2015 Murray Half Marathon Recap

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Last weekend I was able to run a half marathon in a town about as close as possible to my hometown, which was great. I was able to stay with my parents, have a home-cooked meal, and relax in a house rather than a hotel. The race also happened to be in Kentucky, which enabled me to cross off another state in my running journey, which is now at six states for the half marathon distance.

Start line before the race began

Start line before the race began

Going into this race, I had no idea what to expect. It was a small town race in its fifth year of existence, with under 1,000 registered runners. It could be great, it could be terrible, and it could be something in between. You never know what the crowd support will be like and how capable the RD will be (this can be true at big races, as well). After running the race, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd support. There was a spirit competition for supports at the water stops and other areas across the course, several locals were about to cheer us along, and the race went along smoothly.

Soem of the Murray Spirit Teams

Some of the Murray Spirit Teams

The weather started cool, and warmed throughout the morning. The early fear was that there were going to be storms on race morning, but those fears were unfounded. The sun was out for the entire race, which actually began to take its toll on me. As the miles racked up, so did the humidity and sunshine, and my mental state did not endure. This mental deterioration also accompanied the course going primarily rural. But I finished the race, and that was the goal!

Course: B+: The course was a combination of residential and rural, with crowd support along the entire course. There were plenty of water stops, and even Cliff Blocks at some of the water stations. There was no bottle-necking along the course, even at the start and the out and back stretch through a local park. There were more hills than I expected, and as my mental state waned, it felt as if we were only going uphill (which I know is not true, but it did feel that way).

2015 Murray Half Marathon Finisher's Medal

2015 Murray Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

Swag: A: The medal has a classic look, with a design on both sides. The shirt was made from technical material and the design plays well on both the shirt and medal. The bibs had the runners’ full names and hometown on them, which was a first for me. Several races will have your first name or nickname, but not a full name. The expo was small, but was packed with vendors. The goody bag had several samples, including a free car wash and multiple pain relief remedies.

2015 bib, shirt, and medal for the Murray Half Marathon

2015 bib, shirt, and medal for the Murray Half Marathon

Overall: A-: Great race, with plenty of support. The post race was fun, with plenty of items. Parking was tight near the start line, but runners could use the parking lot at the football stadium for Murray State University and be shuttled to and from the race. The only issue with the shuttle was that the pickup location was not clearly marked, so several us missed the first pickup. The race also had chip timing rather than gun timing, which is not a given for a small town race.

I would do this event again in the future, even if it was not so close to my parents’ house.

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2015 Germantown Half Marathon Review

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This is not my first time running in this event, and it will not be my last. I have reviewed the race a couple of times now, and I find it redundant to do a full review each year as long as the organizers and course remain constant, which they did for this year. Instead, I am going to talk about this day in particular and the 2015 version of the race medal and swag.

Susan captured this pic of me running along the course

Susan captured this pic of me running along the course

What a difference a day makes for the weather! After the rain that never seemed to end, this race day ended up beautiful. The day started chilly, but warmed up as the day progressed. Sunday ended up being the best day of the year thus far, even if it did not feel that way in the second half of the race. After months of freezing temps, the mid-60’s felt like a heat wave and hammered me on the run. It did feel great to be in the sun and to not be bundled up after the race.

Determination late in the race

Determination late in the race

By using a run walk ratio for the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon on Saturday, and then again for this race on Sunday, I was able to actually finish this race, and the more difficult course four minutes faster than the day before! I was very pleased with my efforts during the race and even though this was much slower than last year’s event, I think that I am returning to a good place with my running.

2015 Germantown Half Marathon finisher's medal

2015 Germantown Half Marathon finisher’s medal

Swag: B+: For the second year in a row, there was a redesign of the race medal, shirt, and logo. It was another great design, and certainly trumped what was done for the race for the years prior to 2014. I preferred the designs from 2014, but this year was still very good. I love that this year they made a long-sleeved shirt for the race, even if they keep you guessing on the proper size to order with the constant changing of shirt brands and types. For anyone that is a repeat participant in an event, it is nice to have a variety of shorts for an event, and in this capacity, this race is succeeding.

2015 Germantown Half swag

2015 Germantown Half swag

The race organizers also did something great for the race participants. There was a large number of late registrations, and rather than having a medal shortage fiasco like a couple of years ago, they were proactive in their approach. They emailed everyone, letting them know that if you registered after a certain date, you would not get a medal on race day, but rather you would have one sent to you when the second batch were finished. To determine how to distribute the medals for the races, they color coordinated race bibs. If you had a green bib, you got a medal. A white bib meant that you did not. It worked great from what I could see after I finished.

