The glory of the host hotel is not to be understated. There is really something to be said for waking up as late as possible before the race start, knowing you can walk quickly to the starting line. We woke up as late as humanly possible with every intent of grabbing some food downstairs (the hotel had advertised “grab and go” breakfast) and making it to the Maniacs picture at 6:30. As usual, I was the first one ready to go, so I headed downstairs with Amanda, only to find that the “grab and go” breakfast was actually a basket of granola bars, apples and bananas. So much for the bagel I was hoping for! I grabbed a granola bar and stood around, talking to fellow Maniacs, when a girl came up to me and asked if I was T-Rex Runner.
Girl: “Are you T-Rex Runner?”
Me: “Yeah, hey! I’m Danielle.”
Girl: “Cool! I’m Kelly from Race for all 50 States.I’ve been reading your blog since I started running, so this is kind of like meeting a celebrity for me!”
Me: “Haha…no, I promise you, it is not.”
Seriously, what is WRONG with me? I am so socially inept. Kelly didn’t seem to mind, as she had thoughtfully brought me a delightful gift – a whistle shaped like the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile! She remembered my obsession with the wienermobile from back in May, and since she DRIVES the wienermobile for her job (you freaking read that correctly), she had the hookup.
We did make it to the Maniacs picture, although I am unable to find a picture proving that, for some reason. I delivered a Team T-Rex shirt to my friend Steve, who later changed into it and wore it during the race! That’s dedication right there. I also got to meet Houston for the first time and see Abbi and a bunch of other Maniac friends! I love these little reunions. After the picture, we even had enough time to go back to the hotel to go to the bathroom again before the start of the race. No porta potty lines? Hell yeah.
With the start of the race, Kate, Amanda and I decided to go out easy and then…go easier. Kate hadn’t run consistently in about a month, and it was the same for Amanda. They had both been battling injuries, and as awful as it sounds, I was a little relieved to know that I wasn’t going to be holding them back during the race (probably). The plan was to shoot for 5 hours but mostly just have a great time and enjoy the day. As I apparently like to say, I don’t usually get a good time, but I always have a good time.
We started the race with Kristen, but the half marathon split off from the full around mile 3 and we lost Kristen before mile 2. For whatever reason, Amanda and I started out really fast. I don’t know what it was. The early miles were clicking by at 9:30 pace, plus some walking at the water stops, and Kate was not pleased with us. She knew it would be a struggle later, so she made us slow down. It was honestly the weirdest thing. I would look down at my Garmin thinking we were running SO slow and see a 9:30 pace looking back at me. I got yelled at a lot by Kate, but we all knew she was right. It’s not very often that Amanda and I feel good or fast, so we were probably a little too excited.
I started to feel nauseous fairly early on, but for some reason, I felt compelled to drink Gatorade. Normally I avoid Gatorade like the plague because it upsets my stomach, but I figured if I was crazing it, I should just go for it. What delicious salty magic that was! I sometimes felt a little hungry, but whenever I did, I would just grab some Gatorade at the next aid station. The course wasn’t particularly scenic, although we did go through some very nice neighborhoods with HUGE houses. Every once in awhile, we would come across a blues musician playing or a funny sign. We stopped to walk or stretch when we felt like it, but mostly we just cruised along.
I will say that the course was hilly, and not so much in the way the race director had described. The terrain is rolling, but there are some pretty serious hills on the course, so I think he’s just biased because he’s from Jackson. We were prepared to walk the hills as needed, but it wasn’t too much of an issue at first. Houston’s pace team (4:45) cruised by us, and we obviously had to force him to take a picture with us while his pace group charged on ahead. Sorry we’re not sorry!
One thing that is really important for me to note about this race was how absolutely amazing the volunteers are. Seriously, I’m pretty sure every single one of them thanked us for coming to the race. They were so friendly and kind and the whole thing just oozed southern hospitality. I live in the south, so I know that southern hospitality usually just means that people are nice to you to your face and then rip you to shreds behind your back, but I don’t even care if these people were sincere or not because they totally have me fooled. They cheered us on the whole way and always had smiles on their faces, even during the episodes of rain.
We hit the halfway point on pace for a 4:50 finish, which was really quite delightful. Then, I saw Mr. McGibblets from The League, which is one of my favorite shows. I tried to tell him all about my fantasy football teams, but for some reason, he was not interested.
I was still feeling slightly nauseous, so I never really got around to eating anything. I had brought a granola bar with me (forgot to bring the Sprite and Oreos…fail), but I just didn’t feel much like eating it, so I didn’t. Kate’s knee had started bothering her, so we were doing a lot more walking in the second half of the race, especially up all the hills. Amanda’s hip hurt every time she walked, so they were both limping along and it was really quite the scene. The best part about going slow and not caring about your time is that you can take pictures whenever you want. Kate and I also worked on the development of a Maniacs cheer or song, eventually deciding to use “She’s a Maniac” as the tune of the song. How creative, right?
“She’s a Maniac, Maniac, out on the course. And she’s running like she’s run a lot before!” I know. You’re stunned by how good that is.
