New St. Jude Marathon Weekend Race

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2016 marks the 15th year of the St. Jude Marathon Weekend, and with it, St. Jude is introducing a new race distance! In years past, have you felt that the 5K was not challenging enough, yet the idea of the half marathon or marathon was still too daunting? Well, this year, you are in luck! St. Jude has decided to provide potential race participants with the option of running a 10K for the kids! I will still be either running the half or the full marathon, but I am excited that even more people can participate in this wonderful race weekend. More info can be found here.

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2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic Fairway 5K Recap

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Originally I was going to run in the inaugural Race 13.1 being held here in Memphis, but with my lack of training and busy schedule, I thought it was wiser to run in this 5K and continue to build my running base back up.

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I ran in the first Fairway 5K back in 2013, but could not participate in it last year due to my schedule. I remembered that race had a great afterparty and was for a great cause. This year was no different. I was slower this year, which really sucks when you consider that the Fairway 5K in 2013 was my first race after my foot injury, but I am presently a work in progress, and I am slowly returning to form.

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Swag: A+: Any 5K that gives out a medal will get a high grade from me, especially the awesomeness that was this year’s medal. This seriously might be my favorite medal of any race thus far! Throw in a nice looking long sleeve Zorrel Dri-Balance shirt, a one day pass to the FedEx St. Jude Classic golf tournament, colorful socks, a cooling towel and you have some very solid swag. The post race mimosas, beers, and Bloody Marys were a huge hit. If you lingered too long out there, you certainly would have needed a DD to get home! The pre and post race band was also very good.

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Course: A-: You run through residential streets as well as the cart paths around the 17th and 18th holes. Everyone thought that the course was fast, and really flat. I can only think of two hills. One was a short, steep one on the golf course and the other came at the very beginning of the course. You finish at the 18th green with a fantastic post race party, which was a great time.

Overall: A: This may be the best 5K experience I have had. This is in part due to the great weather, lots of swag, scenic course, and great event management. Wrangling 800+ people through cart paths on a golf course is not an easy task.  Also, the post race Bloody Mary stand may have helped as well!

2016 Germantown Half Marathon Recap

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I have written a recap for this race multiple times, and it most details rarely change from year to year. This year is no exception, so I am going to spare everyone the explicit details, and just share the swag, and give some props.

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A personal positive note, I was faster during this race than the Rebel Well Mighty Half, so that is always welcomed news! Susan also brought our son out to cheer me along the course, which is certainly a welcomed sight!

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But I said I was going to give props for this race, and so I would love to give a big shout out and congratulations to my friend, and friend of this blog to Andrew D. for crushing his first ever half marathon! He left me in the dust from the start and finished well ahead of his goal and certainly earned his successful finish!

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Swag: A-: For the third 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 still preferred the designs from 2014, but this year was still very good, even if the use of a Pegasus is a bit perplexing. They kept the long-sleeved shirt for this year’s race, and even had an option to purchase a hoodie.

Rebel Well Mighty Half Recap

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For years there had been a half marathon in Oxford, MS that Susan wanted me to participate in, but for whatever reason, my schedule never seemed to align properly with it. And when I finally decided to make it a priority to appease my Ole Miss alum wife, the race was discontinued. That is how things go I suppose. But this year Run Oxford decided to organize a half marathon to showcase their beautiful town (even non Ole Miss fans like myself can concede to this fact) and encourage healthier living. In fact, Run Oxford has organized an entire series of races for 2016, dubbed as the Inn at Ole Miss Oxford Grand Prix Race Series. You can sign up for the short or long distances, or just for individual races. I opted for the long distance, and that is how I found myself in Oxford, MS on a brisk February morning preparing to run a race in which I was not properly trained (my fault) and had no clue what to expect.

I have been to Ole Miss several times with Susan and her family for tailgating and football, as well as a few times in my younger days for some debauchery, but I have never visited to campus so early or when there seemingly was so little happening. I arrived plenty early because I was not entirely sure of where I needed to be or how easy navigation was going to be on campus. It turns out that I was overly paranoid about this fact because there was plenty of parking adjacent to the expo and finish line, and this area was also quite close to the start line as well. I did not browse the expo being that I was picking up my packet the morning of the race, but by the looks of the setup inside the indoor practice facility which housed the expo and finish line, there were a decent amount of vendors for this newly minted race.

