So Knoxville. Yea. Two words: hilly and hot.
Q. Is the course very hilly?
A. The course has some hills, particularly in the first half of the marathon. It is not terribly hilly though. You can see a course profile in the race information page. The total elevation change is not dramatic, but there aren’t very many miles that are just flat.
"Not terribly hilly...". Mmmm. Thinking back that should have tipped me off. The problem is that I rarely ever look at course maps or elevation charts. If a race is a drive-able distance with two kids, reasonably priced, and at a good time during the year, I'm probably going to run it. This methodology completely failed me yesterday.
The second half of the race wasn't as hilly as the first but by then the temperature has risen at least 10 degrees. So any energy I had left after the hills were sucked from my body by the flaming ball in the sky. And can someone please explain to me why marathoners are like the red headed step-children when it comes to course planning? The first half ran through beautiful sections of Knoxville. Scenic and well to do areas. Then around mile 15 or 16 it got sketchy. Broken glass. Abandoned storefronts. The number of runners around me dropped significantly after we split from the half and if there hadn't been police officers at every intersection, (a big, huge thank you to Knoxville PD by the way) I would have been nervous.
Then it was welcome to the highways of Knoxville time. I loathe running on highways. No one cheers for anyone on the side of a highway. There are no bands that race websites are always so excited about. It's like no man's land out there.
The wheels fell off at about mile 19. I had nothing. Despite the copious amount of fluid I was drinking, I knew I was getting dehydrated. It got so bad that I seriously considered cheating and skipping miles 21 & 22. There was this huge loop and I saw mile marker 23 on the other side of the road. "Who would know?" I said to myself. The good angel screamed, "You! You would know!" The bad angel countered, "You are so tired. Everything hurts. Your toenails? Gone. You would only have three miles left. C'mon you know you want to." Only my love for Jesus and my pride kept me from crossing that double white line.
Eventually, I crossed the finish line at the 50 yard line of the University of Tennessee football field. I have never been so thankful to see a finish line in my life.
Marathons are hard. It doesn't matter if you're running your first or your fifth. It was strictly willpower and determination that dragged my pitiful body across that finish line. You really find out what you're capable of doing when you have nothing left. I am proud of myself for finishing. I am proud of myself for running the entire race. I am proud of leaving everything out there on that course. Marathon #5 is in the books.
P.S. I may have had a semi traumatic race but the race itself was wonderfully run. There were inflatables and kids' activities at the expo. There were more then enough port a potties. The volunteers were amazing. They refilled water bottles for me and were incredibly encouraging. The spectators that came out to cheer were excited and supportive. The neighborhood of Island Home will forever have my thanks for the oranges at miles 21 & 22. So, if you're considering Knoxville make sure you check the course map and the weather beforehand and have a great race!