Running

MS River Marathon 2013 Recap – Kool Aid Pickles, Mini Moonpies, Skittles OH MY!

Expo

I would like to dub this the smallest expo ever…at least that I have ever attended. It served its purpose though. It was located in the Greenville Mall in an old shop space but was centrally located in town and easy to get to. Getting our packets took all of 5 minutes!!!!! Only 2-3 vendors there and a few folks taking economic impact surveys. Small expo, but definitely effective!
IMAG2665

When you got your drop bags (smaller size draw string bags), you even had to write your own race # on them. Simple but effective process (nothing fancy).

Putting race number on drop bags

Putting race number on drop bags

As Adam and I walked out of the mall, I noticed the kiosk near the entrance sold the infamous koolaid pickles and I just had to try one. They are only 45 cents/each and came in strawberry or grape flavor.

Kool-Aid Pickles at Greenville Mall

Kool-Aid Pickles at Greenville Mall


These taste way better than they sound. I was glad we stopped by to try them for ourselves. I would definitely eat one again.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Greenville. No issues at all with the hotel. The rooms were clean, the staff was courteous and the hotel was sold out with marathon runners so everyone was quiet at night sleeping 🙂 My only beef was they would not allow late checkouts after 12:00 the day of the race. That had me in a precarious situation as I knew I would be out on the race course after noon and did not really want to leave all my luggage in the car while running. I found out later that some of the other hotels in town allowed late check out for an additional $5/hour past noon. If I did this again, I would book somewhere that allowed that just so you could leave your things in the hotel as well as have a nice hot shower before the 3 hour drive home. The hotel I heard did this (also right at the finish line so convenient) was the Rodeway Inn. It was literally a few feet from the finish line so would be a good choice if you choose to run this marathon.

Race day – Start Line
For race day, you had to board a bus that took you from Greenville over to Arkansas. The marathon is point to point so it literally takes you out to drop you off. The buses loaded from 6-6:30am with the last departure at 6:30am. Parking was recommended at the boat ramp right off Main st (very easy to get to and we arrived around 5:45am and there were plenty of spaces).
Here is a pic to give you an idea of the parking setup (this was after the marathon as we were leaving).

Boat Ramp Parking

Boat Ramp Parking


The parking spots were maybe a 1/10 mile from the bus loading area.
Boarding the buses were very easy. There was one line of buses for the half and one for the full. The half marathon had a different start line (they started at the mid point of the marathon). The mid point was near the start of the bridge over the river.

For the full marathon, I got on the first bus and we probably sat there for about 20 minutes or so before they actually drove out towards Arkansas. It was pretty fun sitting there with what I would guess was 100 marathoners from all over the country. Noone was really nervous or unfriendly. The irony was the gentleman I sat next to on the bus literally lives right around the corner from me in Germantown! We joked that we probably have waved at each other many times while out on a run.
The bus drive was basically the entire marathon course in reverse. When we got to our drop off point (right near a set of grain silos). There were about 10 portapotties set up, a tent for your bag drop off and two bonfires set up!

One of the Two bonfires at the start line for the full marathon

One of the Two bonfires at the start line for the full marathon


This starting line reminded me so much of how trail runs are. The vibe was really laid back and fun. Not at all how my experience is normally at a marathon. We hung out there for about 45 minutes. No issues with getting to use the toilet or staying warm. Bag drop off was super easy. I actually ran into quite a few folks from the Memphis area while I stood around the bonfire. Around 7:45am, they asked us to walk to the start line (it was very close to where the bonfires were) and was on a residential road that had houses on one side and farmland on the other. A very peaceful start line. I ran into Tara (who I ended up running the marathon with) and my buddy Steve (who I co paced St. Jude with last year). Steve At this point, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Tara told me she was going to go out and see how she felt and was fine with anything in the 4:30-5:00 range and Steve was thinking of around a 5:00 range or greater (and was running with another friend also). I decided to start out with Tara and see how I felt and let Steve catch me if something happened.

