curb going at least 6 blocks back. Amazing.
I had the goal of finishing under 3 hours 30 minutes, but realized that wasn’t realistic about two steps into the race. Colin and I decided to dial it back about 15 seconds per mile for the first 6 miles, just to get acclimated and see where it would take us. We averaged 8:12 min/mi, so I consider that a success (although our pace was all over the map). One change to the course was the extended distance downtown by the, er, honky-tonk bars, if you will. It definitely showed off more of what makes Nashville unique (+1), but it also showed off some more hills (-1).
By mile 9 Colin’s shirt was a thing of the past and the sun was out in full force (or so we thought). Around mile 11 we saw the best spectators at the race (note: may be biased). Evelyn, Barrett, Robert and Jenelle were cheering for us right after the half marathoners split off. At this point Colin and I agreed we were feeling strong holding our 8:00 min/mi pace (that changed quickly). Also at this point Barrett joined us on his mountain bike and kept us company. Throughout the rest of the race he’d ride ahead to fill water bottles and give a lot of moral support, but we’ll get into that a little later.
Apparently when the half marathoners split off, they take all the shade with them. From mile 12 through 20, the marathon course is completely exposed to the sun. I mean completely. We did a pretty good job holding our pace but it definitely got harder. We saw the support team again around mile 19, which served as a (small) boost until… At mile 20 I opted to walk the water stop and Colin kept going. He said he was cramping up and decided to run as far as he could with the fear that walking would cause his muscles to seize up (like Vince’s car engine…). From then on he was in my sights and I slowly chipped away at his lead. Barrett bounced back and forth between us giving updates on how the other was feeling.
I think I caught back up to Colin around mile 21. Neither of us were looking good; it was a matter of just finishing the next 5 miles. Running through Shelby Bottoms Park offered much-appreciated shade and the crowd support picked up after the nonexistent crowds in Metro Park. The problem here is that the course is out and back from mile 22 until nearly the end, meaning I was watching people running towards me who were like 3 miles ahead. A bit demoralizing to think of how much was still ahead. By far the award for “Worst Idea Ever. In the History of the World.” goes to the photographer who thought it was a good idea to park himself at the top of a hill at mile 23. He might as well have been taking pictures of a trainwreck.. it was ugly.
Around mile 24 I saw the clock approaching 3:30:00, so my new goal was to hold it together and just finish as fast as possible. I made friends with another runner around mile 25.5 when we were both struggling to jog. She yelled at me not to stop and walk and we motivated each other to get to the finish. As I rounded the final turn and saw the finish I felt a surge of energy and was moving at Olympic sprinter speed. Like Usain Bolt fast. As I crossed the finish line my body all but gave out. It definitely took 15 minutes to travel through the finisher area and meet back up with the amazing support team.
Finish Time: 3:47:12
Overall Place: 324 / 4146
Overall Men: 259 / 2341
Overall 18 – 24: 28 / 217