The marathon was certainly worth the wait. The regimented training schedule all winter was tough and brutal but to be able to bust out another 26.2 miles is something to be grateful for especially in the midst of a pandemic. We signed up for the race many months in advance not really knowing how things would play out. It was a chance we were willing to take because there was a refund policy in place that essentially gave you your registration fee back if the race was cancelled due to COVID. Essentially that's why we selected this marathon to tell you the truth. We knew that if we had to cancel our flights, we would receive an electronic voucher to be used at a later date. We understood at the time that airline travel is probably very safe and to be extra sure, we wore two masks and gloves on our trip. The truth is, yes we wanted to travel again and do what we love but certainly not do it foolishly or risk the health of anyone else or ourselves. We were comfortable in knowing we were taking every precaution possible while still checking another state off the list. It's probably hard for most to understand but it gets harder to run such a long distance the older you get and we are only going to be able to bust out marathons for so long! So our day started very early around 3-4am for an early flight out. We arrived in Jackson, MS by mid afternoon and then had to drive 2 hours to Greenville, MS. It was a long, interesting ride you could say. By the time we arrived at The Lofts, it was about 5pm. We were thoroughly exhausted. My head pounded and I desperately needed sleep, however we still had to walk down the street to pick up our bibs. We also had trouble getting into The Lofts as our "code" wasn't working. It's the last thing we needed after such a long travel day. I remember feeling just out of sorts and frankly too tired to do ANYTHING but I had to unpack my bags, clean up and get settled for the night as soon as possible. The morning would come very quick and I just needed sleep more than anything if I was going to feel better and be able to push hard for 26.2 miles. The apartment we stayed in was very nice and had very high ceilings. However, it was also very noisy and we could easily hear the people in the adjacent rooms. This was going to be a tough night of sleeping um, BEFORE A MARATHON. But I couldn't really complain because I actually WON these accommodations and it was completely free so I just had to deal with it. We tried to go to sleep around 7:30-8pm but it wasn't a great sleep. I remember feeling miffed that all that was on TV was college basketball. Anyway, we went to sleep and before we knew it, it was time to wake up and run like crazy!
We jumped out of bed and I remember feeling tired still but this is what happens. Traveling the day before a marathon is BRUTAL but it's what we do because we like to get in and get out as quick as possible. Not because we are in such a hurry, but mostly because we have things to do back home. As I was getting ready that morning, I got an excruciating sharp pain in my right hamstring while walking. I seriously DID NOT KNOW how I would even run a marathon let alone walk to the starting line. It hurt and I'm thinking who is sticking a pin in me like a voodoo doll? I was praying that the pain would go away. That's all I could do at that point, but I continued to get ready and hobble around the apartment.
Soon we walked to the buses that would take us to the starting line in Lake Village, Arkansas. It was a nice long ride but it was a beautiful cold morning (sunny and about 30-35 degrees). We stayed on the buses until the start of the race hopping off only to hit the porta-potty one last time. It was not a staggered start believe it or not. There were about maybe 150 marathoners...not too many. We ripped off our masks at the start and off we went. It was cold and I had my throwaways on. I was keeping a fairly good pace. Pat was way ahead of me. There is no way I can keep up with HIM! At mile 3 or 4, some guy put his hand out to give me "five" and I thought it was weird to do during COVID, but I gave him "five" with my gloves still on and said "We got this man, let's go!" I love marathoners. They are all so encouraging no matter what. I was hovering in the low 8's up to an 8:20 pace for a long time and feeling pretty good. I was trying to keep consistent and yet not run at a ridiculous pace where I could not breathe. I kept getting behind an older man and we ran pretty much the same pace and it was difficult to get around him. I just like to run on my own without someone right next to me and it helps me focus better. I traded places with him for so many miles. I started to feel the SE headwind around mile 4 and thought it was a little early and just praying it wouldn't feel worse than that as we ran along the Mississippi River. But who was I kidding?!? Eventually we took a left turn to get on to the main highway that leads you to the massive bridge. At that point, we were way out in the open, out of the residential neighborhood with no trees to shield you from the massive headwinds. It was crazy!! Several times I almost lost my hat but thanks to my catlike reflexes, I was able to save it! I wanted to take my arm sleeves off but it felt too cold so I put them back on. I didn't end up ditching them until mile 20!
