Yesterday I completed the Mississippi River Half Marathon. I chose this particular race because it was just a few hours from home and because of its cool medal. I needed a "between marathons" race to keep me motivated to run during the colder months.
That theory worked very well until, per the usual, life happened. Several weekends before the race, a tornado hit my area. Needless to say that longrun did not happen. Then my kiddo got sick and I was up nearly all night. Then I got sick. Then... you get the picture. I seriously contemplated not going. That would have made me disappointed in myself, though. However, letting life get in the way had already done the job.
Between a couple of dear friends and my spouse, all of whom have more faith in me than I have in myself, I decided to give it a go. After all, I could walk the entire thing if I had to. You see, this was a very unique point-to-point race. Both the half and the full started at the same time, but the full marathoners would start 13.1 miles farther out than me. I knew I could surely finish this, even grossly undertrained, within the 7 hour full marathon time limit!
Roughly 36 hours before the race was to begin, I booked a hotel room. Yep - I waited until the last minute. It was a slow drive down to Greenville, Mississippi. However, a Delta sunset never disappoints! I arrived at the race expo within an hour of it closing. It took place in a downtown space that was gorgeous.
Here is a view of the entrance from within the space.
Here is a view of the expo from the entrance. No muss, no fuss.
I got my goods and headed to my extremely inexpensive lodging. I got to the business of laying everything out so as to be prepared bright and early the next day.
Expo swag - again, no muss, no fuss.
I love this cool hoodie!
There's flat Susan, all ready to go.
I set my alarm for 5 AM. Naturally I woke up many, many times before then. I got up and had two packets of oatmeal (you runners know why). I left the place, all packed up, at around 5:45 AM. I had to get on a bus between 6:00 and 6:30 to be driven to Lake Village, Arkansas. The half was to start on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River.
Here's the thing about runners: they're my favorite people! I love, love, love talking to people who have race experiences similar to mine, i.e. folks who have traveled around doing different races in different places. They're full of good info and just plain GET IT. Don't get me wrong here. I love all kinds of people. But, these are MY people! Honestly, chatting with other runners on the bus was almost as good as crossing the finish line.
We got dropped off in Lake Village with roughly an hour to spare before the race. Fortunately, we could sit on the warm bus. We also had the opportunity to use the port-a-potties. It was a small race, so there was almost no line. That's a rarity! My oatmeal worked, let's just say.
Finally, it was time to start. The National Anthem was played, and we all made our way to the base of the bridge. We started promptly at 8 AM. The full marathoners also started, but 13.1 miles farther back. I love that concept because I knew that enetually the leaders of that race would zoom by me.
Waiting to begin is so exciting!
One thing I read about this race was how flat it was. That appealed to me! It was very clear that the only hill would be the bridge itself. I must say that it wasn't that bad. Plus, it was a beautiful structure, and the view at 8 AM was so pretty.
The bridge was two miles long, give or take. One mile up, one mile down!
Good morning from the Mississippi River! I literally ran over it.
As an Arkansan transplanted to Mississippi nearly twelve years ago, I must point out one observation. I love my new state, but I must say that Mississippi waits a while to welcome you with signs like the one below. Arkansas, however, welcomes you the second you enter the state. After all, it's God's Country. Ha!
I'd never pass up the chance to photograph a port-a-potty and Mississippi together.
Roughly five miles after the bridge we ran along a highway. It was basically flat and boring. However, the water stops were plentiful, and everyone was so nice. Next we turned off into a residential area. The houses were really spread out, i.e. the residents had acreage. I kept thinking of how nice it probably was to live there. Also, at this point the winner of the full marathon zoomed past me. It was exciting! Another guy was not far behind him.
My favorite part of the course came next. We went into a gated community that reminded me of the Old South. The homes weren't incredibly old, but the streets were tree-lined, and it felt regal. Some of the water stops there were offering food, like fruit, cookies, etc.
I love this type of street.
Once I left this area, I had around three miles to go. Chump change! At that point, and even before then, I equated the remaining distance to a run in my area. For example, six miles was "a long morning of speedwork." Four miles was "a typical morning of speedwork." I swear - running is 90% mental. The trick is to keep your mind right. Thinking "Ugh, I have six miles to go" is not good for anyone! I prefer "I ONLY have six miles to go." Mindset, I tell ya! Two miles equated to "the end of my neighborhood and back." Easy peasy!
That said, I'd be remiss if I didn't learn that something one of my experienced bus mates had told us to be true. Once you turn onto Washington Avenue, at mile 12.5, I'd swear that finish line kept getting farther and farther away. Six tenths of a mile seemed to be about a hundred blocks away, but you could see it. What a dirty trick! LOL
I finally made it, and I was so proud for showing up, gutting it out, and not letting myself down. I have another race in the books, and I'll have a good base for marathon training in a few weeks. You gotta love a half marathon... the training is easier, obviously they don't take quite as long, and the recovery is much easier. I love to do a half every once in a while. It's a treat! As I told my non-runner friend, though, it's still an effort, and any distance is hard in the moment. I can stress myself out WAY more over a 5k than a full marathon. It may sound crazy, but it's my truth.
At the expo I was able to get pizza and a drink. They had other fare, too. I was focused on getting home ASAP. After all, I had a slow, scenic drive ahead of me. One of the perks of a race with less than 600 entrants was being able to park so close to the finish line. Even after "just a half," this girl was getting sore!
You can see the finish line from my car. Bliss!
I got in my car and barely made it to Clarksdale, Mississippi before I felt like I had to stop and take a cat nap. I literally laid my seat back and napped in a McDonald's parking lot for nearly an hour. I've never had to do that after a race before. However, only once before have I driven home a few hours immediately after running. I was younger then! LOL
My beautiful medal!
Isn't it gorgeous?!?!
I made it home and eventually "slept like the dead." I am happy to report that I did not get any blisters. While I definitely chafed, it was not the kind that makes you scream in the shower. That's a HUGE win! I was really sore yesterday, but today I am A-OK. That's also the perk of a half marathon.
Like I said before, I am so happy I ended up doing this race. The director and the volunteers executed it beautifully. I feel accomplished and happy. That's especially good for me as a working mom. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the necessary day to do tasks; I often put myself on the back burner. This was an opportunity for me to accomplish something that had nothing to do with work or family, and it felt great!