Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hatfield McCoy Marathon Recap (Round Two)

This past weekend was a first for me - I went back and ran a marathon for a second time. I've only ever repeated two other races before - my hometown Turkey Trot and the Big Ten 10K. I wasn't sure what it would be like to repeat a race of a much longer distance. I did know this time around would be a little different since it was slated to be 10 degrees hotter (with a predicted real feel of 100) than 2014.

Michael and I took a half day Friday to drive down. We probably could've waited until after work and gotten in late, but I wanted to make sure Michael got the "full" Hatfield McCoy experience with the free pasta dinner and the skit.

From Northeast Ohio, the drive is very easy - you get on 77-S and take it forever, then finish it up with a short stretch on a state highway. The only major town you pass by is Charleston, WV, so it's stress-free. We got a bit of a late start because I had to stop in the hood to get gas (never again!), but we arrived about 45 minutes before the skit. We had plenty of time to pick up our packets, eat, and get good seats in the auditorium. 

The RD gave a 30 minute talk about the race and how much it's grown. The skit was just as good as last year, and Michael said he enjoyed it. I did snap a quick picture to send my dad, who replied "I don't understand your message or picture." Hey - I tried!

We booked a hotel about 40 minutes away from Williamson. When I tried called the downtown hotels on two separate occasions, they wouldn't let me book a room. I got fed up with it, and I got us a Best Western for cheaper and booked online no problem. I know the city isn't really set-up to handle major tourism, but they seem to shoot themselves in the foot sometimes. If I call a hotel, I expect to be able to book a room!

Our alarm was set Saturday morning for 4:45 AM (getting up before 5 always makes us a bit sad). (Side note - how do you runners not in the Eastern time zone travel for races?! You must always get screwed by the time change plus an early wake-up!) We saw maybe two or three other cars on the road, and we had no issue finding a spot to park downtown, which was my big worry.

We walked about two minutes to a corner where people were congregating for a shuttle and got on the second one that came by. I think we waited less than 5 minutes, and then the actual ride to the Food City took less than 10. We cycled through the bathroom in a few minutes and had about 20 minutes to wait for the start. I did forget about the pre-race prayer. (Again, I appreciate the sentiment of hoping everyone has a good race, but having a Christian prayer for a very diverse group of people makes me pretty uncomfortable. I think it's a cultural thing there, but I wish they could be a little more self-aware.) 

The race started right on schedule, and we were across the line in about 30 seconds. While the race is chip-timed, there is no mat at the start. The two re-enactors from the skit saw us off by shooting a few rounds. 

Given how hot and humid it was supposed to be, Michael and I discussed strategy for this race, and we planned to run around 10:30 min/miles for the first half, to try to get as many miles under our belts as we could before it got oppressively hot. Our splits for the first 12 miles hovered around 11 min/miles with our walk breaks.

I forgot just how gorgeous this course is! While the race really advertised the feud aspect (obviously), I think they do a disservice by not mentioning how beautiful the region is. I tried to soak it in while I was cool enough to enjoy it.

I think both Michael and I were a little apprehensive about running another marathon after the sufferfest that was Blue Ridge, so it was nice when the biggest hill of the day, Blackberry Mountain, was no big deal. We did power-walk, but there was no soul-crushing defeat.

Soon enough, we were at the top. This was the first aid station with "extras," and I had the best, freshest piece of watermelon ever. I had a few more slices at other points in the race, and they were all just as good. Michael got a bit ahead of me on the downhill, so I finally got a picture of him running!

The course flattened out for a few miles after this, and we continued making good time. Until about mile 12, that is. I think there was a moment where we both looked at each other walking out of an aid station and were like "It is hot!" At this point we started implementing walk breaks whenever we felt like it. I really appreciate that this race doesn't have a time limit. It was nice to only manage our bodies, not our bodies and the clock.

The person I ran with last year really started struggling around this point, so it was nice to enjoy downtown Matewan when we came through the halfway mark this time.

I also stopped to take an identical picture of the river as I did last year, only this time no one came up to tell me it was an ugly spot and I shouldn't photograph it.