As I approached the half marathon mat around 1:52:11 just at the start of the bridge, I still felt strong and in control. I knew I had to climb this big hill (a.k.a bridge over the Mississippi River) but I was doing great. It was incredibly windy but I was feeling hot in my flimsy UNH tank top. I took my hat off on the bridge at times so it wouldn't blow off! And I was surprised that the downhill on the other side of the bridge did not feel as much of a drop as the climb felt on the other side! My pace dipped into the 9's as a I crested the top of the hill and I was determined to keep this pace up throughout the race. The weather was cool and conducive to running even if these headwinds (in the teens) were a bit out of control. I felt like I could power through it although I wish they were nonexistent. This stretch of road was straight and not overly exciting. I stopped for a quick bathroom break at mile 17 and probably lost about a minute or so. Eventually by mile 20, we took a right and ended up in a nice residential neighborhood with lots of turns and beautiful homes. I remember feeling tired and just trying to run the tangents as much as possible. One group of people asked me if I wanted a beer....LOL! Um, NO, I have enough to handle just to get through the last 4 miles of this marathon in a non-alcoholic state! Finally when we turned left on to Washington Street, I knew this was the last road we would be on - even though it was long. I heard my watch tell me once that I was slipping into 10's and I was getting mad at that point. Even that older man passed me again! I was trying to desperately do the math in my head...."Can I still run a sub-4:00 hour marathon?" I was thinking that I couldn't so I started to slow but then as I desperately tried to think clearly through my delirium, I realized that YES I CAN still do it!! I was at mile 23 at 3:25 and I thought I CAN run 3.2 miles in about 30 minutes! (I knew I was running the tangents pretty well and my watch was not far off the mile markers.) Once I thought this, I was MORE DETERMINED THAN EVER TO ACTUALLY DO IT. There was no turning back now. I had to do it! I saw the mile 25 sign and even took a quick picture so I would remember it. I'm like "HERE WE GO!" I was running as fast as I possibly could at this point even though I was already exhausted and desperately trying to keep this pace until the finish line. It had to be mind over matter. I knew it was just one big, long straight line and I could see that finish line so far off in the distance. I was giving it everything I got. It reminded me of my finish in the Niagara Falls Marathon. At one point I passed that older man I kept trading places with earlier in the race. I was just like "Everyone, out of my way, I'm flying to this finish line!" I had to get a sub 4:00 hour marathon. I JUST HAD TO! I felt like I could, I believed that I could and I needed to do this! At mile 25.79, I got my pace back into the 8's and stayed there until the end of the race (26.33 miles). I finished the race in 3:57:21 and it felt awesome when I did it. It was so incredible!!! Yeah sure, if I didn't stop for a bathroom break maybe I could have finished in 3:55 or 3:56 but I didn't really care. I was so happy to have this race completed and it was so rewarding to make it a "faster" one. Pat finished the race in 3:35 and he was there waiting for me and cheering me on. It was perfect!! The cool thing too is my VO2 Max went up to 54 right after this race so you know that's a good day! And um, so what if I barely slept?! The human body is an amazing thing. The body will do whatever the mind tells it to do!
We hobbled to pick up a batch of post-race food and a 1st place in age group award (surprising but see, it was a great day!) and then back to our temporary apartment to eat and clean up. We tried to go to sleep around 6pm because we had to wake up by 2am to leave for the Jackson airport. We arrived in Jackson around 5am and our flight took off by 7am. It was a crazy, ridiculous, rewarding time that I will never forget. We are so glad that we were able to experience this weekend and all of these moments. Sitting home staring at the same walls just doesn't cut it. It felt good to live again and experience new and exciting things as it is what makes us grow and feel alive. Marathon #29 was officially in the books!
P.S. This post is incredibly late due to lack of time. Next write up is KENTUCKY! Probably tomorrow...