I had the blues the entire time I ran this course. Not Chicago-style, Big-Horns, Big-Holler Blues but the kind you hear travelling through the backwoods of Mississippi, where small crop farmers have sold out family lands to Monsanto corporate soybean fields, but still live in run down old shacks where the winter winds blow through the cracks on the east and come tinkling out on a guitar with one string missing to the west. My feet are tired. My body too. Keeping trudgin’ on. Twenty six point two.
Back to running the route of a marathon, not the actual race. Coming off the high of running two races with personal records, tons of support, local inspiration, and comraderly commisseration, my heart felt as empty as Jackson’s streets at 6:30 in the morning, cold winds whistling over cracked pavement punctuated by the sirens of three cop cars and an ambulance. Why am I doing this?!? It seemed like a good idea at the time. If they go to the trouble of putting together a race, I figure, it will highlight the best the city has to offer. From what I hear, the race directors pull out all the stops for actual race day. Lots of great bands, lots of Southern hospitality, a terrific race medal with a guitar pick for the blingistas, a B.B. King Cd and harmonica for the swagsters, an amazing Blues pub crawl that I can attest to thanks to my host for recreating it, and a tie-in to the already reviewed First Light Marathon in Alabama for the crazy ultra/double marathon crowd. I’m sure the local populace comes out in force to support the runners as well. However, this will be of the course and only the course as I ran it lonely and tired this past Sunday, two weeks after the last of the water cups and Gu packets had been swept from the streets.
Hills, hills, and more hills. Big Hills and little hills. Almost all over the course once you get past mile 4, you will be on a hill of some sort. I really don’t have anything against hills per se, and it should be said that there isn’t an impossible hill on this course. You know the kind I mean, straight up a dramatic incline or the kind of hill that goes on for two miles, up and up. Nope just (mostly) gentle, rolling hills. My main problems with those hills here in Jackson were twofold. Firstly, what goes up, must come down, right? Not in Jackson. When I run a certain distance uphill, I expect a fair and equal balance of downhill time and this is not the case.
In fact, this race sees a 950 foot gain over the course of the race. This has since been disproved as a misreading of my instruments. The course is not designed by M.C. Escher, it just feels like it is. Secondly, because of living in the beautiful Northeast, I get spoiled. Usually when I get to the top of a hill there’s visual payoff, a well earned reward such as a stunning vista, a scenic overlook, or a touristy token to take a race selfie. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me. The downtown was stark, especially heading towards the University. Even running through campus was a bit of a cement graveyard (once again, I’m sure during the race, the crowds of students are abundant, but the actual campus is bare). The 3rd mile and the 26th mile are filled with some gorgeous government buildings as well as the Museum of Art and the Planetarium. After that, it is a mix of city sprawl, medical campuses, various economic neighborhoods, and highway sideramps. I truly feel that there is a missed opportunity with LeFleur’s Bluff State Park and the Pearl River so close to the course. The main reason I would come back to The Mississippi Blues race is for the party. The course itself left me wanting.
Avoid All Obstacles
This should be self-explanatory but do not overlook the small stuff. In this instance – do sweat the small stuff! Just because a pinecone look decrepit and rotten, do not stomp on it like an ice giant crushing a small Nordic village. You will roll your ankle and you will regret it. Also do not kick any cans or larger than normal pebbles, don’t step on a Crack and break your mother’s back. These are basics that should not be ignored.
Check Sidewalk Quality
During a race you have the luxury of running in the middle of the road. During non race times, it’s usually safest to be on the sidewalk – unless the sidewalk looks like it’s from a post apocalyptic movie set. Cue second rolled ankle. The area suffers from a clay ground base and so much of the course had buckles in the pavement and the sidewalks similar to what our frost heaves look like back home. I must occasionally check the sidewalks when I am doing my prerun course review.
Do Not Drive For 3 Hours After The Race With Rolled Ankles In A Stickshift
I felt great prior to the race, except for a little excessive chaffing (which healed nicely, thank you Gold Bond Ultrahealing). During this race, lacking the adrenaline and competitive spirit from the previous races, I felt every ache and pain. My lower back was flaring up after mile 5 and my feet were sore from mile 8. After rolling my left ankle the first time, it was sore but workable. When I rolled it the second time, I had a little shooting pain and I fell, skinning my hands and bruising my elbow and ego. Had the feet and ankle alternating between ice baths and Epson salt baths on Monday and they feel pretty good today. Neosporin took care of the abrasions. My ego is still a little bruised. I finished with a time of 6:18:32. Almost a full hour more than the previous week’s PR. On the flipside, I ran about a half hour less than my first marathon this year in Florida. I did run the least amount of miles during the week since I began this journey and really haven’t done any hill training since November. I will make sure I run my support 15 this week and make sure I am incorporating hill training every other week, even if the terrain doesn’t naturally provide it. Off to another great music city this week. See y’all in Memphis, Tennessee!