I had written another blog post about my prep for this race and how awful it really went and never posted it so I will include some of my notes (pre marathon) here:

    MS River Marathon
    This Saturday!!!!!! So, how have my training runs beeng going since the last marathon in December? Well, not good at all.
    My first few longer runs after St. Jude in December just didn’t feel great (I did have a great 13.1 mile run on New Year’s Day that was pain free) but most of the other runs have somehow revealed IT band issues. A problem I NEVER have. Unsure what is triggering this as I have not experienced before but my guess is lack of cross training in the winter months (i.e. my bike is not being ridden at all). Two weeks back, I set out for an 18 mile training run (should have been 20) but it was pretty debilitating. Both my left and right knees/IT band were bothering me from mile 9-10 forward. I still finished it up but it was not pretty. The weekend after that, I met some friends out at Stanky Creek hoping to maybe get in 18 or so but again had to stop at 10 miles. Foolishly, I thought the trails would give my legs a reprieve. Oh, I forgot it has been awhile and especially rooty or more technical trails (for this part of the country at least) require you to navigate more and also raise your knee up more as you climb or go around roots/ditches etc. This was the first time I have actually squealed while running as my left IT band just tightened really fast around mile 5. This past Sunday, I ran 11 miles which went fairly well however, you can imagine I don’t feel like I have near enough solid of a base for this marathon that is coming up Saturday!

    I went through a debate last week on if I should just not do it. Adam is going down to run the half. We also have another marathon in less than a month in Little Rock so I don’t want to be injured for that one as we are treating that as a fun run purely for the ridiculous medal they give out. I ended up emailing Steve (one of the pacers I paced with at St. Jude). Steve ran 100 marathons last year…and he is in his 60’s…pretty bad ass to say the least. I emailed him and asked him what his ‘plan’ was???? All I kept thinkning was I can’t run this marathon by myself like I normally do. I have been under way too much stress with other things going on…that it was no doubt going to send me to that dark place of “what the hell are you doing this for” by the time we had just hit the 10K mark.

    Steve replied back and said he has actually been battling some injuries this past month. He actually did his 100th marathon wearing one of those medical boots! He along with several other folks are doing this marathon in the “gimp section”. He graciously said I can join them since there goal was to finish the marathon and have fun. So here are my options….1) Do not do the marathon at all 2) Still go out and try to see if I can PR 3) Run with Steve and his crew and even if I hurt…know I will have another great experience. As of now…I am leaning with #3. What do you think?

I pretty much went with #3 as you can tell now 🙂

Google Map of the Race Course

Satellite view of MS River Marathon Course

Satellite view of MS River Marathon Course

Miles 1-6
Very flat. You start out in a residential area that gradually hooks around an Oxbow Lake – Lake Chicot. According to the marathon site, this is the largest oxbow lake in North America! It was a chilly start around 34F but as the sun was coming up around the water, it was very peaceful and I found that the first 6 miles went by quickly considering how I prepared for this marathon. Tara, Maggie and I stayed together for this first stretch. I remember when we hit the 10K point and we all agreed that it was a pretty easy start. Lots of crowd support along the sidelines outside the local churches, residences and local breakfast place. Each aid station had gatorade and water and a toilet!

Miles 7-13.1
Still fairly flat. If anything you got out on to a pretty long straightaway here. It really helped having a running buddy for conversation as you could literally see the milemarkers at certain points and they seemed much closer than they were. The few points where you may have to cross the highway were managed very well by police and course monitors. No issues at all running along the highway (minimal debris except for the random road kill here and there).
My favorite sign of the day was at the Mile 11 – aid station…It said “No Zombies”!!!!!!
There was also one aid station handing out fun size bags of skittles. Around mile 11 is where I decided I would periodically stretch out my IT bands (doing that stretch where you cross your ankles and bend over). I could really feel the pull in my left IT band and glutes. It felt great and I think incorporating this stretching here and there is what prevented me from siezing up like I had in the trail run a few weeks prior.

