Yup, still my favorite! – Hatfield McCoy Marathon 2013, Part 2

I’m going to attempt to spare you from excessive dramatic expressions of how much I love this marathon, but based on the title of this post, it might not work. Sorry I’m not sorry. Amanda and I actually started the race on time this year,  so we considered the day to be a victory before the race even started. Last year, we started a few minutes late and were in last place for awhile.  As the race started, I was reminded of how beautiful the course is right away. The first couple of miles are on kind of a highway, but there are these huge mountain/cliffs/rock faces that line the whole thing. It’s pretty awesome.

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Thanks for letting me steal your picture, Andrea! Hope that’s cool.

Amanda and I had two goals for this race: first, we wanted to run up the entire length of Blackberry Mountain without stopping. It’s a hill that is 1.25 miles long and pretty steep, and a lot of people walk it. We almost made it to the top last year, but we thought the hill was longer than it really was and quit right before what turned out to be the end. This has plagued us since last year, so we had to make amends. Second, we wanted to finish the race in under 5 hours. When we started working with our coach, one of the goals that we told him we wanted to accomplish was to improve our speed so that when we are having fun during a race and taking pictures, we can still finish under 5 hours. This way, there is more likely to be beer left at the end when we are done running. Priorities are priorities.

Fairly early on in the race – probably about mile 4 or 5 – we came upon our friend Mary, who is a member of Team T-Rex and fellow Maniac. We had run with her for a little while in Southern Indiana, and she was recovering from a 50-miler the week before. You know, no big deal. Mary is the type of person who can talk forever, and she’s therefore really good to have along during a marathon because you’re constantly entertained. We decided to stick together for awhile, although we were running all the hills at that point and she was having none of that. When we got to Blackberry Mountain, she said she’d see us at the top, and Amanda and I set off determined to accomplish our goal. The whole time, we could hear a truck horn blaring. I’d like to say it made the hill seem shorter, but it did not. That thing is no joke!

Keep on truckin'!
Keep on truckin’!

We were so serious about achieving our goal of running all the way up the mountain that we did not even stop at the truck (which was just before the top of the hill). We ran past it, grabbed water, and then ran back to take a picture at it. That’s probably the most dedicated I’ve ever been to a goal. By this point, I was beyond drenched in sweat. It was almost comical. My shorts were literally clinging to my body, and I’m not really sure why. I wasn’t really hot, it was just humid. I must be the world’s most efficient sweater, but seriously, body, take it down a notch. Amanda and I always joke that I never sweat in real life but I’m the sweatiest runner in the world, and she’s the exact opposite. I think it’s time to start busting out the running skirts, because those shorts just are not cutting it anymore.

Ok, so bear with me because I’m not totally sure I’m putting all of this stuff in the right order since the pictures on my camera seemed to have just scattered themselves randomly, but I promise you all these things actually happened at some point.

One of the awesome things about this marathon is that they make “Welcome Back” signs for all the returning runners and put them around the course, which is really cool. I actually had one last year because I had registered for the race previously but gotten hurt. This year, my name had changed due to the divorce, and I was deeply concerned that this would result in a lack of signage. Not to worry – Alexis made sure I had a sign after I sent him a Facebook message regarding my extremely superficial concerns.

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I do feel welcome, thank you very much.

I was lucky enough to meet a lot of readers during the race too! A surprising number of people recognized me while we were running, so that was really cool. I’m always amazed when people recognize me, but I guess Amanda and I are fairly easy to pick out in a crowd. Just look for two blonde girls who are the exact same height and wear the exact same clothes and are running next to each other the whole time, and there we are. So, shout out to everyone who said hi! You guys are awesome. Sorry if I was awkward.

We knew that Sparky, the world’s smallest horse (allegedly), would be somewhere between miles 9-10. I did remember that much from last year. Well, imagine our surprise when we got to Sparky’s house and there was not one but three Sparkys! It was like a dream come true.  A lot more people seemed to notice him this year than last year. Or maybe we were just running faster this year so we were actually near other people. It’s hard to say. It’s probably important to note that the Sparkys, as they shall be referred to henceforth, were in someone’s front yard behind a kind of picket fence situation. We obviously went right over the fence and into the yard, because if you put tiny horses on your front lawn, I think you need to expect people to pet them. Fortunately, the owners agreed.

