Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon Race Review

2015 Mercedes-Benz Half Finishers Medal (the pic could be better, but I did not want my ugly, sweaty mug in it)
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On February 22, I was in rainy Birmingham, AL for my first running of the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon. All that I knew about the race was that the race bling does not change from year to year, and 99% of participants are perfectly happy about this. In fact, that race medal is very well know throughout the running world, and was one of the most complimented medals that I have posted on my Facebook wall. And I agree, it is hard to argue with the beauty of the Mercedes-Benz symbol as a race medal. It pops, and it demands attention. But what about the rest of the race? Does it live up to the hype of the medal? In my experience, I would have to say yes.

2015 Mercedes-Benz Half Finishers Medal (the pic could be better, but I did not want my ugly, sweaty mug in it)

2015 Mercedes-Benz Half Finishers Medal (the pic could be better, but I did not want my ugly, sweaty mug in it)

Despite the rain, I loved my experience at the event, and I understand why so many people race about the event. Honestly, the race was smaller than I was expecting. It was much closer to the Mississippi Blues size than the St. Jude Memphis or Country Music Marathon events. And for this, I was appreciative. These mid-range races are the best for me. The overall event seems to be about the runner and cause more than just having a large number. I love some of the big, corporate races that I have run, but not being herded like cattle for thirty plus minutes before starting a race certainly has its perks.

For my performance in the race, I was not at my best. Snow, ice, cold, and rain have hampered both my ability and desire to train as diligently as I would like or need to do.I am staying active, but often I am not giving maximum effort, and it is showing in my finishing times. But, I am finishing, and I am starting to make progress back to my late 2013 form. I am pleased with how I finished this race in particular with the rain throughout, and having to spend the entire previous week battling cabin fever due to most of my exercise outlets being incapacitated by ice.

Course: A: The course itself would be graded differently if I ran the full marathon rather than the half. For the full marathon, you run the course twice, which I would not prefer. But since the course is a double loop, it eliminated several logistical nightmares that certainly enhanced it for the half marathoners and marathoners alike. For the half marathon, there were eleven water stops! Yes, eleven! Now, I did not need that many stops on this particular day, but with the uncertainty of the weather, it was awesome to have that many options. I am certain that the marathoners would agree with this sentiment. After the start, the course never  crowded for me again, and it looped throughout downtown and other points of interest in Birmingham. There was crowd support everywhere, even in the rain, and there never was a question of which way to go, even when the marathoners and half marathoners had separate paths to the finish line. The course started flat, hit some hills for miles four through nine, and then finished flat again, for a net gain of one foot of elevation, which was remarkable. A huge thank you to the numerous volunteers and spectators along the way! Y’all made the race even more enjoyable!

2015 Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon Swag

2015 Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon Swag

Swag: A+: I already spoke about how great I felt that the medal is/was/will be. I also enjoyed the simple design of the race shirt, and the fact that the tech shirt still fit true to size. So often races shirts are cut for the super elite runners, and not people like me that it is a crap shoot to receive an appropriately sized shirt. There also were some gloves, coasters, and one part of a system called the Gotta Go Poncho, which was the talk of the expo as I was leaving. Just Google it, and will see what I mean. Too bad we did not get the entire system because I am very curious how many people would have used them on Sunday morning. All finishers also received a race themed beach towel, which is a race first for me, but certainly awesome. The post race food spread was separated into two areas. The first was at the finish with Powerade, water, fruit and such. The other was a BBQ and beer party inside the expo. The line was long by the time I finished, and since I did not stay at a host hotel, I headed back to my hotel to shower and checkout so I could head back to Memphis at a decent hour. I feel that I missed out by doing this.

Google this. Trust me.

Google this. Trust me.

Overall: A: I loved this race, the volunteers, the swag, and the entire experience. I am very happy that I won this entry from the 100 Half Marathons Club because without it, I might never have decided to experience this race, which would have been a shame. I highly recommend this race to others, and I would certainly run it again in the future.

This was my seventeenth half marathon, and fifth state total in which I have had to run a half marathon. I met several Half Fanatics at the race, including a guy from Wayne Dobbins, GA, who I talked to for he entire walk to the starting corrals and wait for the race start. Also, a local running group in Birmingham had Run the Ham on the back of their shirts at the expo, which is awesome. If I lived there, I would probably wear that shirt to every one of my out of town races.

