Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rocket City Marathon

In the spirit of the new year, I have a lot of catching up to do on the blog, particularly if I want to get everything in shipshape before I leave for Kenya in less than a week (!!!). So, chronologically, let’s go back to the beginning of December. December 8th to be specific.

Having been talked into running the Southern Tennessee Plunge Marathon in early October as a “training run” by my mother and finishing Marine Corps Marathon in late October, I only needed one other marathon within 90 days of the first one to qualify as a Marathon Maniac. The only catch was that it needed to be on a Saturday (since I work Sunday mornings) and within easy driving distance. My mom, the enabler, proposed Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Alabama. After Southern TN went so well, I eventually signed up, though after MCM, I barely ran for about 2 weeks due to recovery and vacation. Even so, my only goal for Rocket City was to finish and qualify for Marathon Maniacs. A particularly good 16 mile training run the Monday after Thanksgiving left me feeling confident.

The morning dawned on the warmer (55-ish degrees) and humid side for December, but at least it was cloudy, keeping the sun from heating us up too much. I hadn’t slept particularly well or eaten particularly well the day before, so I was nervous. Rocket City is on the smaller side (~1500 registered), and everyone looked skinny and fast milling around the lobby of the Holiday Inn. It didn’t help to catch snippets of chatter about prospective Boston qualifying times. I was merely hoping to finish around 5 hours.


My parents drove down to cheer me on, and I was surprised to see them around mile 5. I had just started to feel okay after my normal warm-up period. Seeing them gave me a big lift, and the next few miles seemed to fly by as I found some people to run and talk with. Around mile 10 and 11, I realized that the 4:40 pace group was just ahead of me at a water stop. That was much faster than I wanted to be going considering I didn’t want to totally blow up. My mom started running with me at mile 13, and we found ourselves alongside one of the 4:40 pacers. But after clocking a rather fast mile, I made myself slow down, take a short bathroom stop, and we lost them again.


It started to get uncomfortably warm with the breeze now at our backs. I found myself wishing that I was carrying my own water, but the miles kept ticking off. Once we hit 20, I realized I was within striking distance of a PR. So my goal changed from a) just finishing to b) PR and possibly c) sub-4:40. A lot of people were walking, and I took a few short walking breaks, mostly stretching out walking through aid stations. Mom was pushing me, and at one point, I told her that I hated her. Compared to how the people around me looked, I was doing pretty well. Once we hit one mile to the finish line, I took one last walk break and sped up on the downhill to the end. Official time: 4:41:29, a PR by over 2 minutes. They gave me my medal and a hat and a space blanket as I staggered around.


I would highly recommend Rocket City. For me, it was an ideal size – not too big and not too small. There was a lot of community support, from people gathering at playgrounds to neighbors standing out in their yards and cheering. The food at the end of the race was amazing – Moon Pies, ice cream sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly on freshly baked bread and bagels, soup (which would’ve been nice if it had been seasonable weather), and fruit. It’s not the most scenic course, mostly weaving through neighborhoods with one stretch along a bigger road. One of the reasons it’s popular in this area is it’s relatively flat elevation profile, though there is still some roll to the course. The medal, hat, and shirt were high quality, and the logistics (parking, bathrooms, packet pick-up) were easy due to the smaller size.

And now I’m Marathon Maniac #6302!