Races No. 23 and 24

Just when I think I’m done running half marathons, I convince myself to run “just one more.” When I learned that the Haunted Half Marathon in Jonesborough, Tennessee, had a black cat as part of its logo and medal, I knew I needed to run it. Lesli and I rode together to the oldest (and most haunted) town in Tennessee to enjoy a perfect autumn weekend right before Halloween.

Jonesborough is the *perfect* little town to visit in autumn. We were there on October 25 and 26.

The start of the race wasn’t until 9:30 a.m., which is the latest I’ve ever started a race. (Normally these things start at 7 or 8 in the morning.) I was plenty ready to get going (and finish) well before it was time to line up.

The race was incredibly difficult, and not just because I wasn’t as well-trained as usual. The Haunted Half was advertised as having a route with “rolling hills,” but I assure you there was nothing rolling about them. There were REGULAR HILLS, not cutesy little rolling hills. Everyone in my pace group complained about the hills because we were all caught off guard and gasping for breath.

I finished with my second slowest time ever, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t in shape or because I didn’t feel like running. I couldn’t run those monsters. It would’ve killed my knees.

It’s all about the medal though. All I have to do is finish.

I was pretty sore afterward and wondered, per usual, if my racing days were over. Naturally, I signed up for another race that week.

On Saturday, I ran the Secret City Half Marathon for the second time. I still wasn’t impressed with the route (not much to look at) or the bathrooms (there were too few of them), but it was a local race that I could drive to, run, and drive home afterward.

Actually, either my MapMyRun app is way off, or the race directors miscalculated. I ran more than 13.1 miles on Saturday morning!

At any rate, it’s about the medals. Cheers to No. 24!

Now that I’m at 24, it seems silly to not run a 25th. Right?

Medal No. 22

I signed up for the Santa Hustle Half Marathon in the Smokies back in the summer, not yet knowing that I would be running a half marathon in England in October. I’d already met my personal goal of running 20 races by the time I turned 40, so now it is just a matter of running races to run them and bring home another medal.

However, by mid-week, I was seriously considering not showing up on account of the dismal weather forecast.

Those temperatures, when combined with 100 percent chance of rain, felt like a big NO in my book. I don’t run in extreme weather conditions, namely the middle of summer when the heat and humidity make East Tennessee feel like an oven. (I go to the gym and do yoga in the summer.) 

By Saturday morning, I was still leaning towards no. The forecast never improved or even shifted. I polled friends on Instagram and the majority said HECK NO, don’t run. 

The yellow bracket represents the time during which I’d be running. The race started at 7:30 a.m.

A small few, maybe six or seven, said DO IT.  A few messaged me and reminded me that I’d probably regret it if I didn’t at least try. I wasn’t aiming for a perfect time anyway. I surrendered the fantasy of PRs – personal records – a long time ago. My only goal now is to finish in one piece, and I honestly believe this basic rule to listen to my body has kept me injury-free for the last decade. 

I wasn’t alone in the indecision or concern. The race’s Facebook page was busy with discussion about travel worries and racers deciding it was too risky to cross mountains and plateaus to get to Sevierville. A few petitioned the race organizers to reschedule, but if you have any experience with the racing community, you’d know that wasn’t going to happen.

In the end, I went for it. I drove to Sevierville Saturday night and slept at my parents’ house, who’d only moved to the area last week. (Their house is 11 miles from the start line.) When I left for the race at 6:15 a.m., the weather was exactly as predicted – 35 degrees and raining. I upped my positive-self-talk game: “Only two hours of running and then you can take a hot shower. No big deal.”

Attendance was noticeably down from the last time I ran the Santa Hustle two years ago, and it was a bare-bones set-up. No local cheerleading teams or bands, no extra volunteers in cheerful holiday garb to make the event festive. People huddled around outdoor space heaters or stayed indoors. When the race started (late) at 7:35 a.m., people were ready to get the dang thing over with.

The first four miles was uneventful weather-wise. The steady rain had lessened to a light mist, and, once warmed up, the temperature felt nice.

Around mile five, the sleet arrived and hung around for the next three or four miles, properly soaking my legs and feet. I took two missteps and landed directly in puddles.

At mile nine, the sleet morphed into fat, puffy snowflakes, which pelted me in the face for a steady 45 minutes. 

By mile 12, I was over it. Done. Soaked to the bone and freezing. By the time I could see the finish line, I could also see – do my eyes deceive me? – my parents parked on the roadside. I waved to them, and they waved back, and then I noticed my mother was recording the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Woman running her direction. (The white Columbia jacket I bought for our U.K. trip was PERFECT for a long-distance run in wet weather!)

Despite the weather, the Santa Hustle 2018 was still not my worst race experience. The Oklahoma City Half in 2009 still reigns as the absolute worst. My time was a few minutes slower than normal, but I’m still within range of the last ten half marathons I’ve run. 

More than anything, I’m glad I did something hard when I was really tempted not to. 

Medal No. 14

I ran in the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon yesterday morning as part of a relay team, which is the first time I’ve ever run a race with partners. Usually running is my singular thing – no teamwork required, just me from start to finish. However, a few months ago I started asking my running friends if they’d be interested in running on a relay team. I had no idea what the logistics would be, but as long as a I got a medal, I figured it was worth it.

It was, by the way. It was totally worth it. Even though Chuck and Tracy’s husband had to taxi us to relay points, even though I had to run with my cell phone (which I never do) to stay in communication with my team, and even though I fretted over innumerable possibilities that would ensure relay failure, it was all worth it. In the end, it was just fine.

There we are crossing the finish line two by two – Tracy and me in front, Lesli and Hayley behind.

Approaching the finishline

The finish line is in Neyland Stadium, which is my favorite feature about this race. (I earned Medal No. 10 in this race four years ago.) The announcer calls out your name as you cross over and your finish moment is displayed on the Jumbotron. (Thanks for snapping the photo, babe.)

On the jumbotron

Our overall time was 5:09:30, which is a bit faster than when I ran a full marathon in 2008. The legs distances varied – 6.3, 6.5, 7.5 (my leg), and 5.9. Regardless of who ran which distance, we all got to cross the finish line together and enjoy the euphoria of getting medals placed around our necks. There is nothing like it.

Group photo in Neyland

Will I run another relay? Perhaps. I would run another relay with these ladies, for sure. If anything, I’m on the right track towards getting Medal No. 15.

Today is not that day

Jennie’s Precious Medals

A few years ago when I began running half marathons (and eventually a full marathon in 2008),  I started thinking of a way to display my medals. I was never the girl who collected trophies for athleticism in middle or high school, so race medals quickly resonated with me. Upon crossing the finish line, they were immediately precious and valuable.

If you know me, then perhaps you’ve heard me mention an up-in-the-air idea of having a shadow box or something like that to display them. It was never a project I got around to, and today my eight medals hang via thumb tack on the wall next to the treadmill.

Soon, they will have a home. Today, Chuck presented me with this:

He commissioned an artist in Chattanooga to create this colorful board representing the cities or states in which I’ve ran – Louisville, Chicago, Albuquerque, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and two cities in Tennessee, Nashville and, of course, Chattanooga. This week is our 10th anniversary and while this board has nothing necessarily to do with our marriage or family, like the medals, it’s become immediately of value to me.