The Tupelo Marathon and another amazing race experience is in the books. I love traveling to races. It is always a fun experience. I signed up for this race and booked a hotel to stay in several months ago and actually thought that it would be an easy, flat course. It’s in Tupelo, MS so I didn’t think that there would be very many hills. I figured it would just be a flat and fast course. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My Wife, Daughter and I stayed in the Wingate hotel that was about 3 miles away from the start of the race. It’s a new hotel, and was pretty nice. Tupelo is about an hour and a half from where we live in Olive Branch, MS and since the race started at 5am we decided to get a room and stay the night before. My friends Wilson (aka Beef) and Amanda decided to drive down the morning of the race and meet up then. After driving around town for a minute or two we decided to have dinner at the local Outback Steakhouse. I decided on a steak and sweet potato.
It was a great meal and I’ll totally do steak again. It’s a lot different than my Pizza and beer tradition, but a good steak is always good. After dinner we went back to the hotel and just hung out until time for bed. According to my Garmin activity I went to sleep at 8pm.
I forgot to turn off sleep mode on my watch when I woke up so it shows 3:42am. I actually woke up at 3am. The race started at 5am, and Wilson and Amanda picked me up at about 4am. When your friends roll up to your hotel to pick you up in the “Loveboat” all decorated for everyone like this you know it’s going to be a great day!
I tossed my coffee and hopped in. We were off to the race.
When we arrived I became a little bit anxious. It wasn’t clear where the starting line was and nobody seemed to really know where it was. I set off to look for it and found myself in a creepy place. There was a carnival going on this weekend and since it was 4AM the carnival was shut down. I found myself walking through what could potentially be any number of horror movie scenarios. Running from Zombies, hiding in the house of mirrors trying to escape weirdo-crazy carnies, you name it. I was scared. I couldn’t find the starting line so I just went back and found my friends.
We eventually found the starting line with everyone else, and were ready to start the race. A 5am starting time is interesting. There was no National Anthem or anything, just 600 people standing on a street in the dark. The race director (or what I’m assuming was the race director) eventually called everyone together, said a little prayer, and started the race.
Here’s a link to my Garmin data: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/889902657
This course is two loops of the same route for Marathoners with water stops around 1.8, 4.3, 5.9, 8.9, 10.4, 13.1, 14.9, 17.4, 19.0, 22.0 and 23.5 miles. Since the race starts at 5am, basically the first half of the race is in the dark. I held back a little for most of the first half of the race. The hills proved to be pretty gnarly so I knew I needed to conserve energy to tackle the second loop. I REALLY wanted to hit the halfway mark at under 2 hours, and then I wanted to hit the gas on the back side. I was pretty comfortable when I hit the halfway mark, but it was right at 2 hours or just under. Wilson was there waiting at the halfway mark, and that pumped me up pretty good. His son snapped a pic of me making the turn at the half:
I tried to speed up a little bit after the turn at the half, but those hills (and the heat) just started hitting me pretty hard. It was brutal and relentless. Around mile 23 there was a point where I was at the bottom of this long hill looking at about 10 people in front of me all struggling to walk up this hill. I wished I had a camera. It looked like a bunch of zombies in the Night of the Living Dead walking up this hill. We were all suffering. It became apparent that I wasn’t going to bust 4 hours on this course and it was certainly not going to end well. I gave it all the gas I had (which wasn’t much) and finished in 4:12. My wife and daughter were at the finish line and snapped a pic of me finishing:
This was a brutal race. I didn’t expect it to be so hard and hilly. The last 8 miles were all mental and super tough to get through. To my surprise I ended up finishing 2nd in my age group!!
Enough about me though. Let’s talk about Amanda for a minute. Amanda is an athlete at the gym I own, Olive Branch CrossFit. She’s also a Full Motion Running and Cycling teammate of mine. So not only do I have the pleasure of coaching her a little bit, she’s also a teammate. She’s married to Wilson so that’s how they ended up coming and picking me up at the Hotel. Wilson drove her and another friend David to the race and they swung by to pick me up on the way to the race.
This was her first Marathon. I can’t imagine running such a tough race for your first Marathon. If this had been my first Marathon I would be pissed and probably hate running forever. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but it’s a hard course. There’s also a 6 hour, very strict cutoff. There is one point in the race that if you don’t make it there by 10:30am they will put you in a course vehicle and drive you back to the finish line. Our friend David that was with us literally hit that cutoff at 10:33. 3 minutes late and they wouldn’t let him finish. Amanda made it though!
Once I was done, my Wife and I joined Wilson at the end of the race to wait for Amanda. We were on pins and needles. The last time I had seen her on the course was around mile 9 and she was looking great running with our friend David. I didn’t see her again after that so I didn’t know where she was or how she was doing. As a coach I sometimes play a small part in an athlete’s fitness and performance. Knowing that you play even a small part in someone accomplishing something so great is such an amazing feeling. I was nervous as hell. We waited. Anxiously looking for Amanda to top the hill in the distance and cross the finish line. Wondering if something happened and the course vehicle picked her up.
Soon, a truck came by. Our friend David was in it. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. We didn’t see Amanda in the truck with him but I assumed that she was probably in there because I thought they were running together. Wilson inquired, “Did you see Amanda? Did you see a yellow jersey?” I didn’t. We didn’t know. Wilson walked into the arena to the finish line and didn’t find Amanda. He took off running to see if he could find her. Eventually David walked over to where we were and told us that Amanda had probably made the cutoff. I was so pumped! It wasn’t long before Amanda and Wilson topped the hill to finish the race! I was SOOO happy and proud of her. Here’s a vid I snapped of them at the finish:
This was such an amazing trip. Amanda, Wilson and I will be running a 50 Miler in November. The Tunnel Hill 50. I can’t wait to write that race report! All in all, the Tupelo Marathon is a great race to check off your list. You better respect the course though because it’s nasty and it will humble you. If you pick it for your first Marathon you are a badass.