Thursday, April 2, 2015

Knoxville Marathon Recap

Knoxville marked the second race of the year for me, and I'd rank it up there as one of my favorites!

The race started at the pretty reasonable time of 7:30, and we stayed about 10 minutes away in North Knoxville. (There were several host hotels within walking distance of the start/finish, but they were stupid expensive.)

We left the hotel right around 6:30. We probably should've allowed a little more time - I always forget how much time it takes to get ready and pack up all our stuff, too! The drive was easy, but there was a bit of a snarl trying to find parking. We knew what lot we wanted and where it was, though it took some doing to get to with the road closures. Google Maps didn't understand where one of the entrances was, so we ended up sitting next to the garage for a minute trying to figure out how to get in, only to realize where we already there! But for all the hassle, parking right next to the finish was totally worth it.

See you in 26.2 miles!
Our next decision was what to wear. The weather had predicted a low of 45, but it was actually about 25 pre-race. We knew with predicted highs of 60, it would be too hot for jackets, but it was so hard to go just in short sleeves. The walk to the start took about 15 minutes, and it was pretty miserable. However, I felt much better a few minutes after starting, so definitely the right choice. (I was really glad to have my hat and gloves, however.)

Michael and I had a moment of panic when we were almost across the bridge to the start (walking in the opposite direction of the way the race would run), when police started clearing the street, and the spectators on the sidewalk crammed into a standstill. Luckily we managed to shove our way through a tiny gap without getting yelled at. We stood off to the side until our corral came by, and then hopped in. I wish we had had time for a bathroom stop, but it wasn't an emergency.

The race started out with a few miles in the city proper, before we headed out to a huge, very nice neighborhood. The halfers ran with us to past mile 12 (I think), so there was huge crowd support in the first half. This area in particular was amazing. It probably stretched for several miles, but there were fun signs and cheer groups the whole way. It was awesome to see the community embrace and support the race, rather than being annoyed a giant pack of runners was being noisy and closing their roads on a Sunday morning.

The next section led us through some beautiful parks and wooded paths. I expected the parks to be more urban, but they felt really secluded and peaceful. It was a little tricky because the path narrowed at this point. There was a group of four sorority girls running together, all abreast, and everyone seemed equally annoyed about having to navigate around them.

By this point, we had run through a lot of major hills, but I still felt good. Other than miles where I quickly walked through the water stops, I was at or below my goal pace to run a 4:45. The weather was perfect, and my legs felt fresh. I still felt like a PR was easily in reach at this point.

Towards the 11 mile mark, we headed back towards downtown to drop the halfers off. While we got pretty close to the stadium, it was enough streets away that it didn't feel too painful. (Or maybe it was just because I get so disoriented in a race.)

We finally got to run through World's Fair Park, which would've been really neat to explore if we had more time. However, it got incredibly empty at this point. There were 700 people doing the full, so I expected to be surrounded by more people, like at Mount Desert Island, but it was fairly lonely. Except for spots with a quick turn or two, I could always see people ahead and behind, but I was essentially alone.

Also, in normal fashion for a race with lots more people doing the half than full, the second half of the course was much less scenic. After passing through the Park, we came upon a very depressed part of town. Like, I wouldn't ever run there alone, depressed. But since there were plenty of police around, I was able to take in what sights there were.

It was also at this point I continued on without Michael. His stomach really started bothering him, so I went on ahead. Mine bothered me later, so we think the roast beef sandwiches we made for lunch the day before probably had gone a little bad. (Luckily the race had plenty of bathrooms!)

After a few more miles in the depressed area, I got to another neighborhood that had embraced the race. There weren't too many spectators out, but lots of interesting signs were posted for my entertainment! However, someone made a Portal set promising cake (which was a lie), but it broke my heart. I got so excited for a cake pick-me-up. Not funny.

Glad I finally got around to watching Walking Dead.
The last main section of the course took me through a riverfront path and another swanky neighborhood. (I'm not a big city person, but Knoxville seems like a pretty sweet place to live!) The wind picked up at this point, and I put my hat back on.

It was also at this point that my legs were totally beat up by the hills. I had hoped to get under five hours, but after an extended bathroom stop, I knew that wasn't happening either. I decided to just do my best, and simply be happy with getting my tenth marathon under my belt.

I hadn't noticed too much of a camber throughout the race, but at this point, the inside of my left knee really started to hurt. There was a rogue aid station set up by other runners that had everything under the sun, and I was tempted to take some ibuprofen. I skipped it, but I really wished I had indulged when I got to the last couple of miles. I also saw Michael on the way back, and I was happy to see he was less than two miles behind me.

The last mile or two took us through downtown again on the way to Neyland Stadium. It was pretty cool to run down the streets we had walked the night before. In this big square, a musician was playing American Pie, which is one of my favorite songs. It was a nice treat for the last bit of the race.

However, my knee was really painful at this point. It hurt just as much to run as to walk, but I still took a few breaks, just for my mental state. There was a huge downhill leading to the stadium, which was much easier to walk. I felt so stupid walking down a hill half a mile from the finish, but it just hurt too badly.

I forgot the pain when I finally came up to the finish. We got to finish on the 50 yard line of the stadium (though the turf wasn't painted, and we were off to the side). I'm not an SEC football fan at all, but it was so cool! MSU needs to take some notes.

Time: 5:07:49

The gates leading to the bleachers were open, so after collecting my medal, hat, space blanket, and water, I stretched out on a bench to wait for Michael. I was ready to get a finishing photo of him, but he sprinted so fast I almost missed him!

After a very nice volunteer took our photo, we headed inside to the marathon finishing area. It was in a special lounge, with couches and a huge spread of food (pizza, fresh lemon ice, quiche, etc). I ate my fill, and then wandered to the stretching area. I expected a five minute work-over, but the therapist probably spent about 20 minutes hitting all the major areas (plus offered to more, if I wanted). This was so nice compared to most post-marathon areas, especially for a smaller race.

Overall, this was an awesome race! The majority of the course was super scenic (and the rest of it was at least visually interesting). The whole weekend was well organized, and there was great support from both spectators and volunteers. The area was also really cool, and it would've been great to spend more time in the area.

Knoxville sure was hilly, but it sure was fantastic.


  1. Congrats on another race, especially so soon after your last one! That's awesome that the trainer helped you stretch so much afterwards. I've never taken advantage of the trainers at the finish lines of races, but that makes me think that I should!

    1. I've only seen a trainer after a couple races (since there's usually a line), but I always feel so much better after! I was really surprised how much time he spent with me, but I really appreciated it.

  2. Sounds like a cool race! I definitely want to do a marathon someday but I think I would need to do one that didn't thin out quite so much! Having people around me definitely keeps me motivated. LOVE the walking dead reference though, that's hilarious!

    Congrats on another marathon :)

    1. I really like smaller races, but it is much harder mentally to push through the second half when you're alone-ish. The Walking Dead posters were definitely a fun boost. They had more that said "Don't be like xxx, run!" Whoever made them was very clever!

  3. This race sounds awesome. Congrats to the both of you! I like races that finish in stadiums because you can sit while you watch the other finishers. And all that food post race is a big bonus.

    1. MSU actually sunk their field several years ago (to make it impossible to rush the field), so I staggered around for a couple minutes before I realized I could get to the bleachers. I think every marathon needs to end with couches and pizza!