Since I was not fully trained (a recurring theme which I am not proud about, and I have started to address) for this race, I opted to use a run walk ratio of 2.5:1. This ratio served me quite well for the first 8-9 miles, but my lack of training and mental weakness from this lack of training took over and I went into full on “how much longer is this race” mode. Nothing on my body really hurt that badly besides my ego and my confidence, but this is the bed I made for myself, so I forged through it to finish the race is a personal worst time. This performance will likely be repeated another time or two this spring as I work to reset my running, healthy living, and dedication into my daily routine.

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The positive to being slow is that it is easier to get a clean race photo!

Course: A-: There were hills because running a race of any distance in Oxford will have hills. It cannot be avoided. The race organizers did do a great job of trying to minimize the impact of the hills, and tried valiantly to incorporate the biggest hills early in the race. This was appreciated by all of us runners. The course went throughout Ole Miss’ campus, Downtown Oxford, and several residential neighborhoods, ending in the Manning Center (name of the indoor practice facility). Finishing inside was a great idea for a February race, even though on this particular race day, it was not needed due to the unseasonably warm weather. The Ole Miss cheerleaders cheering you to the finish was a nice touch as well.

My only complaint about the course is that the Oxford Police Department were moving us off the road and onto the sidewalks by 8:30 am, even though not all of the roads had sidewalks to utilize. The race started at 7:00 am and the roads were supposed to be closed/reserved until 10:30 am. I guess the small number of runners expedited the urgency to fully reopen the roads.

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Mighty Half 2016 Finisher’s Medal

Swag: A-: The race shirt was a full zipped hoodie which is awesome, even if they gave me the wrong size, and the race medal was nice looking, even if it was not revolutionary. There was no beer after the race, but there was plenty of chocolate milk, water, and refreshments to recover with. Also, they provided free race photos, which is always great.

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Mighty Half 2016 Swag

Overall: A-: This was a fun and well-organized event. I am curious to see if this race does become an annual event, and how many more runners chose this race in the future. If it is offered and I am available to run it, I will return to this race. If for no other reason than having a very attainable personal best finishing time for the course!

 

2015 Memphis True Blue 5K Recap

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For the sixth year in a row, I participated in the Memphis True Blue 5K on the campus of the University of Memphis. And this year there was a first for me personally which assisted in keeping the event fresh and rewarding at the same time. It is well documented on this blog that this event was my first ever running event and I do whatever I can to participate in it each year. Therefore, I will spare everyone the usual race breakdown and grading system (except I wish they would return to the shirts from a my first 4 times participating) and I will just briefly discuss my run instead.

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Usually, this race occurs on the first Friday night in November, making it one of the few night races in town and requiring no early alarm clock warnings to wake up for the event. I love that about this race, and honestly, I am certain that it has aided my three PR’s on the course. This year, the event was moved to Sunday afternoon due to homecoming festivities for the University of Memphis and other race obligations by the management company. I was not in favor of the switch, and by the looks of the sparse crowd, I was not the only one longing for the 7PM Friday night time slot. Whereas a smaller than normal race field was a bummer, it did at least benefit me personally. I was able to run at my desired pace from start to finish, and only had myself to contend with along the course, which was a major benefit to my mental game. I was able to push harder than I had in several weeks, and finished the race must stronger than my training would have suggested. While I did not PR again, I did run a strong enough race to finish second in my age group, which was a first for me for this race, and anytime you get a podium call, you have to be happy.

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Podium call for my age group!

I am looking forward to this race again in 2016, and hopefully another PR, and possibly another podium call are in my future!

Hernando Water Tower 10K Recap

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Let’s just file this away in the very late race recap category, but late is better than never. Back on October 3, I had the privilege of running in the Hernando Water Tower 10K in Hernando, MS, which is a small town in Mississippi just south of Memphis. It is actually quite impressive how Hernando has been able to maintain its small town feel despite the population growth and sprawl of the region.

I love the 10K distance. It is more challenging than a 5K, not as daunting as a half marathon, and staying prepared to run the 10K distance is a great way to maintain your health. I am glad that I was finally able to run in this event this year and I hope to make it a part of my recurring schedule in the future.

My time was not my best, but compared to where I thought I would finish, I was quite pleased with my finish. Better yet, I felt great throughout the course and actually finished strong enough to keep going a few more miles despite my limited training. I cannot wait to see how well I tackle this course in the future when I am fully trained!

