This morning was the kick-off race of the fall marathon season. I ran the marathon in Tupelo, Mississippi. I ran this race two years ago and had a tough final 8 miles and ended up with my slowest marathon to that point. To say I was disappointed that day is an understatement. I went back to Tupelo this year to make up for that day.
It was also a fun day as several folks from Birmingham made the trek across the border to run this race. One of those, Allison, was running her first marathon. It was fun running together and watching her complete something that less than 0.1% of the population ever does. In addition to Allison, many other friends also ran either the marathon or 14.2 mile run (Jim, Mary Catherine, Cary, Micah, Suman, Phil, Michele, Terri, Prince, et al). I always enjoy watching friends complete accomplishments.
The race starts at 5am in Tupelo to try to counter the heat. Of course, it was already about 80 degrees by that time and extremely humid. If there was any saving grace, it was the overcast skies that kept the sun away for most of the day. It is very, very dark on the back roads of Mississippi that early. In fact, we were at about mile 8 before the sun even started making an appearance. We ran at a comfortably hard pace in hopes of finishing around 4:15. I told Allison if I could stay with her and make that, I would get a new personal record (PR). I felt like it was a reachable goal.
We ran very well, even in the humidity, and made it to the halfway turnaround in 2:05. That put us a little ahead of where we needed to be. At that point, we were still feeling good about our race. Eventually, we hit the 20-mile mark and noted that we only had a 10K left to finish. If you’ve never run a marathon, I don’t think you can understand what that final 10K feels like. It doesn’t matter how many 10Ks you have run in your life, there’s nothing like the final 6.2 miles of a marathon. Allison picked up the pace a little bit and we felt like we could make the time we lost taking a bathroom break around mile 18. We continued to push the pace through about mile 23 and then decided we might need to pull back a bit. We hit the last water stop near mile 25 and I think the heat and humidity finally took its toll a little bit on Allison. She told me to go on since I still had a shot to run my fastest marathon.
I made sure she was okay before taking off and then took a look at my watch. I did a quick calculation and realized that I needed to really pick up the pace to finish in under 4:19, which is what I needed for a new PR. So I kicked it as much as I could. I dropped the pace by about a minute-per-mile until the finish line clock was in sight. I needed to continue pushing the pace but I could also see that I could still come in under 4:19. I barely made it with 4:18:59. It was a PR by only 40 seconds but a PR nonetheless.
The best part of the day was seeing Allison come across the finish at 4:21 to finish her first marathon. I can’t wait to see what she does during the New York Marathon in November. She’s such a strong runner and I know she will have a blast.
Overall, it was a great day. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of crossing the finish line of a marathon and have someone place that medal around your neck. With the heat and humidity today, the Tupelo Marathon lived up to its motto,
Trample the weak and hurdle the dead.