Music Highway Medal

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Music Highway Medal

First off, my race recap for the Mercedes Half Marathon should be posted on Monday morning. It has been a hectic week, and I just have not done it yet. In the meantime, I wanted to share with all of y’all the Music Highway medal that I received this week for running the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville and St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis as a St.. Jude Hero.

Staying Active in the Ice

TRX-Banner
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Currently, Memphis and much of the mid-south is experiencing some intense ice coverage, which limits what can be done. I currently do not have a gym membership, but I can go to the student rec center when it is open. But, of course, with this ice, comes school closings, and thus, the student rec center is not an option. Likewise for boot camp since it follows the University of Memphis’ decision to cancel classes and activities or not. I could try my hand at running along the streets, but with my propensity to fall, that seems like a huge gamble. Especially with the Mercedes Half Marathon coming up this Sunday. Therefore, I must find ways to be active within the confines of my house.

We may see a couple of these on the Memphis roads.

We may see a couple of these on the Memphis roads.

Last night, Susan suggested that I try an interactive program called GoNoodle that they use at her school. It is a way for students to learn while being active. The learning fractions was not of my concern, but the activities were. I did a combination of indoor running, Zumba, yoga, and calisthenics. It was a better workout than I was expecting, and it was a great way to keep moving.

TRX-Banner

Tonight, I am going to do some TRX and other body weight exercises. TRX is always a quick and easy way to stay active at the house, so if this ice maintains for a few more days, I should be covered. I should be able to reach the end of my ice induced hibernation without gaining an obscene amount of weight.

Monday Motivation: Jeff Galloway Edition

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Galloway

I am a part of a blogger program through Jeff Galloway in which he provides some tips and insights for sharing with my readers. Today is the first one of those posts. So, without interruption, the following are a few tips on running from Mr. Galloway:

When paced correctly, running delivers the best attitude boost you can get. Sustain this by pacing yourself gently during the first mile or three.

A well-paced run enhances vitality for the rest of the day.  Start each run at least 30 seconds a mile slower than you will run at the end.

If you have a Run Walk Run strategy that is right for you on that day, it’s possible to feel good after every run-even the marathon.

Running is the best stress reliever I’ve found. Research shows that running tends to activate the conscious brain which over-rides the emotional subconscious brain and manages the negative and anxiety hormones during and after the run.

Research shows that as runners get faster, their stride length shortens.  A quicker cadence is the mechanical key to faster running.

The finishing of a run that is longer than you’ve run in the last 3 weeks can bestow a sense of achievement that is unique and empowering-due to positive brain circuits that are turned on.

You can’t run a long run too slowly or take too many walk breaks.  You’ll get the same endurance based upon the distance covered.

Of course Galloway is known for his run, walk, run programs and his association with runDisney. I have never tried his run, walk, run program, but I am considering it for a future event just to see how it goes for me.

Weight Divisions for Marathons?

homer_simpson_run
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On Monday night, I was on the Facebook page for Run the Bluegrass (I was there checking the progress of my submitted medals in the 2014 Medal of the Year bracket that is going on – vote for Oak Barrel and Navy Nautical 10 Miler) and noticed something strange. For this year’s race, the RD has decided to incorporate Clydesdale and Athena categories. For those of you that do not know, these categories are geared for larger runners. Clydesdale is for male runners in excess of 220 pounds, and Athena is for female runners checking in at over 165 pounds.

Film Title: Run Fat Boy Run

 

 

These are USAT certified divisions, but they are most often seen in triathlons, not half marathons, marathons, or any other running only events. Personally, I think that it is a neat wrinkle to this year’s event, and as a “Clydesdale”, I would be pumped to place in that division. However, the topic seemed to be very polarizing in the comments section (like everything on Facebook seems to be) and as of last night, tempers were flaring. After reading through both sides, I decided to post my thoughts on here so as to share with all of you, and not stoke the flames over there anymore. I just found the debate interesting.