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Swag A-: I love the medal. It is quite substantial and doubles as a bottle opener. It also perfectly captures the theme of the race. The logo on the long-sleeved shirt and drawstring bag is the same as the medal design.

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Course B+: The course was well marked and had plenty of rolling hills to challenge runners, but not overwhelm them. It was a scenic, small town landscape throughout the course, and I never felt that the course was overcrowded, even at the start line.

Overall A-: For a small town race being hosted independently, I must say that the race organizers ran a smooth event. Timing worked well, the medals were top notch, and there were no logistical nightmares to be had. The race was very enjoyable and easy to fit into my fall training schedule year after year. I will be back.

2015 Country Music Half Marathon

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Another half marathon, regardless of how slow I ran it (it is now my personal worst finish, but we will examine this in a later post), is in the books. Saturday marked my second consecutive year of surviving the hills of Nashville in the late April humidity. The weather could have been worse, the predicted storms could have come through, ravishing the course and participants, but luckily all we had to endure was humidity at the start, and actually was blessed with a reprieve from the sun beating us down along the course. The temperature remained relatively cool, especially for late April in the south.

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher's Medal

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

There were over 30,000 participants for the day’s activities, and while at times, it certainly felt like you were around 30,000 other people, the event does a good job of managing the masses. There is plenty of parking at LP Field, especially if you arrive early, which is something I always try to do. Traffic is a beast, but that cannot be avoided in Nashville. The city is designed in such a way that traffic delays are unavoidable, especially during major events. If you have some knowledge of the side streets, you can circumvent some of the delays, which will certainly help your stress level. The event had 43 starting corrals to spread us out along the course, which certainly helped with the early congestion in the race. I was in corral 19 which meant I started about 35 minutes after the elite runners. The standing and waiting for your race to begin is not ideal, but it certainly beats trying to funnel 30,000+ people along city streets and through water stations. I cannot even imagine the chaos that would ensue without the wave start!

An area that the event could improve its crowd management is with the porta-potties, beer ID check, and post race refreshments. On my walk from the parking lot to my starting corral, I only saw four clusters of less than 20 porta-potties within each cluster. For 30,000+ people, this can create some issues. Especially when units begin to run out of toilet paper, which happened around 6:15 for the units closest to the parking lot. To get your ID checked for the post race beer, you had to stand in a long line at the expo. Maybe checking ID’s at the bib pickup location could help? I do not know for sure, but several people skipped the ID tent because they did not want to wait in line for their 21 and over bracelet. The finish line was a huge cluster. People were trying to stretch, refuel, and meet up with their families in a very finite space that was constantly adding new people to it. It felt like runners were being herded like cattle from receiving our medals to the various refueling options, around the corner to the beer tents. Honestly, the process would have probably worked better if the race could have used the facilities inside LP Field, not just around it.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Course: B: It was hilly, but we knew that going into the event. There were bands throughout the course and quite a bit of crowd support. Water stops were frequent and there was GU at mile 11, which is where the marathon and half marathon split up. The wave start helps to maintain the crowd considerably along the course, with only minor issues when the course goes through a residential neighborhood towards the middle. The course incorporates music row and downtown, which are areas everyone wants to see in Nashville.

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

Swag: A-: I like the medal, the shirt is good, but not great, and the post race refueling was plentiful. Rock ‘n Roll events are expensive, so it is nice to know that you got your money’s worth once you finish the event.

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race!

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race! This meal was consumed at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. It was excellent.

Overall: A: Managing an event for 30,000+ people is not easy. There are going to be complications to address. Lines will be long, the crowds will be dense. The expo was a great example of this. There were numerous vendors there, but getting to each one could be a chore. I loved the expo, and I scored a few much-needed running items on the cheap. I really do enjoy this race, even though it is a challenge for those of us flatlanders that get kicked in the teeth by the hills. I have run in this event before, and I will run in it again. And maybe next year, I will be closer to my 2014 results, and not this year’s disappointing finish.

And on a side note, if you like fried chicken and spicy flavorings, Nashville has you covered. I loved the hot chicken at Hattie B’s, and will also be making a return trip there in the future!

I am a Rock ‘n Blog Ambassador for 2015 and I ran this race as such. It in no way skewed or influenced my reflections of this event (you can check last year’s review for that confirmation). All views and opinions within this blog are my own.