This was the point where my companion dropped out last year, and I was surprised how little of that part of the course I remembered. I totally forgot about the long section along the river, though this meant the dirt road part was way shorter than I was thinking, which was a nice surprise. But that didn't mean the dirt road wasn't still there!

Luckily, there hadn't been unseasonable rain the whole week before the race, so it was not all mud like 2014. But I was glad the entrance to the golf course didn't disappoint and was once again hilariously bad.

I was really excited for another chance at the swinging bridge, and I even got a picture this time around!

The last section of the race had very little shade, and it felt like we were in the middle of a Marathon Maniacs walking club. It was really fun getting to talk to a bunch of different people, including some others going for the 50 States. It's easy to get down about how slow walking is compared to running, but our chats helped pass the time.

Michael also spotted my returning racer sign! I was getting worried we had missed it.

In the last half mile, it finally started to rain. We passed a couple other racers, and we all just shook our heads and laughed! And finally, the end was in sight.

The finish downtown came up quickly, and the re-enactors were once again there to greet us.

Time: 6:11:50

We were given our medals and immediately grabbed some chairs in the shade. A volunteer came over with some towels soaked in ice water and said we looked "done." Considering how bad I felt, I don't want to think about how bad I looked.

My entire legs had gotten horrible cramps the last eight miles of the race, and I was worried they would persist. But once I sat down, they quickly went away. I was relieved, since I had been imaging writhing in pain in the backseat the whole drive home.

Michael and I walked the few blocks back to the car and enjoyed a change of shoes and some time in the air conditioning. Once we felt a little more normal, we walked to a nearby restaurant to get our free post-race meal (there were four other restaurants we could have picked). I got two hot dogs, chips, a pop, and finished it off with soft serve ice cream.

I loved this post-race meal concept! It was so nice getting a pretty solid meal and having a choice on what it was. I just wish they had advertised what each restaurant offered. Hurley Drug ended up being great, but we weren't exactly up to wandering all over downtown to find out all the options.

Once full, we drove a half mile up the hill to the abandoned high school to shower. Not as creepy as I expected, actually, and I survived taking a shower in an open room with a bunch of other ladies. Also not as intimidating as I imagined.

I'm not planning on repeating any other marathons until the 50 States is complete, but it was fun to get to re-visit one of them. But I can't wait to see what the next 38 have to offer!


  1. I was thinking the Hatfield/McCoy name sounded familiar and then I remembered learning about the feuding families in my US History class in high school! So cool that they created a marathon with that theme. Nice work finishing your race strong even though your legs were cramping up like crazy!

    1. The course passes by a lot of the related historical markers (I read them all last year, so I didn't stop this time). They even have half-day bus tours that will take you around to all the sites! The RD did say that after the mini-series on History came out, another 150 people signed up in three weeks!

    2. Wow! That's so cool. I'm a totally history nerd so I love that :)

  2. The course looks like it was beautiful! I also like the post-race meal idea. It sounds like a really nice, small town marathon. Maybe when I'm back in Maryland that race will be on my to-do list. Great job! One day I want to be a marathon beast like you! (And to also find a man to run them by my side hehe)

    1. Ha - if I'm a beast, I'm quite a slow one! The race is a little hard to get to, but it's so worth it. Everyone is so friendly and excited to have you there.

  3. That race looks gorgeous! Congrats on another race you're so awesome!! I'm such a wimp when it comes to running in the heat I can't even imagine getting out there and finishing in such a good time!

    1. Thanks! I'm usually a wimp too, but I guess I can suck it up come race time. I knew when I was thirsty before the first mile was up that it was going to be a hot one! Getting a bunch of miles done before it got too hot was key.

  4. I've always wanted to run this one, but didn't realize how beautiful it is! Congrats on the finish. It's hard enough to run in the heat let alone run a marathon. I love that they do returning signs and post race meals. And that soft serve looks delish! :)

    1. Yes, they definitely should mention the scenery more! I wonder if the locals just take it for granted, or assume everyone knows about it. It has been years since I had regular soft-serve, and it was so good!