2015 Andrew Jackson Half Marathon Review

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Saturday I took the hour drive up Interstate 40 to Jackson, TN to tackle my first of two half marathons for the weekend at the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon. This race is a smaller race, and offers a marathon, half marathon, and 5K with staggered start times for each event. There really was not an expo, just a registration and packet pickup at one of the gyms on the Union University campus.

The day did not start off great with the week-long rain still lingering for most of the morning. It was not as heavy of a rain as the rest of the week, but it just exasperated the amount of liquid along the course. It also marked my third half marathon of 2015 in which the weather was not great. This is a risk you run with spring events. We all know the possibilities, and signing up early to save some cash will limit our ability to cherry-pick races according to weather.

Being that this race was going to be my first of two half marathons for the weekend, I decided to take it easy along the course. I even violated a cardinal rule for running by trying something new on race day. Of course, my something new was not new shoes, apparel, or fueling, but rather new pacing. I decided to try incorporating a run walk ratio for the race. I assumed that using a pre-planned run walk regiment would help preserve my legs for the following day’s race, and it would help curb my instinct to push it hard, especially early in the event. The run walk ratio was a successful strategy for this event for me. I was sore after the event, but not as much so as I would have been if I would have used my same race strategy. Of course, my finish time was not spectacular, but this weekend was much more about completing the events, not a PR.

Andrew Jackson Half Marathon finisher's medal

Andrew Jackson Half Marathon finisher’s medal

Course: B-: The word that best describes this course is boring. It was a mix of rural and residential streets with sparse crowds throughout. The volunteers were fantastic, and there were an adequate amount of water stations along the course. There were some moderate, rolling hills and the course was open to traffic. Race organizers did a great job of stopping traffic for runners to cross, but with the standing water along the course, some areas got a little tight with motorists and runners. The crowd at the finish was great and encouraging, so that certainly is a positive from the race.

Andrew Jackson Half race shirt, bib, and medal

Andrew Jackson Half race shirt, bib, and medal

Swag: B-: Tech shirt and medal constitutes the swag for this race. The post race spread consisted of bananas, orange slices, and bagels. The medal has been polarizing for the people who have seen it on my social media outlets. Personally, I like the idea they were going for, and for a presidential nerd, it is fantastic. The medal, however, looks a bit off. Susan finds the medal creepy. It looks like one of the following three things: 1) a Michael Myers mask, 2) Andrew Jackson wearing an Andrew Jackson mask, or 3) or Christopher Walken dressed as Andrew Jackson. Judge for yourself.

Overall: B-: It is a small race that is well-organized and for a great cause (raises money for the prevention of child abuse and neglect). For future events, organizers should work for a bigger post race spread. They had a dinner the night before the race, which would be great for people staying in the Jackson, TN area, but something post race would be great as well. I hope that they keep pushing the envelope with the use of Andrew Jackson. Think the Lincoln Presidential Marathon which has had medals look like pennies, $5 bills, and race shirts have shown Abe in various running situations. Have some fun with it!

I would probably run this race again being that it is so close to Memphis.

Back to Back Half Marathons

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Next weekend will mark my first attempt at running a half marathon on back to back days. I have run a 5K, half marathon, and 5K in consecutive days, a 10K and half marathon back to back, a marathon, and even two 5K’s in one day, but never double-digit race miles on back to back days. This is going to be a challenge, but one I want to attempt. My training is not 100% where I want it to be at this point, but I am confident that I will be able to complete my goal. After all, I am not too proud to walk if the need arises. Double Weekend   While prepping for this endeavor, I reached out to fellow runners through social media for advice. I am not personal trainer, but I thought that the information was good, I feel obliged to share it here. The information is as follows:

  • Hydrate!
  • Eat more than you think you should. Do not gorge yourself, but I will consume more calories than normal, so fuel properly.
  • Clean and quality fuel will help in the recovery process.
  • Rest. Get extra sleep to recover…
  • But do not rest too much. Keep moving after race number one to keep my legs loose.
  • Foam roll and stretch after each race.
  • Compression gear after each race.
  • Do not try to PR, run for the joy of it.
  • Chose one race to run harder in than the other.
  • Actually train with back to back long runs.

There were some other responses, but this is the gist of the information that I received. The two races I have chosen to run back to back are the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon in Jackson, TN, and the Germantown Half Marathon Germantown, TN. This is about as convenient as back to back races can be with the ability to sleep in my own bed and travel about an hour at the most to a race.

Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon Race Review

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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.

Weight Divisions for Marathons?

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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

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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