Although this race will stand out as the hardest half Marathon that I've completed, I had such a great experience.
The course, the volunteers, the runners and the hotel all made this one of my best race experiences.
Packet pick-up was a short walk from the hotel with only a few vendors. I much prefer smaller expos so I can get in and out and off my feet. The schwag included an awesome shirt with the loudest design (but still neat), a blues CD, and a harmonica. A harmonica! How awesome! Well, it was awesome until 2 hours of listening to my 4-year-old learning how to make sounds with it (but it's still awesome no matter how loud and shrill).
Previous to this event, I had been a loyal Hilton member, increasing my status with each stay. However, after this weekend and staying at two different Marriotts, I think I'll be switching my loyalty. They simply did everything right. But more on that later.
The night before the race, I joined two other runners for dinner at our hotel. Really enjoyed the conversation, learning about different races, the good and the bad. After dinner, I had a relaxing night changing into my pjs, slipping into bed, reading SELF magazine while HGTV was on in the background. Pure bliss!
Up and early for the 7am start. I was meeting the girls in the lobby so we could walk up together. Found our various paces in the appropriate corrals and listened to the Star Spangled Banner - blues style. Then we're off!
The first mile was already giving me a good taste of Jackson, Mississippi hills. Yikes! Right before mile 3, I saw the coolest sight - a house with over 100 birdhouses! I thought about taking a picture, but I feared that if I slowed down, then there was a chance I'd never start back up!
Between miles 3-6, i was treated to some of the most beautiful homes I've ever seen. Kept wondering if John Grisham lived nearby. It just felt like scenes from his novels.
I cannot say enough good things about the amazing hospitality and the kind and friendly volunteers. This town seriously tries make you feel their love!
The hills were challenging-ascents and descents equally difficult. In spite of that, I had no knee or hip pain. I even gave away my biofreeze packet to someone having a bad bout of knee pain. It was funny actually. The guy I gave my biofreeze to asked if he should take it with water. I quickly said, "oh no, it's a topical ointment. You rub it in." A near crisis averted!
Finish line was a wicked uphill for the last half mile. That kicked my ass! Finishing at the capitol was cool. Seeing Trent Lott at the finish line would have made it even cooler. His family name is everywhere in Mississippi! The post-race food had all sorts of yumminess, but my stomach was not giving me the green light to adventurous eating-red beans and rice just didn't seem like the right move! I think it might have been the heat and humidity, and I had not experienced these weather conditions since August! I did grab a couple cookies, sat on the lawn and enjoyed being treated to some fantastic sounding blues music. Oh the medal, it a large record with a blue guitar. Heavy and awesome!
Returning to the hotel, Marriott showed me they really know how to treat its customers! They handed out towels at the lobby entrance for returning runners and had gatorade and ice water displayed in large glass containers (the ones that usually have water with cucumber or lemon slices). Such a great touch!
As soon as I entered my room, i hopped into an Ice bath before I could talk myself out of it. Such a smart move considering I had another half marathon race in the morning!
Finish time: 2:36:33 (a little slow, but it was challenging and I had so much fun!)
While I was sweating in the heat and humidity, my little princesses were enjoying ice skating at Snow Days at Progressive Field. Love this picture they sent me post-race!
And now I'm off to Mobile, Alabama!