Marathon #3: Hatfield-McCoy Race Report

This is a play-by-play of how I remember the Hatfield McCoy Marathon.

4:32 a.m. I wake up after about 20 minutes of sleep. I went to bed at 10, but could not sleep. First, we had cannon fire from the re-enactors camping across the street, and then 8 trains shook the walls of the Inn right on the train tracks. All of them seemed to have their brakes on and each train was one long screech.

6:30 a.m. The four of us arrive at race: Donna England, Kathy Grayson, Christie Kettle, and me. Get in port o potty line. Then turn around and get into it again. Take pictures with the Hatfield and McCoy actors in their period costume. I’m a Hatfield today!

6:50 a.m. Pre-race prayer by race director. Very nice.

7:00 a.m. We all make our way to the start. With no warning or “on your mark,…” we start. Then the re-enactor fires his musket a few seconds after the fact.

7:01 a.m. Our group of four has already separated! Donna and I are a little ahead of them. We are never together again on the course. Donna and I stay together. She is a fellow RRCA running coach and my personal marathon running coach today! We’ve both done 2 marathons prior.

Mile 5- A gentle incline starts. Donna and I are doing a 6:1 run/walk ratio, talking and looking at the creek beside the river. We are running around a 9:48 to 10:40 pace and walking at a brisk 13:30 to 14:00 minute pace (aka a hauling butt walking pace!)

Mile 6- Since our hotel is on this road, we know what is coming--- Blackberry Mountain!

Mile 7 to 8- So steep. We drop to a 4:1 run/ walk. We make it up the mountain in good shape! As we arrive at the top, this huge wind comes through. Cups from the water stop are flying, trees are bending, it was surreal. I decide it is God saying hello and congratulating us for making it up the mountain. As suddenly as the wind comes, it abruptly stops.

Mile 8-9- A long one-mile downhill. My quads remember this quite well. It is too steep to enjoy any speed. I don’t want to walk any on the downhill, but Donna makes me follow the 4:1. She knows my knees will thank me later. I jog during the walking portions when she isn’t looking. (he he) I just hate to walk on a down hill!

Mile 11-12- It is RAINING and it is WONDERFUL. I am soaked from head to toe, but I am not hot! Donna and I make a friend, Doug, and he’s married to a Donna. Weird coincidence!

Mile 13- Half-way point. Feeling good. It is not raining, and is getting hot and humid. Have to literally run past my hotel room. I thought it would be hard, but it is not. I’m not ready to stop and excited to see what lies ahead. Kind of hungry….

Miles 14-17- We are on a very remote, narrow paved path (road?) through the woods. Beautiful views of the mountains. I take several pictures during my walk breaks. Donna and I are together a lot. I turned on my music (one ear bud only) finally. Fatigue is creeping in but my music keeps me going. My right ankle has started hurting a little.

Miles 18-20- We had a little detour onto a gravel road which became a dirt road then pretty much a trail. It was a nice change of pace. I ran mostly alone through here. It was really peaceful. It reminded me a little of the trail in Ashland City, but rougher with bigger rocks.

Mile 20 or 21- I catch back up with Donna at the golf course. We cross the SWINGING WOODEN BRIDGE together. I get the impression she doesn’t like heights when she grabs onto my arm. She doesn’t want me to run across it since it would make the bridge shake and sway. It is very high in the air and kind of rickety. We speed walk it.

Mile 21.5- Ankle is really hurting after that trail section and the bridge area. I remember I packed two extra-strength Tylenol in my bag for emergencies. Yay! This qualifies as an emergency. Donna and I part ways at a self-serve water stop. I tell her to go on ahead because I’m hurting and really slowing down, but my spirits are good. I remember that marathons are HARD.

Mile 22- I can no longer run. Right ankle is at about an 8 on the pain scale. I’m convinced I have a stress fracture or sprain. (I was leaning more toward stress fracture.) I walk a few minutes and try to run. I only make it 10 steps. Now I’m limping. This is not good. I still have 4.2 miles to go. That is a long way to limp. I call my husband to tell him what’s going on since I finally have one bar of cell service. Talking to him makes me feel better. This is the point where I say, “Never again.”

Mile 22.5-24- Now, walking hurts only slightly, so I can stop limping. I pick up the pace to about a 13:45 minute/mile power walk. Every now and then, I try to limp-run a little, but it hurts too much. I am mostly alone, but I passed a couple of guys walking slowly and two women passed me. We all chat briefly. These are the nicest people! I’m feeling pretty discouraged, but determined not to quit, even if I have to limp or crawl. I find myself talking to myself….. out loud. I try singing out loud with my music. I try to notice the beauty of the trees, mountains, and river.

Mile 25-26.2- Thank you, Tylenol! I can now jog with pain that is bearable. I try to keep my stride short and light with a quick foot turnover. I’m not thinking about anything but getting to that finish line. Around 26, it hurts again, but the finish line is in sight, so I run through the pain. It will be interesting to see the grimace on my face in the finish line pictures since I was running through the pain. I high-fived the two Hatfield-McCoy actors as I crossed.

26.2: I cross the finish line in 5 hours, 9 minutes, and 4 seconds. I have two slices of cold watermelon and make my way to the first aid tent. A sweet volunteer helps me take off my shoe and sock and puts an ice pack on the ankle. She wraps gauze around it to hold it in place. I limp around holding my shoe until I find my friends.

Later, I get my Mason jar with my plaque—123 rd finisher out of over 300. 6th out of 16 in my age group. I’m proud of that! It was faster than my Country Music, but slower than Birmingham. But it was harder than both!

Despite the pain, it was a GREAT DAY and a GOOD RACE. I experienced suffering in this race, but when you sign up for a marathon, that’s just part of it. It’s so funny how you go through highs and lows in a long race. The only low I went through was those couple of miles. I’ll take it! By the end, I’d gone from “Never again” to “maybe another one some time.”


Connie said…
Wow, way to go. Your spirit and determination inspire me :)
Kerrie T. said…
Your "night before" sounds straight out of My Cousin Vinny. Loved your recap. Hope your ankle is okay and congrats!

Little fun fact: My sister-in-law is a real Hatfield. :D
Lisa said…
I have been so bad and haven't kept up with your blog at all lately. Congratulations on another marathon! Way to push through the pain.

How is your ankle now? Did you recover well?
RunnerMom said…
The ankle is feeling ok, but I haven't run on it. I'm giving it until Thursday and then I'll try a slow 3 miles! Thanks for asking!

Recovery is not too bad. My hamstrings are sore, my shins are sore (from the power walking), my quads are sore, but it's all bearable. I've been sore like this from Crossfit a lot over the last 6 months, so I guess I'm used to it.

Kerrie---That is very cool! The real Hatfield I met--David Hatfield-- was such a nice guy. He was the race director.
RunnerMom said…
Connie--Thanks for saying that. :-)