Nothing against the good folks of Mississippi, but this was just one of those states where I just didn’t care. No race had really caught my eye and there wasn’t a particular city I wanted to go to. Other than a cute 3rd grade spelling association, I had no ties to Mississippi whatsoever. I chose Tupelo based solely on the rumor that “Crazy Jimmy” designs a skull and crossbones finishers’ medal each year.
Trey decided to go with me at the last minute, despite not being exactly thrilled with my travel plan- drive 6 hours to Tupelo, spend the night, run the marathon, beg the hotel for late checkout in an effort to shower, and drive 6 hours back to Kentucky.
We were pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the people in Tupelo and enjoyed our afternoon exploring downtown and learning about its most famous former resident, Elvis Presley. No, I didn’t make Trey go to his birthplace…I figured he deserved an “out” after 6 hours of the alphabet game on the trip down.
After being forced to do my first paper registration ever, I knew information about the race beforehand would be limited. I did my own research. Reviews on Marathonguide.com were insistent on two points: “have a light source for the early miles” and “bring your own water”. Check, check.
The race began at 5 am on Sunday morning to avoid the heat, but there wasn’t really a way to control the humidity. Even at the start, I was sweating…or as a Mississippi gal would say, “glistening”! There was a full moon out, which was actually quite beautiful in the pitch black of the first 7 or so miles. I was grateful to be one of few who actually had a headlamp; many were attempting unsuccessfully to light their path with handheld flashlights. As predicted, water stops were scarce and I was glad that I had opted for my camelback. Other than at the North Face 50 miler and Dances with Dirt 50K ultras, I have never used it during a road race. Nonetheless, I was glad I had it- your girl has to hydrate.
This course was somewhat of an out and back, which I always enjoy because you get to see the runners ahead of you and behind you. For me, this meant seeing many of my fellow Marathon Maniacs and getting bursts of energy as we exchanged waves, fist pumps, and “MANIAC!” yells. At the half-marathon point, I was at 1:55:42…within range for my desired sub 4 hour marathon.
Something I hadn’t realized was that there were going to be so many hills. The course description said “a rolling course…” but I didn’t pay much attention to it and during the first half I could not SEE any of the terrain. Out of sight, out of mind. On the way back in the daylight, I saw what I had covered during the first half and it squashed my mentality. Suddenly I had a bajillion excuses as to why I wasn’t feeling well- for every ache and pain, I was all “well, it must be because of the hills earlier!”
Around mile 20, my mp3 player went dead. Only a few years ago, this would have been enough to really put me over the edge- there was a point where I needed music as a distraction and could not run without it. This time, perhaps as a testament to “growing” within the sport, I didn’t care. I decided to just focus on moving, picking up the pace along the way. I even began passing several people around mile 22!