I'm sure you've all been dying to read my long, boring Race Report. Well, here it is, finally...
On Saturday January 11, 2014, I ran the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson MS. Mississippi became my 28th state in my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states.
It had been more than six months since my last marathon in Alaska. I hadn't necessarily intended to take that much time off. But I had been feeling a little run down after that last marathon, and I wanted to make sure I had ample time to "recharge". Even after getting back in to marathon training mode, my mileage was still less that usual.
The 3:44 that I ran in Minnesota was a long time ago. My days of even breaking 4 hours might be over. The last time I did that was in 2011, for crying out loud. Getting older, gaining a few pounds, and running fewer miles is not a good combination for running a fast marathon. Throw in a course in Jackson that is known to be somewhat hilly, and I knew that this would be a slow one. As always, my primary goal was just to finish the race and check another state off the map. If I had any sort of time goal, it was just to avoid a new Personal Worst. My first marathon in Chicago in 2005 is still my slowest one (4:27), and I want that to remain my slowest one for as long as possible. I'd never really feared that I'd be slower than that before, but this time, I thought there was a halfway decent chance.
I flew into New Orleans the day before the race. Jackson is a couple hours north of New Orleans, but I like road-tripping through parts of the country that are new to me. Plus, I arranged my flights so that I had plenty of free time, and could spend a little time in the French Quarter, at both ends of the trip. So after arriving in New Orleans late Friday morning, I had lunch in the French Quarter. I had an alligator po' boy, which might not be the best pre-race fuel, but I like having "local cuisine" when I'm out of town.
I drove up to Jackson, found my hotel, and picked up my race packet from the expo. I grabbed a quick bite for dinner, and then turned in early. A good night's sleep is always important before a marathon.
I woke up at 5am, had some breakfast, and then made my way over to the start/finish area. There was plenty of parking right nearby, which was very nice. It was about a mile from my hotel, and if parking was a problem, I would have walked it. But everyone said that the parking was easy, so I happy to save myself the walk. The only problem was that the rental car key and its keychain were huge and I would have to carry it with me all day. But so be it.
My plan was to start out nice and slow, and that I did. My first mile was completed in 9:38, which is probably even slower than I intended. But maybe that was a good thing. Going slow at the beginning and conserving some energy is usually wise. Often, what I do is start out a little too fast with the idea of "banking time", so that if/when I do fall apart, that banked time will still allow me to reach my time goal.
I did gradually speed up. Mile 4 was done in 9:07, and that turned out to be my fastest mile of the day. After that mile, I slowed down a little and settled into a good groove around 9:20. That groove lasted nicely through the whole first half of the race. I passed the halfway point at right around 2:03. I was almost surprised that it felt this easy. I had really struggled in some of my training runs before I was through 13 miles, so I was quite pleased that I made it this far this easily.
Additionally, making it thru the halfway point in 2:03 means I had banked plenty of time, so even with a rough second half, I should still be able to avoid a new PW. Of course, there was no way I could do a 2:03 in the second half. Negative splits are not my thing. It might not be the most efficient way to run a fast time, but having this much time in the bank sure made the second half of this race fairly stress free.
I actually completed Mile 15 in 9:10, which made it my second-fastest mile of the day. However, right after that, I started to slow down dramatically. The mile marker for Mile 16 was on a fairly long hill, and I decided to take the opportunity there to take a walk break, my first of the day. I resumed running, and made it through to Mile 20 without having a mile over 10 minutes.
However, by Mile 20 I was feeling rather spent. Surprisingly, however, I wasn't in pain. So I was feeling pretty good, just slow. At this point, I decided to walk any remaining uphill climbs, and attempt to run the rest. The course was full of rolling hills, so that might mean a bunch of walk breaks in the near future. And that was exactly the case. My walk-uphill strategy seemed to work, however, because I continued to feel pretty good.
All that walking dragged my splits down, of course. But I made it to the finish line well ahead of PW range. I finished in 4:20:24, which is right about what I was hoping for. And it was right in line with most marathons I have completed in the last couple of years.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with the race. Sure, it was slower than I used to be. And I'm sure I could be faster now, if I lost some weight and put in more training miles. But based on where I am now, I think this was just about the best I could do. And to top it off, I still felt good.
I went back to my room for a short nap, then went out to watch some of the NFL playoff games. At night, various bars around Jackson were having a Blues pub crawl as part of marathon weekend. I stopped by a couple of places and listened to some good blues music, then went back to my hotel and called it a night. The next day I drove back to New Orleans, spent a couple more hours on Bourbon Street, and then caught my flight home.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend. I've gotten used to travelling to these races by myself, and I've gotten used to meeting a lot of 50 Staters and Marathon Maniacs. It's very informative to talk with these other veteran runners to find out what races they've liked and haven't liked around the country.
I found the Mississippi Blues Marathon to be a very well-run event. The course was quite scenic for the most part. And the volunteers were the friendliest I think I've ever encountered. Just about every volunteer along the course was thanking the runners for coming to their event. I kept thinking that I should be thanking them for volunteering their time to help us out. I do like to thank as many volunteers as I can, but there comes a point at which I don't talk any more because I'm trying to conserve all the energy I can. I've always found that Southern hospitality truly does exist, and this race just proves that to be so. I really enjoyed the weekend, and would gladly recommend the Mississippi Blues Marathon to anyone wanting to run a marathon in the deep South.
Now on to the usual barrage of BobCam shots, with the added bonus of having a number of videos thrown in. I don't know why it took me this long to realize that I could take videos with my BobCam camera. So for the first time, I got to record exactly what I was thinking and feeling at the exact moment I was thinking and feeling it, as opposed to just a recap that I had to recollect some time later. Well, here goes...
A bunch of people hanging around before dawn, waiting for the start of the race:
I'm just about to move across the start line:
Running through the campus of Jackson State University:
The cheerleaders and marching band were there to cheer us on:
Lots of runners going around a corner:
I always find an American flag to take a picture of:
Coming back across the start line, a little after Mile 3:
I don't know if this shot adequately shows an example of it, but there were A LOT of hills in Jackson:
Time for the first video. About 6.5 miles in:
Another pic of a hill:
Random guitar player along the side of the road:
Sign says "Run like it's the start of the Hunger Games"
Next video, 10 miles in:
I was afraid we were about to turn on to the interstate. But nope, we went alongside it:
All the bells and whistles associated with the halfway point:
Video at the halfway point:
Running past a nice big house:
Video at Mile 16:
Running past a huge house:
Nice lakeside scenery:
Video at Mile 18:
Running out and back down this street:
Video at Mile 20:
Running on the side of a highway is never a favorite of mine:
Video at Mile 22:
Video at Mile 24:
Guy in a banana suit?
Video at Mile 25.5:
Finish Line up ahead:
Posing with the scenery:
I swiped this from the race photographer's website. (Note the word "proof" across the shot)
Another swiped pic:
Video right after the finish:
Here's a pic I took later that day of the state capitol building. I think I'm starting to collect shots of state capitols:
congrats bob!!!! i'm loving the videos, too.
i think you could run two marathons back to back in two days. i feel like you have enough experience and miles under your belt that it wouldn't be as crazy of a proposition as you'd like to think. i mean, you'd have to expect to run both in 5ish hours and just take it really easy - but the first one would have to be SUPER DUPER easy with tons of walk breaks, y'know?
keep up the great job!