On June 14, 2014, the 12th annual Maryville, Missouri “Chamber Country Classic” marathon was held. There was also a 1/2 marathon, 10k & 5k. Being that the only knowledge of this race was what I had read, I really didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that is was going to be very rural and very small. I saw more farm implements on my two hour drive up there than I had ever seen in my life.
The website recommended to “book a room early” in one of Maryville’s three motels as they would “fill up fast.” So that’s what I did, a few days before the race. When I arrived at the Comfort Inn the afternoon before the race, I was asked if I wanted upstairs or down. Since the rooms were all inside, there was no way I was going upstairs (heck no-what if there was a fire)? Keep in mind this was Friday the 13th-and a full moon. I’m not really superstitious, but the ignorance of some of my fellow humans keeps me on guard when the culture as a whole is making a big deal out of a date on the calendar. Seems it drives some folks into mischief. For the price, I was pleasantly surprised with the accommodations. It was a clean, comfortable room with a refrigerator and microwave and was surprisingly quiet. I didn’t turn the TV on once. The staff were friendly and the check in/out was a breeze. That is my plug for the Comfort Inn in Maryville. I guess I expected to see more runners hanging out it the lobby, but I had to keep reminding myself that it was not Chicago.
After about an hour rest, I ventured out to pick up my race packet and to get something to eat. Timing with me is everything in the pre-race meal. The business district of Maryville is really very quaint. The packet pickup was at the Chamber of Commerce office in the old downtown area. I am not lying when I say it reminded me of Mayberry. No expo there, just sign the waiver, get your bib, shirt, goody bag and go. Since the weather was in the 70s, I decided to walk around the town a little and I meandered into a thrift store. Since this town is home to Northwest Missouri State University, the shelves were laden with Bearcat memorabilia castoffs. I bought a book for $0.95 (tax included). You want to know what book it is don’t you? All I can say is that it is not a running book (and it’s not dirty). I inquired about an eatery that was native to Maryville, since the town like most other towns, is host to a plethora of familiar fast food joints. They mentioned several of the Asian restaurants in town (buffets). Um, no way I’m eating that stuff before a race. Load up on it and you’ll be “unloading” during the race! After searching on my own, I decided to just head back to the motel and eat at the Applebees that is right next door. I had some chicken pasta and a salad, went back to the motel, changed into my swimsuit, decided there were too many kids in the pool, changed out of my swimsuit, put my jammies on and called it a night…lame, I know. It was probably close to 8pm anyhow and race alarms go off early.
Since the race started at 0630, I set my alarm for 0400 and had a wake up call set up for 0430 in case I turned my alarm off. I wanted to have plenty of time to prepare and pack everything back up as I was going to check out when I left for the race, preventing an extra charge if I didn’t get back from the race in time. The race started at Donaldson Westside Park on the campus of NWMSU. I arrived about 0600. The parking lot was about 385 yards from the start of the race and there were a couple of golf carts shuttling people from there to the start which I found to be extremely amusing, but I guess I have a warped sense of humor. The weather was windy, cloudy, and 61 degrees-perfect (or so I thought). As I approached the start area, mother nature was calling and I needed to find a porta-potty. I saw two, side by side in an area, and not knowing if I was suppose to use them, I asked someone at the late registration table. She said yes, I could indeed use them, whew! Every experienced runner knows that you get the peeing off of your mind before the race starts. There was only a handful of other people hanging around and I think I counted 4 tents set up, none of which were medical. That was my first odd observance. There was a lone radio station set up and that was basically it. This was also the first race I had seen where the start line, which also functioned as the finish line, was literally on a hill. The wind had picked up a great deal and blew the clock over. I was glad I had a jacket although it was not one that I could just chuck. The announcer did every five minute count down and we all lined up on the hill. It didn’t seem like there were very many people there.
The national anthem was played, the gun went off and there we went. Since I didn’t have a goal time, and I was using this as one of my weekly long runs, I had planned on working on my pacing and probably doing a lot of walking. Since my longest weekly run had been 18 miles up to that point two weeks prior, I was going to conservatively do 20. My strategy was to run the first third between 9:30 and 10:00, the second third between 9:15 and 9:30, and give it whatever I had left the last third using run/walk at a ratio of five minutes to one. The first 1.5 miles sailed by and was entertaining as there was an Army platoon running and singing cadence the entire time. They as well as many others, turned the corner for the 5k and we thinned out quite a bit. I think the 10k turned the corner with them, not sure. All I know, is that the next three miles was nothing but hills. I was doing pretty good maintaining my pace, kept having to tell myself to slow down. Ah…the wonderful smells of the great outdoors in farm country. I’m pretty sure I stepped on a cow patty too. Second odd observation-the roads were not shut down to traffic and there was no one guiding you where to go. You had to follow the spray painted arrows on the road and the few (small) yellow signs. One great observation is that the water stations were well manned and there were plenty of them.