Mary and Amanda pet the Sparkys.

Miles 9-10 are some of my favorite miles of the race. Not only are they beautiful and filled with Sparkys, but the mile 10 water station is by far the best on the course (and that’s really saying something because they are all great). The volunteers are entirely dedicated to the hillbilly theme, and it is phenomenal. There are jars of moonshine and a whole set up and the volunteers wear costumes. Last year, there was a guy in overalls covered in coal dust. To this day, I’m not entirely sure that was a costume.

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No water stop is complete without taxidermy.

They even had props you could play with! Or maybe you weren’t supposed to play with them, but whatever.

This is my hillbilly pose?

In the early miles, I kept getting shooting pains in my left hip, which I had apparently injured a few days before the race while getting my ass handed to me doing an “easy” trail run in the pouring rain with some of my friends. I ended up having to walk the last mile of the trail, and I hadn’t run since (to be fair that was like…two days) so I was worried about how my hip would feel. And it felt pretty terrible at first. I told Amanda that if I was still having a lot of pain by the halfway point, I would just run the half because it wasn’t worth jeopardizing my health for Alaska.  Fortunately, things seemed to get better as we ran towards the half marathon finish in Matewan, WV. The cool thing about this race is that the half and the full run together the entire way, so the marathoners actually cross the finish line in Matewan too. This year, they were having a Civil War Reenactment and the History Channel was there filming. I’m not sure they caught my luxurious hair on television, but they should have. Anyway, as we ran towards the half marathon finish, all of a sudden there was a huge explosion sound. They were firing cannons. Is this real life?

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Just your average half marathon finish/Civil War Reenactment/cornhole tournament. (Thanks for the picture, Charli!)

As we crossed the halfway point, my hip was still achy, but I wasn’t dealing with the shooting pains anymore. I was also having a lot of fun, so I decided to keep going. There were lots of different feud sites along the way, but I think I posted pictures of them last year, so I will not do that again. As we made our way towards the dirt road that we had been warned had become a mud path, Amanda and I reminisced about how much better we were feeling than last year. Last year, we stopped to lie down in the dirt road because our backs hurt and we didn’t feel like running. Kind of disturbing. This year, no such problem! And really, the dirt road wasn’t too bad at all with the exception of a couple of spots. Thanks goodness, because Amanda was wearing brand new running shoes and would have been very upset.

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You can’t even be mad about anything when it’s this pretty.

In all seriousness, this is one of the most beautiful courses I have run, and I’ve run some pretty spectacular courses. I don’t know what it is about the course, but you’re just surrounded by mountains, and everything is so green, and there’s usually this kind of early morning fog that looks like it’s cloaking the mountains in secrecy. So in addition to being a really fun race, it’s really beautiful too. I think hillbillies are actually pretty smart, because they live somewhere way better looking than I do. Just saying.

The dirt/mud road spits you out at a golf course, which is something I find hilarious and awesome. You run along the cart path for a short distance and then across the legendary swinging bridge. Mary had already warned us that she gets vertigo and would have to walk across the bridge, but no matter. It’s such a pretty area, and it’s hilarious to interact with the golfers who are driving their carts over the bridge as you run a marathon. Everyone was so friendly! No one cared that we were all taking pictures all over the place and clogging up their bridge.

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The infamous swinging bridge. I wouldn’t say it really swings, but it definitely moves.

We had been saying all weekend that the weather really was pretty nice last year until we hit mile 19 – after which point there is basically no shade. This year was exactly the same way. Although there was a lot of humidity, the air itself was cool for most of the race and we were under a cloud cover. Not so much once we reached mile 19. After that, it was all about getting things done. I had misplaced my Garmin, so I had no idea what pace we were running. It seemed like we started walking a lot more after the halfway point, especially up the hills, so I figured that our 5 hour goal was out the window. It felt like we were going really slowly, but I didn’t care. The whole race, I was just so happy to be back!

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No idea where this is in the race, but I look pretty happy.

As we approached mile 23, Amanda informed us that we could definitely still make it in under 5 hours, which totally caught me off guard. Mary’s response was “Shit, now we actually have to keep running,” which was basically my exact thought on the issue. Nonetheless, I was feeling overall pretty good besides the fact that marathons don’t end at mile 22 (which they really should).  We ran it all the way in and ended up finishing in 4:53 and some change! Mission accomplished! Not bad for a leisurely marathon if I do say so myself.

