Monday, September 5, 2016

TUPELO MARATHON 2016 Race Report

Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!
Skull and Crossbones Medal.

Long sleeve tie-dyed, winter shirt.

5 a.m. start-time on Labor Day Weekend.

Air-conditioned finish line inside arena.

Dressing room showers & free BBQ.

These amenities await the finisher of the Tupelo Marathon. 

Not to mention an annual dose of running on the hallowed ground where the King of Rock n' Roll was born.  

I left Madison, Alabama @ 1:16 p.m. on Labor Day Saturday headed to Trails & Treads for packet pick-up between 1 and 5 p.m. CDT. 

Minor details can become major details when living in the Central Time Zone and close to the Eastern Time Zone running in Chattanooga or Atlanta as we did last week. Two to three hour drives quickly become 3-4 hour drives on the face of a clock and can make the difference between a relaxed, leisurely start or a panic filled drive. 

The Heart of Rock n' Roll is in Tupelo
I wouldn't have to worry about a time change this week like last week. Or about running until 3 a.m. in the morning. Or sleeping on gravel for two hours afterward. Or running in the dark. At least not running in the dark for very long.

I welcomed the rare 5 a.m. start, because I generally don't sleep well the night before a race, and being out of town alone, I prefer to get up super early instead of waiting around. 

The early start allows for a cooler overall run and the psychological advantage of being 10 miles into your race when the sun comes up. Since most races start at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., this unusual start time for marathons is an added bonus. 

I stayed at the Baymont Inn on North Gloster Rd. less than 3 miles from the start-finish at BancorpSouth Arena on Main Street. I would not stay there again, because there are too many other hotels close by to choose from. And at 3 a.m. there was a loud-talking couple in the hallway or in their room with the door open.

I couldn't tell if they were fighting or what. Needless to say, it was unpleasant and had I not already been awake, it would have bothered me even more. 

Shirt & Race-Eve Layout
I ran the 2015 Tupelo Marathon, so I knew exactly where to park, where the start-finish was, and the layout of the course. Experience is a great sedative. I watched the Georgia vs. North Carolina college football replay on ESPN while getting ready.

The race being on the first weekend of the new college football season makes it special when traveling. My second 100 miler was during March Madness weekend, so it provides something to look forward to watching on TV the night before a race.

Looking forward to earning the right to wear the tie-dyed long sleeved shirt this winter and hanging the skull & crossbones medal on my rack are great motivators to finish. The air-conditioned arena finish line is cool. Literally. After entering the arena and crossing a timing chip plate which identifies you to the announcer, people sitting around at tables eating BBQ on the floor of the arena cheer you on by name to the finish.

These small details when added up make for an enjoyable race experience and one I hope to repeat many times in the future. The downtown area of Tupelo is paved with new asphalt and yellow lines, so it has a fresh look. You can tell that they are investing in the downtown area and want people to visit. 

The best thing about my one-and-done hotel to be was that the tasty restaurant where I ate the night before my race was directly across the street. Far enough to drive, but looking back, I would walk next time, but there won't be next time. 

So, anyway...

The people at The Lost Pizza Co. know what they're doing.

Is there a better compliment? 

Either you know what you're doing or you don't. 

Their golden honey hot wings alone are worth the trip and their pizzas are fresh. I had the "Happy Hippy" veggie pizza with pepperoni. Per me, my eyes were once again too big for my stomach. I ordered the medium when the individual would have been plenty with the wings.

I drive out the "exit only" and two cars pass me entering. People do things their own way in Tupelo. I settle in for the night watching football. I doze off and get about 4+ hours sleep.

I'm up @ 2:45 a.m. just in time for the fireworks down the hall. I get ready. I head out. Pepper spray in hand.

The marathon course is two loops, but only 654 feet of elevation gain. 

Downtown: Arena & City Hall
The flat course and smooth road surface were welcome terrain after last week's YETI Snakebite 50K in Hotlanta, not to mention all that daylight! One week, two very different races.

We start in the dark.

It's humid and sunrise is not till after 6:30 a.m., but there's no need for a headlamp. Some wear them, and I took my clip-on light, but never used it. The street lights downtown and throughout the neighborhoods afford plenty of light.

There were a couple of times when I wished I would have taken my phone with me on course to take pics. The train chugged its way through town early on Saturday morning blowing its loud horn multiple times.

Also, a tornado passed through Tupelo a few years ago and left a noticeable trail in its wake very close to residential neighborhoods. A sobering and contemplating sight to pass through twice. 

A man walked out of his house offering me a bottled water, but I declined. He seemed disappointed, but I just couldn't drink it not knowing who he was. Perhaps, next time I will take it and make sure it's been unopened, or just carry it with me to the next trash can. 

Gonna Need Another Medal Rack
During the 2012 First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL, a guy rode up next to me from behind on a bicycle and handed me a water bottle. I said, "Thanks!" Then I freaked out and threw it back into his open hand. 

How he caught that bottle while riding that bike, I'll never know, but I'm sure he was shocked to get it back so fast after I said, Thanks! Since then, I've been on my guard. I'm sure it would have been okay, but...

The Tupelo race offers a full and half marathon distance. 

After one loop, we all return to the BancorpSouth Arena and the half-ers enter the air conditioned and BBQ'd arena while we fullers head out on another loop. This week, the aid stations seemed very close together, so I didn't take any hydration with me. I drank more than usual at them, but after last week's one-aid-station-at-six miles which was waterless on one loop, this was another felt bonus.
Run Tupelo! 4:54:09 chip time.
I ran about 10 minutes slower this year than last year, but I enjoyed this year's race/trip much more. Last year, I did not take advantage of the dressing room showers nor eat the free food. 

This year, I took my time and cheered on a couple of later finishers and enjoyed some conversation with fellow marathon finishers. One gentleman finished his 141st marathon! Another couple were from Birmingham. 

One gentleman told me how much I will enjoy running races with my children.

I had a great trip and a good time.

The Tupelo Marathon & 13.1 Miler is a great get-away event on Labor Day Weekend.

My Garmin Data.


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