On one side, you have a growing number of runners not cut from the traditional mold. They are heavier and less athletic looking than what a layperson would expect when they hear that the person is a runner. Several are on amazing weight loss journeys, some are deceptively large and will smoke you on the course, and some are out there achieving a goal, and quite possibly embracing a new lifestyle. This group very rarely gets to feel the joy that is associated with a podium call, and the additional accolades and swag that might come from the accomplishment. Often they are in the group of the back of the pack finishers that many spectators and fellow runners forget about once the medals are handed out, and the post race beer is enjoyed. They are running the same course as everyone else, but often feel like they are running a different race.

homer_simpson_run

 

On the other side, by classifying someone by a weight class can be demeaning. Being teased for my weight virtually my entire life, whether it be from family, friends, or foe has left some very real marks on my psyche. A major race labeling their in a manner that will only heighten the attention on this group seems off-putting, and in many ways cruel. Just because a runner is larger, does not mean that they should be forced to wear a scarlet letter as one more reminder of their size! This is just another form of fat-shaming and any race director that supports it should be ashamed of themselves!

And of course, there is also the notion that just because one’s weight is over a certain threshold, does not mean that they are fat! Their BMI (which in itself is a flawed metric) could be in a very favorable range, and they could be quite tall, thus adding weight without adding girth. There are several scenarios at play, and therefore pigeon-holing people into categories is wrong, and should be abstained from.

Last Place

Honestly, after reading the comments, I feel that in no way, shape, or form are the staff from Run the Bluegrass trying to fat-shame, embarrass, or ridicule anyone over the weight thresholds. Rather, they are simply trying to find ways to enhance the experience for ALL runners of the event. The fact that a race is trying to give this group a little extra incentive for the event, and maybe help boost their self-esteem, especially in regards to their running, is commendable to me. And honestly, as I told Susan last night, I wish more races would offer these categories for people like me! Who knows, I could be earning quite a few podium calls if they did!

This post was written a little over-the-top and dramatic for effect. I do not wish or intend to offend anyone, but simply lay out what some extremes of both sides of this debate might be. I would love to hear any input or insight that you might have about this topic.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series Discount Code

Rock Blog 2015
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It is finally here! I now have my Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series discount code to share with all of you!!!! Use the cod RUNNINGLARGE15 to save $15 on your 2015 registration.

Rock Blog 2015

Details on the code as follows:

  • Valid for $15 off marathons & half marathons in 2015
  • Includes both Canadian destinations – Montreal & Vancouver
  • £3 (GBP) off international races
  • Does not include: Mexico events, 1-miles, 5K, 10K, Kids Rock, 2-Person Relay, or TourPass
  • Expires on 12/31/15

MRTC RRS Road Warrior Addendum

Road Warrior 74.8 decal
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I feel like I have beaten the topic of the MRTC Road Race Series to death on this blog over the past few months, so what would one more post hurt?

The additional swag earned for becoming a 2014 Road Warrior

The additional swag earned for becoming a 2014 Road Warrior

Back on January 10 was the winter party that celebrates the entire series, and I attended the party briefly that evening. The party is where runners could pick up any swag that they might have earned and the yearly MRTC awards are handed out. There is a pasta buffet and beer available. If I were not traveling to Memphis from Mississippi I might have tried to make an evening of it. But with the travel and the large amount of people at the venue, I took my swag and left. I did, however, talk with some people who went and they enjoyed themselves even though there was a large delay in the food and beverage lines. But since I did not attend the entire evening, I am not going to review the party beyond this.

Road Warrior 74.8 decal

Road Warrior 74.8 decal

The swag changes each year for runners that qualify as a Road Warrior (complete all 10 races) or Series Finisher (complete 1 of each distance or 6 total races in series). For the 2014 event, Road Warriors earned a seat cover, car coaster, trophy, and 74.8 decal. They did not have the decals at the winter party, and this was causing a meltdown for several of the people I know that earned it. It is a major point of pride and honor to display this highly coveted decal in the Memphis area. You endure heat, cold, rain, hangovers, travel, and dedicate four months to the series, so finishing is something runners love to show off. Thankfully, the decals eventually came in and were available for pick up once the rest of the race swag was made available for those who could not attend the winter party or if they arrived late to the winter party and the swag was gone. The Series Finishers received seat covers only.

The 2014 MRTC RRS race shirt

The 2014 MRTC RRS race shirt

My initial reaction the seat covers was meh, but then when I started to think about it, I realized the value in the item. I usually bring a towel along for races to cover my seats after a race for the drive home. Now, I can use the seat cover, and not worry about jostling with the towel on the entire drive to keep the seat covered.