What would running be like without a little country once and awhile? And a little country is what we got last weekend with the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. However, we weren't alone in that little country runnin - we shared the event with 30,000 other runners, not to mention hundreds, if not thousands, of race volunteers and workers. In terms of the number of runners, it was the largest race I have ever participated in (Virginia Beach last Fall had around 20,000) - and for Karen, only her Chicago Marathon had a few more runners. However, notwithstanding the numbers, it was a very nice race and another excellent weekend - this time shared with Karen's Mom and two of her brothers (Dave and Tom) who drove down from Illinois to join us. Dave ran the Half with us, Tom ran the full marathon (I believe his 17th on his quest for 50), and Karen's Mom watched Rachel during the race. All in all, it worked out nicely.
I suspect most of you are rather bored with race details - but give some thought to putting on a race with this many people. Quite a logistics nightmare - but one they handled pretty well. Admittedly, things were spread out at both the start and finish, but I guess that is to be expected with these numbers. They also utilized the "corral start" or "wave start", meaning everyone was assigned a "corral" of about 1,000 people, based on their estimated completion time. The corrals were released every couple of minutes to reduce initial congestion. Worked pretty well, except that the elite runners were almost finished with the race when the last corral or two was released to start!
We had some good meals together and enjoyed wandering around Nashville. Our only regret is perhaps not taking advantage of the area to see and do more with country music. We didn't make it to the free concert on the night of the race, nor did we make it to the Grand 'Ol Opry. However, the morning before the race we walked up and down one of Nashville's main drags - every other store was a club with live country music. Interesting sounds all around! The race also featured country music groups at intervals along the route. Unfortunately, I think they ended up with fewer than planned due to the rain which continued right up until the start time, but the groups that were out were good and lent encouragement on the persistent hills! Nothing really spectacular about the course, but it is rightlty noted for NOT being flat! (Notwithstanding the topography, I had my best half-marathon time since starting to run these again 18 months ago - a 1:43:40! I'm not completely convinced the course wasn't a bit "short" in places - but I'll take it and count it- to include finishing 26th out of 627 men in my 50-54 age group!)
So - did I have any deep runner's thoughts during the race? I doubt there were any that would merit me publishing a book - but perhaps there were one or two. Many of the races we run are pretty small and don't have much in the way of crowds or fan support. This was one of the exceptions. There were definitely times along the route when a bit of encouragement was very welcome - even from total strangers. There were quite a few along the way in this race. I appreciated that and it made me wonder how often we pass up the chance to provide that same type of encouragement to someone - whether someone just passing by that would appreciate it - or someone we know, work with, love or otherwise - that really needs it, somewhat expects it, would definitely be helped by it, but sometimes may wait a lot longer to get it than they should have to....or in some cases may never get it. In most cases, these people will never ask - but I hope we are perceptive or intuitive enough to recognize them and take advantage of our opportunities. I doubt it would ever be harmful - even if not drastically needed - but on the other hand - someone just may really need it - and we may be the person along the route who can provide it.
Thirteen down - 37 to go!