Even though I didn’t feel perfect, it was definitely better than I had been feeling in races recently, which was great. I don’t care if you think I’m awful for saying it – I was SO glad not to be the weak link in Team T-Rex this time. In fact, I was so glad that I kept saying it, which probably made Kate and Amanda want to smack me. They understood that this doesn’t happen very often, especially when I run with Kate, so it was great not to be the one asking for walk breaks. I was good with whatever everyone else wanted to do. Even though Kate and Amanda were both in pain, the race was really going by quickly. Somewhere around mile 17, we remembered that Sarah, a friend we had met at dinner the night before, would be waiting at the Fleet Feet tent with MIMOSAS at mile 21. All of a sudden, the race seemed totally manageable! Just 4 more miles til mile 21, then 5 miles til the race was over! No problem at all.
It started raining around this time, and I was getting just a little bit cold. We ran into Krissy and Andrea, who had caught up with us at the mimosa station while we were standing around. After the great time we had at dinner the night before, we were pumped to see them again, and Andrea was pumped to see the champagne. Kristen had finished the half marathon and made it to the tent also, so we had lots of familiar faces to cheer us in. It’s highly possible that we stopped a little longer than we should have, but let’s take a moment to be proud of me – I felt the mimosa hitting my stomach in a less than ideal way, so I didn’t finish the whole thing. LOOK HOW EVOLVED I’M GETTING.
From that point on, the 5 of us decided to run together since we were all just out there to have fun and we were all walking up all the hills. We had long since given up on the charade of even pretending to run up them anymore. I knew I had more speed in me since I wasn’t hurting and my stomach wasn’t nearly as upset as usual, but I was having too much fun to stop. The last few miles went through the “less attractive” parts of Jackson, which Krissy warned us about. So obviously, we stopped in the middle of it so Krissy could play her harmonica and I could blow the wiener whistle. Yes, I’m laughing at that sentence like a 13 year old boy.
After running past many a burnt out building and crack house, we were suddenly surrounded by people who seemed entirely unconcerned that a marathon was going on. We ran past a park where I’m confident a drug deal was taking place under a gazebo, and we also saw 3 men walking down the middle of the street, one of whom was rolling a suitcase behind him. They were not homeless. Now that I think about it, there was probably a human head in that luggage. Or cocaine. Or a bomb. Nothing good. At no point did any of us feel unsafe, and some of the residents went and sat on their porches to cheer on the runners. I personally love running through those kinds of neighborhoods, because I think you get a feel for the entire city that way.
By the time we got to mile 25, it was time for the ever popular and ever famous T-Rex! I had warned Andrea of this, and she was totally on board. The other girls obviously already knew what was coming. It only took us about 10 minutes (no, seriously) before we got an appropriate T-Rex picture, and we were off!
I really couldn’t believe how fast the race had gone by. I never really needed to stop and stretch. I didn’t need to throw up, although I probably could have. I didn’t feel bad. In fact, I almost felt…dare I say…good? I mean, let’s not get carried away, but it was definitely better than usual. As we got closer to the finish line, I told Krissy and Andrea about the jumping process and how it works. Basically, I awkwardly yell to the photographer “WE’RE GOING TO JUMP!” which, by the way, I realized sounds eerily like we’re about to commit mass suicide, and then I yell “1….2….3!” and we jump on 3. We did our best to execute the jump, but the race pictures aren’t up quite yet, so it’s hard to say if it worked or not. I know y’all are on the edges of your proverbial seats with anticipation.
As we crossed the finish line, we were so in sync (and all wearing the exact same shirt and basic outfit) that the volunteers tried to put relay medals around our necks! In fact, they tried to do it twice. For a race with such awesome marathon medals, this was a huge deal since the relay medal is tiny by comparison! We finally got the right medals, only to have another volunteer ask for our relay chip back. Now that is coordination, people.
We crossed the finish line in 5:23 and change, which definitely isn’t fast, but most importantly, it’s faster than our finish time at Tulsa on a much hillier course, and I finished feeling a thousand times better! Kate said she thinks I held up better at this marathon than I have at any we’ve done together in awhile, and she’s right. I just kept saying “I wasn’t the weak link!” over and over to anyone who would listen.
Even though it was raining and we were all quite cold, we decided we had to go grab some of the great food and beer that we had been promised would be waiting for us at the finish. Let me tell you something, people – John was not lying when he said there would be tons of food left for everyone, no matter what your finish time. There was warm pizza, sandwiches, cookies, red beans and rice, and THREE FREE BEERS EACH. It was awesome! I was so impressed that I not only got a beer to drink after the race, I also got food! That doesn’t happen very often, but I was having such a good day that it became necessary to celebrate.
The host hotel had been kind enough to give us a 2 pm checkout, so we even had time to hang around for a bit with Andrea and Krissy for a bit and see some other Maniacs in the tent before heading back to the hotel to shower. There were so many Maniacs milling around, and I got a chance to meet a reader, Cara, who was nice enough to ask me about my stomach and how I was feeling, even though she had just run her own marathon. Y’all seriously amaze me. It’s hard for me sometimes to keep track of every message or comment I receive, but I am constantly in awe of you guys keeping me in your thoughts and bringing me wiener whistles. You rock.
With the exception of the fact that the course isn’t particularly beautiful (although there are some very nice parts), I have to say that this race really was everything I hoped it would be and more. It is definitely hilly, but everything John told me in his interview was true. The volunteers are awesome and encouraging, all the swag is just as cool as you would expect, and the medal is even better in person! The blues theme runs throughout the entire race, and there are musicians along the course to keep you entertained. And perhaps most importantly for those of us who are more focused on having a good time than getting a good time, there is plenty of pizza and beer at the finish. And really, what more can you ask for? So go “get the Blues” next year. You won’t regret it!