Remember that time I accidentally ran a half marathon with my mom? Well, I did it again, except this time it was on purpose.
Shockingly, this is the picture where I look the least likely to barf.
Anyway, I decided that I wanted to run the Oak Barrel Half WAY back in October. Lynchburg, TN/Jack Daniel’s Distillery, a perfect-sized race, far enough away to make it an event but without having to worry about long-distance travel, plus a beautiful course with enough of a roll to keep it interesting. Sounds like my kind of run. I convinced Joe that he would like to run it too, and our training began in earnest in January.
I used a combination of Hal Higdon’s Novice Program and Cool Running.com’s Beginner Half Marathon Training Program but without the speed work. This put me at 20-25 miles per week, which was totally doable with my schedule. One reason I decided to follow Cool Running.com’s plan more closely was because it topped out at a 12 mile training run, whereas the Hal Higdon program tops out at 10 miles. I knew that both Joe and I would feel more confident with a training run closer to the actual half marathon distance.
Due to his schedule, Joe was not as able to follow the training program as closely as I was, but he did get in quite a few of the long runs. Our first “real” long run was 8 miles, which we did with the Nashville Striders training group. Except that we got there late, the wind was blowing right into our faces, and we nearly gave up half a mile in. When we got to our turn-around point on Music Row, it started sleeting. It was not our most enjoyable running moment.
But then we had a great 12 mile training run two weeks before Oak Barrel. The weather was perfect, the route we took was relatively flat, and we ran through Radnor Lake, one of my favorite places in Nashville. We were ready!
My time at the Women’s Half Marathon was 2:32, and my first goal was to beat that time. After our 12 mile training run, I knew I was capable of beating 2:15, even with hills and aid stations. Joe’s main goal was to finish, and we were hoping to stay together as long as possible.
The morning dawned clear and chilly, but the weather forecast called for 60-degree temperatures later in the day. We placed ourselves between the 10:00 per mile and 11:00 per mile pace groups, and we were off. My race strategy was to stay relaxed until the infamous Whiskey Hill, which we would start climbing at 4 miles. After that, I would evaluate how I felt and figure it out from there. Joe had to stop a few times and stretch out his shin, and I was getting a little impatient. Whiskey Hill was tough and steep, and everyone stopped to walk at least a little bit. By 6.2, Joe was struggling, but we took some Gu and discussed me going ahead. Joe decided to hang with me, so we kept going. He finally fell into a rhythm about mile 8, and when we got to mile 10, I knew I could break 2:15. Having run the rest of the race so conservatively, I still had plenty of gas in my tank. I tried to pep-talk Joe, but he told me to go ahead, and I took off.
I could see my mom up ahead, so I made it my goal to catch her, but when I got up to her, she told me to keep going. I was flying. I walked briefly through the last aid station and took off again. The last mile was a straight shot on a flat highway into town, and it was the longest mile I’ve ever run. Lots of people were walking, and I was passing them right and left. The crowds in town came into view and started cheering as I turned the last corner and sprinted to the finish in the town square. My Garmin read 2:11:50. I smashed my goal and PR’d by more than 20 minutes.
My mom was a few minutes behind me, and after I recovered, I went to go find Joe. As I made my way along the finish chute, I saw him turn the corner, and I cheered for him like crazy. He had a big smile on his face and crossed over to give me a high-five. We had done it! Now it was time to eat. After a few pictures and changing into dry clothes, we headed to the Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center to get our finishers’ medals signed by the Master Distiller.
And a few more pictures with Jack.
I found the Oak Barrel Half to be an exceedingly well-run and fun race that I would make an effort to run again. We came home with some nice swag: a drawstring bag, long-sleeve tech shirts, and running hats. Due to the irony of Jack Daniel’s being located in a dry county, no whiskey was served after the half marathon, but it certainly made the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey taste that much better later on that night.