And because I love you, here’s a really hideous picture near the finish line.

The finish line of Hatfield-McCoy is one of my favorite of all marathons, although I’m not entirely sure why. You finish in downtown Williamson, WV (to be fair, there is probably not an “uptown” or anything else, but it’s their main street, so you get my point), and there are cute little shops all along the way. The Hatfield-McCoy Festival also takes place there after the race, so lots of runners stick around to cheer in their friends, and many local people are there too. It’s so much fun! Plus, Devil Anse Hatfield and Ole Ran’l McCoy are there waiting for you at the finish line, which is awesome. We were really excited to meet our goal, and even more excited that we had plenty of time to relax, grab our mason jar finisher’s award (seriously my favorite race thing ever) and medals, and grab some food! What a luxury to have time to hang out after a race! I need to do more within driving distance.

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Post-race with the Honey Badgers, who are all super fast.

Little did I know that the Honey Badgers had brought a special item all the way from Oregon that they have celebrities sign. They asked me if I would sign it – you know, right below Amby Burfoot, Bart Yasso, and Dean Karnazes. Because I’m in the same league as them, obviously. What was the mystery item? Why, granny panties, of course!

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Autographing my first ever pair of underwear. If there is a God, this will not be my last.

We then proceeded to have quite the photo shoot in downtown Williamson, drawing many curious stares from onlookers. I think that’s pretty fair though. Between the extremely sweaty people modeling large underwear and the adorable stray dog running all over the place, there was a lot of action to be seen.

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This is my new favorite kind of underwear, for obvious reasons.

The best part of the entire thing was making Amanda wear the underwear. She is easily embarrassed, bless her heart. The look on her face was priceless. We might not even be friends anymore once she sees that I put this picture in the blog.

I laugh every time.

We stuck around the festival for awhile cheering in our friends, which was really fun. I’m glad we got to spend more time there this year. Last year, we were hauling ass to get back to the hotel so we could shower before driving home. This year, we finished nearly an hour faster and were allowed to go shower at the fire department whenever we felt like it. This is totally the way to go, people. Less stress is so key.

Team T-Rex shirts at the finish!

So in conclusion, this race is still the best race ever. There is literally no competition in my mind. I’m glad I came back again this year because it firmly cemented my feelings that this is my favorite marathon by far. There are a lot of good races out there, but in my personal opinion, this is the most fun you’ll have running 26.2 miles. The volunteers are incredible,  the course is both beautiful and interesting, and you get a lot of really unique special touches that you just don’t get at the bigger races. I’ve already decided I’ll be back again next year and every year after that for as long as I can make it. Start getting my sign ready, Alexis!

39 thoughts on “Yup, still my favorite! – Hatfield McCoy Marathon 2013, Part 2

  1. Great write up!! Every single time I read about someone loving this marathon and my hometown I get ridiculously giddy! See you next year unless I see you sooner. 🙂

    PS- Come back in the fall when the colors come out on the trees. Totally amazing.

  2. I’ve never posted a comment on this blog before, but I’m a little tipsy so why not?

    Great report and sounds like an amazing race! Just curious – because this is one race that goes through 2 states, do you count it for 2 states, or do you have to have one full marathon in each state?

    (I’m a lawyer…sorry I’m not sorry.)

    1. HAHAHA this is awesome. You can only count it for one state at a time, so you have to run it twice to count it for both. In order to count as a state, the marathon has to either start or end in the state, which is why you can count this one for either West Virginia or Kentucky.

  3. We obviously would have blamed you if we came all the way from Oregon and hated this race. Fortunately for you, we loved everything about this marathon. It was everything we expected and more. Thank you so much for the recommendation. I totally want to come back or at least send some other Honey Badgers to coal country:-)

    1. Thank goodness! I was actually really stressed out at the thought that people might do the race on my recommendation and then hate it. I’m glad you loved it! It was great meeting y’all!

  4. Come back in October when the Hatfield McCoy rail trail has it’s festival in Gilbert. There are nice cabins in the hills you can stay in and watch the parade of four=wheelers come through town with ESPN filming. Mud pits are set up and bands perform. I would say ole Alexis will have a 5k set up for this time too. Got to do this. Believe me.

