|We Are Marshall!|
It took me 3 attempts to get to this marathon: in 2016, I was too exhausted from hosting LRC's Run of the Dead event the week before and in 2017, my car died 1 hour from arriving at Marshall University (that story HERE). This year almost didn't happen; injuries plagued me for much of 2018 and shortly after my worst marathon in 9 years at the Sandia Crest Marathon, I was low on confidence. I then stopped running for 2 weeks because of TFL pain in my hip. That left me with 3 weeks to train for this race.
Thirteen friends from Libertyville Running Club joined me on this trip. A few of us planned to fly into Columbus, OH, stay a night in the Brew Dog hotel and brewery, then drive down to Huntington, WV where the university is located. By the time I committed to running this race, the flight had risen to $600 and so I drove.
This brewery with onsite hotel opened this summer and I had to go. They have a punk rock credo in their anti-business business model that appeals to me. We enjoyed a night of beers, perused the brewery museum, had dinner in the brewery, then a rousing game of doubles ping pong. They have a great outdoor space that connects to a trail system we used the following morning for our shakeout run. Board games were disbursed all over the hotel lobby and their European-style breakfast buffet was better than most hotel breakfast buffets.
|Brew Dog's outdoor drinking field with fire pits, Jenga, and a dog park|
|The interior view from our hotel room; beer and art everywhere!|
|#bartusching - an aerial pic coined for a friend who perfected this art form|
Jason, Michael, Laurie, and I shared a room and got ourselves psyched for the race by watching We Are Marshall, a movie about the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people - most of the Marshall University football team, friends, and flight crew - and how the university and community rose from the tragedy.
|Jason, Michael, Laurie, and me|
The 2.5-hour drive to Huntington is beautiful and thrilling. We drove 2-lane highways meandering through the countryside. At multiple points, we approached hills, blind to what was on the other side, and lost our stomachs as we crested them. We leaned into turns a little too fast. We stole glimpses of autumn foliage and dwellings that reveal an America beyond the cities and privilege so many of us are accustomed to.
This is the 15th anniversary of the Marshall University Marathon and the retirement of its race director. His passion for this small marathon with a big heart is apparent. He asked that we bring canned goods for a food drive so we stopped at Kroger before the expo. This race provides so much swag that you wonder how they make any money: a beanie, jacket, and duffel bag were all included in the marathon registration. I bought the long sleeve race shirt just to feel like I could support their efforts.
|We also made shirts depicting our running buddy Marshall (Laurie's dog)|
The LRC's separate travel groups planned to convene for dinner at La Famiglia at 6:30pm but that didn't stop our band of 4 from eating at Butter It Up at 4pm. Call it carb-loading. Runner problems, you know? Before dinner, we visited the memorial for the plane crash victims located in a cemetery that overlooks the university.
|A somber memorial visit|
Dinner was good, all-be-it slooooowwww. Though we didn't get out of there until about 9pm, we had the benefit of Daylight Savings Time the next morning. It was nice to have almost all of us together, enjoying a pre-race dinner.
|The LRC Famiglia|
This course, one loop for the half marathon run twice for the marathon, is fast. I love these 2-loop marathons; you get a good sense of the terrain and are able to strategize for the second loop. The weather was a near perfect 40 degrees and sunny at the start. I approached the start line feeling better than I should considering what little I put into this race.
|Bib #46 but 47th state marathon... that's bananas!|
The start cannon went off without a countdown, taking us all by surprise. Startled as we were, we ran a reasonable 6:42/min first mile then picked it up a bit. We noticed Michael was no longer in site on an out-and-back section at mile 6. "He'll catch up," we assured one another.
Jason and I had a rhythm: we walked every aid station (about a mile apart) and we ran together and alone, pushing each other. The first loop went by with relative ease. Never did I doubt this would be a sub-3-hour marathon. Kudos to Jason for driving most of the second loop. Around mile 18, I told myself to hang with Jason until mile 20, then mile 22, then mile 24. He looked back often to make sure I hung on until mile 26. Laurie - who just finished her half marathon - came out to cheer us in from about mile 21 on.
We entered the stadium for an out-and-back on the football field. At the entrance, you can accept a football to run with... I fumbled it. I had spoken of my plan to throw myself the ball and jump catch it over the finish line so Laurie picked up my fumble and handed it to me as I came back to approach the finish. It was epic... then I fumbled it, again. Regardless, a 4th place finish (1st in age group) in 2:54:14 (my 15th fastest of 66 marathons - not bad, considering the poor training) with a silly finish photo made for a successful 42nd sub-3-hour state marathon.
|My dramatic end zone finish, GO SPORTS!|
|Incomplete pass, no touchdown!|
With 2:58 on the clock, Michael entered the stadium to sneak in a sub-3-hour marathon. With all of our half marathoners finished, we lingered to watch Carolyn finish her marathon. Five of us won age group and overall awards - our choice of locally blown glass bowls, pitchers, and vases. Beers, food, and cake were all waiting at the finish line.
I had one more race for the day; my favorite punk band in high school, the recently reunited Jawbreaker, was playing at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. A sub-3-hour marathon in West Virginia, then an 8-hour drive to Chicago for 2 hours of nostalgia with old and new friends capped off a great weekend. Oh, and Jill caught the drumstick and gave it to me! Perfect weekend.
|Still rockin' and I'm still standing after a long day|