This was the second of three races that I ran over the first weekend of November. This was the first time that I have run in this event, which was my third half marathon since September 1, and second in thirteen days. This also marks my third state to run a half marathon both all time and since September 1. It is amazing to think that I have been able to do this. Even more unbelievable is the fact that the last half marathons that I have run have been my fastest two! And to be honest, I did not know what to expect from this small town half marathon, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.
The race is held at Wynne High School in Wynne, AR, which is about an hour from Memphis, which is one of the reasons that I signed up for the race. I would not have to get a hotel room and I could just wake up early and travel to the race. Also, the registration fee was only $27, which is by far the cheapest half marathon registration that I will ever find. I have run 5K’s that have charged more than this!
I woke up and headed out to the race at 6:00 am. I wanted to get to the event early since I was not able to go to the early packet pickup on Friday afternoon. As I headed out, I pulled up the directions and realized that the race was a little further away than I expected, so my anxiety accelerated a little bit. And my anxiety did not subside when several notices about road construction were posted on I-40. Luckily, traffic was not bad this early in the morning, and I was actually able to make great time on my way to the race.
Much like the 4 Bridges event, this one race was quite cold with the temperature at 45 degrees when I got out of the truck. At least I had a hoodie this time and was much better suited to battle the cold. The line for the packet pickup was not too bad, and waiting until the hour before the race was not a detriment to my race. A bonus to having the event at the local high school and the fact that the race was not huge was that participants could use the schools bathrooms with little to no lines. Yep, a half marathon with indoor bathrooms and small lines! There were also several port a potties, but most of us did not need visit these since we had the indoor options.
This was supposed to be my first half marathon without Susan. At the St. Jude Half Marathons, she can drive around the course with her dad, a retired cop, to see me at various points. Our hotel for the Tupelo 14.2 had a shuttle, so Susan did not have to leave with me at 4:00 am. At 4 Bridges she had the ability to stay at her sister’s apartment near the finish line until I was close. With this event, there was no such luxury, so I was prepared to run it alone. However, as I was approaching the finish line, I saw Susan with our dog Beau! It was a great to see them and completely unexpected. She apparently was sad that she was not going to be there with me so she decided to head over to the race. It was definitely a welcomed site.
I did not know how well I was going to run the event provided that I had run a race the night before, but I did not have any issues during my run. I started strong, and a little faster than ideal, but I was able to get it under control before it detracted from my entire race. After about five miles, I knew that I had a shot at my second straight PR, but I was not going to get ahead of myself. I was simply going to run the best race that I possibly could. I ended up with my second fastest race ever, which is not too shabby. In fact, my last mile was my fastest of the entire race! I was able to run mile thirteen at a pace of 8:55, which was my sixth sub 10:00 mile! Miles eight, ten, and eleven were my weakest, but the were in the 10:00 range.
Swag: B+: All participants got a long-sleeved t-shirt that was very soft, some coupons, a shaving cream sample, and a medal that was a vast improvement over last year’s race according to a Google image search. I was very happy with this year’s medal, a very colorful metal medal with some trees cut out of it. From some of my conversations with race volunteers, they really hoped us runners could enjoy the trees changing colors along the course. This was the inspiration behind their run. There were aid stations at every mile with water and Gatorade, and on the way back, the stations also had bananas, orange slices, and pretzel sticks. The post race meal was BBQ and ribs with all of the trimmings, but it was to be served at 11:00 am, and I did not want Susan and Beau to wait that long. Too bad because it smelled outstanding.
Course: B+: It was on out and back course, starting by the high school, following some country roads, and finishing on the football field. For University of Memphis fans, this was the football field that DeAngelo Williams played on in high school before breaking NCAA records at Memphis. The only downside was the cumulative mile along US 64 where we had to run on the should of the road as semis came down the highway. This was a tight squeeze for runners going both ways, but no one had an issue with it to my knowledge. And when we crossed the highway, there were cops directly traffic to help protect the runners.
Overall: A-: This was a well-organized event with some of the friendless volunteers that I have ever encountered. The event was an insane value for $27 and well worth the trip over the river. I would certainly be open to running this event again in the future. This entire event reminded me of my rural West Tennessee hometown and that was a good thing. Also, it does not hurt that this was my second fastest half marathon ever with an official finish time of 2:12:45! So in the last thirteen days I have bested my previous best time by four plus minutes twice! Is it the shoes? This is a throw back to NBA Jam.
On the way home, we stopped at Tropical Smoothie Cafe for a quick bite to eat and a smoothie. This trip only warrants a mention because of what was written on Susan’s smoothie. She ordered a Rocking Raspberry, which was abbreviated to read Rocking Rash, or at least it looks like that to me!