Miles 13.2 – 19
The half marathon start for this race starts at the base of the Hwy 82 bridge on the Arkansas side (so we started our midpoint here). The bridge is at least 2 miles long (I thought someone said it was 2.75). I couldn’t believe but at this point, Tara and I were passing people as we ran up this bridge. This was the ONLY hill in the entire marathon.

Here is a view of the beautiful MS River bridge that you start to cross as you hit the midpoint (this is credited to the site:
http://www.hntb.com/expertise/bridges/us-highway-82-bridge)
Hwy82 BridgeMile 14 was at the centerpoint and the race coordinator had already said there would be no aid station due to safety/weather issues. I would guess the wind? but they still had a portapotty and a mile marker there.

The best part about that stretch was you got off the bridge at over 15 miles done. This is good for the psyche as you realize you are nearing single digits left on your remaining miles.

Once you came off the bridge it was another long straightaway for 2-3 miles. All of the aid stations were well stocked and full of cheer. That helped a great deal. The terrain was very flat but of course again you could see the aid stations well ahead of arriving to them.
Around mile 18 is when you hook to the right and start heading towards a residential area. This was good for a slight change of scenery.

In between mile 19-20 was a great impromptu aid station that some Mississippi State fans had set up. This couple had a full spread (mimosas, bloody marys, cocktails of all sorts). It was like a tailgate! I did not get anything but it was so nice to have residents like this being so supportive of the race. I can’t tell you how many times I heard…”Thank you for being here”. Really helps you enjoy the run.

Miles 20-26.2
Miles 20-24 are funneling through this residential area until you head back into downtown Greenville via Main St. It was a nice change as some of the roads weave a bit and give you a break from those straight/flat runs you were doing earlier in the course.

Main Street for the last 2.2 miles was a simply amazing finish. Some of it is cobblestone but it is new and smooth. The majority of it was a steady downhill that lead into a really nice/flat finish line. The last .25 miles, Tara really pushed me to get that 4:50 and some change marathon time. We ended up passing about 5 people in the last mile or so which was shocking to me (I am always the one getting passed in races it seems since I start out too fast).

Finish Line
You run straight down Main St. right into the Finish Line. Very well supported with the crowd and immediately you were handed a bottle of water, space blanket and a medal.
The food tent was literally 100ft to your left and stocked full of good stuff: Pizza, ice cream, fruit, mini moonpies, water, vitamin water. Nothing was unstocked…there were plenty of friendly faces serving also. I also felt like I was a part of the family as I walked through (that is the general vibe I got from the community, volunteers and supporters at the race).
Here are my official results, not my best and not my worst! I was very happy just coming in under 5 hours and really enjoying myself and doing it virtually pain free. I made new friends and I fell in love with the marathon again (my dread from the previous week was cured).
RESULTS

Now, the LR marathon in just a few weeks!

I always like to add what I call Pros/Cons for each marathon or endurance event that I attend:

Pros:
– Small event (~1400 participants of which ~400 were full marathoners). This is great for less congestion on the run as well as not having to do things like wait in line for a portapotty!
– Very well organized for an inaugural event.
– Expo was easy to find and was very small but served its purpose.
– Located in a small town so most of the hotels/restaurants were no more than a few miles from the actual race finish.
– The community were very happy to have the runners there. I can’t tell you how many times I had someone on the sidelines tell me “Thank you for being here”. That made the run that much more enjoyable.
– The course is very flat and pleasant. Not a lot of distractions but a lot to be said for a course that only has one hill (the bridge).

Cons:
– The town had a few restaurants (so left it a bit tricky to find somewhere good to eat before the race). We did check out a wonderful place (randomly found on my phone on Yelp), called “Doe’s Eat Place”. The only drawback there is they had no menus and the bill ended up being $120 for two beers, steak and fries for each of us…but it was a really excellent steak.
– It didn’t bother me at the expo but I could see the fact there were very few vendors might be a bit hard for other runners (especially if you were expecting to pick up something pre race).

I have no real complaints about this race. I honestly think it has the potential to get better year after year just based on the inaugural performance!

MS River Bib and Medal

MS River Bib and Medal

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