Miles 4.5 through nine were straight up Hwy 71 North against a terrible headwind that was growing increasingly worse. Third odd observation-lack of police presence. The vehicles were zooming by and the noise was like nails down a chalkboard. I do most all of my practice runs on a trail in pure tranquility. The noise and fumes were setting my nerves on end. Odd observation #4: a medical van driving on opposite side of the hwy. with the driver yelling, “good job.” This happened the second time around as well. I spoke to a few people in passing inquiring where they were from and what race they were running. Mile seven the volunteers were handing out cold, wet washcloths which was a nice distraction. Mile nine-about the time we turned the corner back onto Main Street with 4.1 miles to the half -way point. I was feeling really great and ran for about a half mile at an 8:15 pace. I knew I had to cut that out quick. Ah, the finish line for the half-marathoners and the turn around point for me and the rest of us running the 26.2. We literally ran around a cone at the original start and ran the 13.1 mile race all over again. My time then was around 2:07. I was taking in a GU about every 5 miles and some salt every 10 (twice total) and alternated between water and Gatorade at the stations.
Once I hit those hills again, my steam was starting to fade a little, so I decide for the second half I would start the run/walk to save the legs There were very few of us left (at least at my pace). I kept having to look up ahead to spot a lone runner to make sure I was going in the right direction and make the turns. There we went again, that five mile stretch of noisy, fumey (if that’s a word) highway. Curse you headwind! It was blowing gravel and dust all over me. I say “me” because it really was like a lone run at this time. The blowing dust must have been the reason a couple of the water stations had been abandoned. I just kept my head down and kept running. I could see two girls in pink up in the distance and tried to keep them in my sight. “Keep going” I told myself, because “excuses suck”-just like my shirt said. Alas, mile 22, and off that blasted highway. My trusty Garmin showed a time of 3:46. I had hope. With 4.2 miles to go, I just might nail a marathon PR, or so I thought. Remember, this was just a training long run. With me going far above the recommended weekly mileage increase of 10% my right knee was starting to crap out on me. I slowed WAY down. I think my slowest mile was 11:30. Those last three miles were pleasantly shaded through neighborhoods until about the last 1.2 miles adjacent to the campus. Bless the mile 24 sign. I could have kissed it. I felt like I was moving in slow motion…AND having an “out of body” experience. All of those GUs on my belly were starting to rebel as well. It’s amazing to me how any other two mile run is a breeze. Not so much, the two miles and the end of a marathon. I made the right onto street that would take me the last 385 yards. “Keep going, keep breathing, you’re not dying… don’t throw up” was my finishing remarks to myself. Oh finish line, such a lovely sight to see.
Odd observation #5: No one handing out medals at the finish. I didn’t care, I just wanted to stretch out (or try)on the grass. Oddity #6: the “refreshments” at the end were at the bottom of that blasted hill so I had to walk back up after I grabbed them. The chocolate milk was lukewarm, but I’m not complaining. I was just glad I was done. After lying in the grass for a bit I walked back UP the hill and asked where I got my medal. The timing guy sent me to another table and stated, “You got an award too.” Okay, that’s nice-this is just a training run. I proceeded to get my medal, got my age group award and hopped on the golf cart (not so amusing this time) to take me back to my Jeep. I was mulling over in my head where I was going to change. Ding, ding, ding…Wal-Mart bathroom! I had a few odd looks from the peeps of rural Nodaway County walking into Wal-Mart with my CWX compression tights on looking like something the cat brought home. No matter, I had a 2 hour drive home and I was going to be comfortable and dry. Amazing the blisters that one finds in odd places when you shed your race clothes!
Summary: this was a good race, but not a great race. I have to say that is was very well organized despite the lack of bells and whistles and frills. There were definitely things that could have been done differently (like NOT having the drinks at the end at the BOTTOM of the hill)! I also feel it would be safer to have more people out on the highway in case something happened, especially during the last half of the marathon. The entry fee of $45.00 was very reasonable for a Boston qualifying race. This is not a race for you if you are looking for crowd support or a big welcome at the finish, but a great one if you don’t like being crowded when you run. Stats: Total finishers: 5K-80, 10k-46, 1/2-84, 26.2-66. I know I would have done better if not for the headwind (which later discovered was 30mph). But placing 11 out of 23 total females, 42 out of 66 total marathoners, and winning first place in my age group was not a bad gig. After all it was just a “training” run. 🙂
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Q. Adams
Until we meet again,