What a weekend!
The Inaugural Annual MJ Reunion Half Marathon, also known as the St Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend involved lots of driving (try 18+ hours round trip for EACH of us!), lots of running, and lots of eating our way down Beale Street.
Mel and I met back in 2008 in grad school. We were both proud members of what we called the wRECking crew cohort, and had our fair share of shenanigans. Ours is one of those friendships that was solidified in times of crisis – namely while stuck on the side of the road for 4 hours one cold, December evening in Southeastern Ohio and then being picked up by a tow truck at 1 am and taken to a very Batesian hotel in the boonies. Over those 4 hours, we did everything to entertain ourselves and keep warm, including mooning what little oncoming traffic there was. Yep, our friendship was sealed with butt prints on a car window.
We both graduated in 2010, and then Mel moved all the way to Houston. Since then we’ve only had Facebook and Daily Mile to keep in touch. Back when we lived in the same city, neither of us were runners, but somehow we kept each other up to date on our separate but eerily similar running journeys, and decided back in January that a great way for us to keep in touch would be to meet up each year for a half marathon. Quality girl time, racing, and a weekend vacation? Um, yeah!
We stayed with a family friend of Mel’s, who just so happened to live within a few blocks of the Expo, the start/finish, AND Beale Street – quite possibly the most ideal location ever. On top of that, he was an amazing host, and showed us all the best places in Memphis.
Mel is currently training for her first marathon, and I’m at the end of a looooong training cycle, so our goals for the race were very relaxed and flexible. As much as I would have loved to PR again, I’ve been on fire for the last few races, and have been feeling pretty overtrained in the past few weeks, so I decided to go with the flow and run according to how I felt in the moment. Mel wanted to stay as fresh as possible for her pending 16 mile run next weekend.
Overall, I have to say that this wasn’t what I would call a “good” race day for me. I was running pretty consistently around 10:00 minute miles with Mel until about mile 5, when I went ahead a bit. Miles 5 – 8 were clocking in around 9:30, with some faster spurts, but it felt much more difficult than it should have, and I just didn’t have the same fire in me that I had in Indy when I PRed. The tank just felt empty – classic overtraining, if you ask me.
Just after mile 8, Mel caught up with me, and we ran 2 smoking miles around 8:30. Those miles really took it out of me, so around mile 10, I set Mel loose, and slowed it down a bit. Someone conveniently forget to mention the rolling hills in the last 5k of the race, and they beat me up properly. For the first time since the marathon in September, I walked in a race. It felt like I walked a lot in miles 10 & 11, but my pace for those miles was still around 10:30, so I must not have walked as much as I thought.
At mile 12, I kicked it into a higher gear, knowing that I was so close. The race finished in AutoZone Park, the baseball stadium, and I could almost see the finish line when the woman in front of me tripped in a pothole and went chin first into the street. I stopped to make sure she was okay, and thankfully she was – she earned some hardcore road rash on her chin, but seemed fine, so I pushed ahead. I remember thinking that if I hit a pothole. I’d be face first, too, after almost 13 miles!
Not even a few hundred yards later, I noticed people crowding around something, or as I realized when I got closer – someone. A man had collapsed within sight of the finish, and there were about 8 people helping him, asking “can you hear me?! can you hear me?!” After hearing about all these marathon deaths in the past few months, the whole situation sent chills up and down my body and a queasy feeling spread all throughout my gut. I sent some good thoughts to the runner and his family and thought about him as I crossed the finish line. Thankfully, he seems to have come through it alright and should be going home soon.
I mentioned earlier that this race wasn’t a “good” race for me, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. I finished in 2:11:24, for an average pace of almost exactly 10:00 minutes per mile. The fact that 10:00 minute miles is now a “bad” day honestly had me over the moon! Having to climb up though the stands in the stadium, not so cool. I just kept thinking “man, if I’m having this hard of a time after a half, those poor marathoners will have an awful time with these!” I reunited with Mel, who PRed by about 7 minutes and met her goal of running negative splits for the first time in a race!
After the race, Mel and I meandered back to our generous host’s apartment, showered, lounged, and hit Beale Street for an evening of… well, mostly eating. Fried chicken, BBQ, fried pickles, gumbo… all the Memphis must-eats. It was so awesome to see Mel and catch up with her – we haven’t seen each other since she graduated last spring, and had a ton to talk about. This past year has taught me that nothing is more important than the people you love, and I’m so excited for our adventure in running and racing in the years to come. It’s always better to share an amazing journey with an amazing person – 50 half marathons in 50 states, baby!
All in all, it was the perfect weekend – nothing beats running and eating your way through a new city with a friend as awesome as this one!
( Stay tuned – more photos to come of this epic weekend! )