  5. you do realize you’re standing in front of a psychological office – right? 🙂 … irony at its finest

    Amana in those underwear… I think I laughed WAY too hard!!!!

    I want a Sparky… or all of the Sparkys

    You seriously get a mason jar? That’s awesome! We need a close up of the medal too – does it have faces on it?

    I love they put signs up with names on it to welcome back… that is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a race!!!

    1. Oh, you should have seen the pictures I didn’t post! That would be me in the underwear in front of a church.

      You definitely get a mason jar and it is awesome! I will have to post a picture on the T-Rex Runner facebook page of the jar and the medal.

  6. Hatfield/McCoy will be on the calendar next year FO’ SHO’!
    Just a side note: lately I must scroll horizontally to read and see everything. The pictures are absolutely huge! Of course, the better to see the luxurious hair! Anything I can do about that?

    1. That’s so weird – I’ve been trying to cut the pictures down in size a lot. What are you viewing the blog on? Your phone?

  7. I honestly had this race slated 100% for my eventual trip to West Virginia until I learned that it runs back and forth between KY and WV. So I can’t claim it as a full marathon for either state! Right? I know this is MY goal and I make up my rules and bla bla bla, but still, how can I call it a marathon state if I don’t run 26.2 in it? For that matter, crap, I haven’t even run a half marathon in Ohio because Flying Pig goes into Kentucky for a bit.

    Dammit. I just set myself back a state. What the hell.

    Anyway, this reads, as usual, like an awesome adventure. Though I know you go through your ups and downs, the way you write these recaps make it seem like a consistent up the entire way through, allowing us to focus on what was great about the race. Good times.

    1. Well, I know approximately how many readers I have per month, and it’s kind of a lot, but I have no way of knowing how many of them actually run marathons or half marathons. SO basically, no, I have no idea. But it’s really fun meeting everyone!

  8. Great race report, as usual. I’ve wanted to run this one since reading your blog from last year, and hearing other people rave about it as well. Alas, I had to be in Michigan to earn a new state (already got both KY and WV). But I don’t think there’s any way you can keep me away from Hatfield & McCoy next year!

  9. Sounds like such an amazing race!!! And guess who just signed up for her first ever full marathon!? ME! and its in 9 days! Queen of impulsive decision I am.

      1. I was REALLY hoping you weren’t going to ask that because I’m kind of ashamed of it myself…rock and roll Seattle (I know! I know!) I’ve had the marathon itch since this year’s Capital City Half Marathon and this was the first full weekend I have off from work since then, so it has to be Rock and Rock. At least there will be like a bazillion people there so hopefully I’ll just blend in when I feel like I want to fall apart, right?

        1. Aww, don’t be ashamed! I mean, ok, be a little ashamed. To be fair, I’ve heard that’s one of the better Rock N Roll races. HAVE FUN! I can’t wait to hear about it.

  10. Man, I want to run this race so bad….wait a minute hahaha
    Hi! I love this race than any other race I’ve done. It’s home, it’s beautiful, and the people I work with are amazing and humble. I worked my ass off that whole marathon week leading up to the race day. Will I do it again? Yes, of course! I never pass up anything quite fantastic as this one.

  11. You make marathons looks like easy and relaxed. Almost encourages me to try for one, if I didn’t know better 😉 Seriously though, this race looks like a complete blast! I feel like it should be added to my bucket list…but first I’d have to start a bucket list.

    1. Well, you’re far smarter than me if you don’t ever run a marathon. You should do Hatfield McCoy though, seriously! Bucket list or not, they have two half marathons to choose from. AND I’ll be there next year. Can’t beat that for a winning combination!

  12. Thanks for a great write-up. This is definitely on my bucket list – I hope to do it in 2014. I will only be doing the half marathon, though. If you had the choice, would you prefer the first half or second half? Looks like the swinging bridge is on the second half. Thanks! Can’t wait!

    1. I’ve got to say I think the first half is better. Although it has the big hill in, it’s also the half of the race where you see the most feud sites and you really get the “Hatfield McCoy” feeling. You’ll also get to see Sparky and his tiny friends, which is equally important. The swinging bridge is good, but it doesn’t outweigh everything else about the first half in my opinion. Have fun!! I hope you love it 🙂

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