"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“Surviving the Feud!" Hatfield-McCoy Marathon Recap

It took all of about 3 minutes to decide that I was ‘all in’ for the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon, when I happened across it back in April. I can’t recall where exactly I saw the article, but since this 50 state bucket list deal is about the experience, there was no way I would miss this opportunity. And I am so glad that we made it work.

Swinging Bridge - Mile 20 +/-
Just over four hours away, in a sleepy little state line town of South Williamson, WV, stands the finish to one of the more beautiful and most difficult courses that I have run. Beginning in Belfry, KY, the course climbs over Blackberry Mountain, moves along famous “feudin’ sites” (yes, there are famous ones), across a swinging bridge and through various hollers and farms.

Swag - Mason Jars and Feud Theme
Of course, the feud history is part of the fun, which includes a real live Hatfield as the race director, and a fine director at that. One of the nicest, most sincere directors that you will come across. The communities have worked hard to fill aid stations practically every mile and create a warm and friendly packet pick-up event that is top notch. Mason jars to every finisher and a “No Feudin’, Just Runnin’ themed shirt and medal. And yes, the shotgun start guys are probably the most photographed starters in all of marathoning (see above - we got them later around the finish line).

A list of highlights and key thoughts:

* Christy and I drove up on Friday, ran Saturday and made it back for a high school graduation that evening. The drive was pretty and it was nice to have a Saturday morning race for a change. Having Christy run the 5k that morning was exciting as well. We had a great time together.

50 State Club Reunion
* By chance, the HMM was a 50 state marathon club reunion race--they do a couple a year. It was also my first race sent meeting the criteria for joining the club (you have to complete 10 states first). What a great couple of hours on Friday afternoon. We thoroughly enjoyed the introductions and discussions. Informational and inspirational. Loved it (even Christy enjoyed the time at the meeting). Oh, and because it started in KY and ended in WV, I can choose which state to count. I’m going with WV since there are some other good KY races down the road and I’m not sure the courses in WV get any flatter!

* Speaking of flat ... The elevation chart is crazy. You can certainly see Blackberry, but even beyond that, those hills rolled, and kept rolling. There was a bit of flat in the first few miles, then again near half, and finally for the last few miles, which was nice.

Mountain Highway - All to Runners! 
* Because you really are out in nowhere, the nice four lane highway, and even the country roads, felt like they were closed down for runners. Eventually, traffic picked up on the mountain roads and you had to watch it, but most cars knew what was going on and took it slow.

* What a difference a conversation can make! I have experienced this before, but it really is amazing how much a little encouragement from others, and a little talk to take your mind off the pain, can actually help. For most of the last half, I was definitely running on a flat tire (knee pain - not sure?). So I would run a few minutes at pace, then shuffle / race walk for a few seconds, then run at pace, then ... you get the picture. After passing one another back and forth over about 8 miles, a young lady from Charlotte finally asked if we might could push each other for the last 2 miles--what a great idea. So the earphones came out and we started to talk about training, and races, and all things running. Before we knew it, the finish line was in site and the push had kept us going. It’s that camaraderie deal that’s pretty unique to runners. I really appreciated it. Congrats Karla on a new PR and best to you in Chicago.
Foggy Mountain Morning - Beautiful Run

Well, the goal for Hatfield-McCoy was survival, and survive I did. I wore a sleeve for the knee, just in case, and really lathered it up with some bio-freeze. I actually think speed work from the past few weeks was just a bit much, but I’ll be good in a few more weeks of rest. Anyway, the knee held to at least halfway and then it was just a matter of gutting it out. Coming in around 4:45 was only slightly worse than what I had projected, but it wasn’t about clock time on this one. See, there’s a reason that most marathons don’t run in June, and a why most don’t go over the KY-WV mountains. But with the scenery, the people, and the all out fun of HMM, maybe more of them should. Besides, they said we could take as long as we wanted, but to be careful after dark, cuz that’s when the shootin’ would start ...

Next up: Indianapolis Monumental on November 1st with our good buddy, the Kentucky Keflezighi - Paul Brantley. And we will be looking to go flat and fast in Indy! See you then.

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