Last weekend I completed my 30th marathon by finishing the Nashville marathon. It was the 28th marathon in which I joggled and the fastest I’ve ever done as a 41 year old.
Just to get this out of the way here are the relevant stats.
Official Time: 3:48:25
# of drops = 1
The Nashville marathon takes place in down town Nashville and begins at Centennial Park which is a short walk from my hotel. I got up about an hour and a half before race time, geared up, ate some of the free breakfast in the Holiday Inn lobby and began hiking to the start. While walking, I sipped tea hot enough to burn my tongue and felt invigorated by the cool breeze in my face. Marathon morning and I felt good.
As I got closer, other runners joined my trek. We were like ants heading back to the colony. Walking up a hill, I slowly caught up to a girl with short brown hair. She was breathing heavily. I said, “Hopefully, the whole race won’t be like this,” and she laughed. We started talking and I found out that she was from St. Louis and doing her first half marathon. New runners always make me smile and I encourage them whenever I can. She found the joggling unbelievable. We split up when we got to the start and I had to hurry to gear check because the race was starting 15 minutes early. I wonder how she did.
The next person I met when I entered the starting corral. A skinny, shorter guy with buzz cut hair looked at me, smiled brightly and said, “Hey I know you! You were the guy who passed me in last year’s half!” He excitedly pointed me out to the other two runners he was with. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t me so I just smiled. After asking him about this year’s race, I wished him a good race and moved up to my corral. I probably should’ve told him it wasn’t me but it seemed too complicated.
The race started. The crowd roared. I looked to the side, grinned ear to ear and felt incredible. The start of a marathon is unmatched in its ability to energize.
In the first mile, a fellow marathoner ran along side and asked me about the joggling. She was short with a long pony tail flopping around through her baseball hat. She seemed genuinely curious so I was happy to chat. We talked about her goal to qualify for Boston, her mom who was watching for her in the audience and about her dad who recently died. It’s always interesting to learn why people are inspired to run these races. On one of the downhills in the second mile, I had my one and only drop.
I lost my marathon companion while going through the fourth mile water stop. This didn’t bother me too much as I was tired of talking and needed to focus on running.
I joggled the next 18 miles solo, enjoying the cheering crowds in the Nashville neighborhoods, basking in the sun, and “loving” the hilly course. The sight of my wife at mile 10 filled me with energy.
After the 11 mile mark, the half marathoners split off with the marathoners and the crowd got noticeably smaller. There were still bands every couple miles and the water stops were well manned but the cheering spectators were few and far between.
By mile 22, the weather had turned and it started to drizzle. Just as my iPod ran out of power a tall, skinny runner ran alongside and said hello. I nodded and tried to smile. In the later miles, even smiling becomes difficult. He looked at me and said, “You seem to be slowing down.”
I breathed deep and said, “It’s getting tough.”
We chatted a little and he said he had just finished the Boston Marathon the Monday before. “What did you run in that?” I asked.
“I did a 3:25,” he said.
“That’s great,” I said then wished him well as he slowly pulled ahead. I kept him in my sights and vowed to catch him in the last mile.
In mile 23 a tall, blond girl approached on my side. She said hello just as a police car drove by and announced over a loudspeaker
“Attention…there is a sever thunderstorm about 5 minutes away. You should stop running and take cover now.”
With less than 2 miles, neither of us were inclined to stop.
“The fastest way out of this is to keep running,” I said.
She laughed and agreed.
“Besides,” I added, “What are the odds that we get hit by lightning? 1 in 13 million?”
As it started to drizzle harder we chatted. She asked about my joggling then I asked her about her race. She was from New Orleans and was running her second marathon. When it started to rain harder, we stopped talking and she pulled ahead.
She was running strong and I focused on her to help pull me to the finish. “I’m going to catch her too,” I thought.
In the last 2 miles, the rain fell harder and my shoes got noticeably heavier. A strong wind forced me to adjust my juggling pattern, throwing tighter to my chest. Lightning flashed and the crack of thunder startled me, nearly causing a few drops.
I saw The Pacer as I passed the 25 mile marker and caught up to her when she slowed for a water stop. She stayed with me for a quarter mile and slowly faded. I saw my wife again near the final stretch and the wet crowd cheered loudly. When I approached the 26 mile mark I saw the Better Runner. I started sprinting as fast as I could and passed him in the final stretch.
In my final push the crowd applauded as I passed runner after runner. As I came to the finish line, I heard the announcer say, “Hey, that guy is juggling and still smiling.” In my last step, I threw a bean bag up over the finisher banner. The announcer and crowd gasped. When I caught it on the other side of the finish line, the crowd went crazy. It was the best finish of any marathon I’ve ever run. (You can see a video of the finish here .)
After the marathon, the rain continued to fall. I got water, food, and slowly made my way to the gear check. I found my wife under a tree trying to stay dry. We walked back to our car and a bearded man passed by. He started complaining about the fact that he wasn’t allowed to finish. He was the first person they turned away and he wasn’t happy one bit. “I’m never coming back to this stupid race again,” he said bitterly. I felt bad for him. He did make me feel uncomfortable however. The race officials were just trying to make sure everyone was safe.
The final person I met at the Nashville marathon was fellow joggler Jason Tan. We were supposed to meet after the race but it was raining so hard we weren’t able to meet. He came out later and met us at one of the local Nashville sports bars. It was great to meet him and hear about his half marathon experience. He actually passed my friends who had run the half marathon and they said hi to him. He set a PR for the race and was encouraged by his latest joggling performance. I encouraged him to try the marathon next year. We’ll see if he does.
Overall, the Nashville marathon is a great race. It’s well organized, has a great crowd and a challenging course. It was fascinating to meet the variety of people I met along the way and while it wasn’t one of my fastest races, I was happy with my performance. If you haven’t tried this race, it’s a great marathon to run. Just don’t expect a PR if you haven’t trained for hills.