Scenic City Marathon
“This course is relatively flat,” pause for effect, “for Eastern Tennessee.” That’s how Randy Whorton described the course during his opening comments Saturday morning. Never running in any part of Tennessee, I just laughed with the rest of the crowd. The race, from the website, described the course as “fast and forgiving.” Now I know race directors are pretty full of it and are generally just trying to pump up attendance, but what the heck is that supposed to mean? At least it was creative.
The race was run on a single track mountain bike course on Raccoon Mountain in Chattanooga. Words like, Vasque Project, The Boonies, SORBA and TVA were thrown around more than a few times when describing the course. Like any good trail run, you cut under or by several power lines and had more than a few hills, switchbacks, exposed roots and big ol’ rocks. The one thing lacking was no mud or water crossings. Race started at 8 am and it was about 70 degrees outside with about 340% humidity. Threat of rain existed for the entire race, but unfortunately, we never got any rain. The full and half marathoners started together. I overheard someone saying we had almost 400 total runners and almost 100 marathoners.
We started out in the parking lot and ran as crowd for about the first ½ mile. We ducked into the woods for the first of 2 laps (half marathoners did 1 lap). First loop was a breeze. Every hill seemed manageable and it was plenty easy to get around people to pass. The race crew did a great job setting up photographers along the course and I found myself showing off while leaping from some rocks. We had 3 well stocked aid stations (water, hammer gels, pretzels, Heed and candy) on the course and they were spaced out at 3, 8 and about 11 miles. Course was marked very well except in one spot were a few of us took a wrong turn. I, along with a few others, ran a few hundred feet in one direction before we realized that this might not be the correct way. We doubled back and started to follow the course in the opposite direction. After about a mile, we saw some course markings and were relieved that we made the right choice. Note, on the second loop, that same spot had now been properly marked. The race crew did a great job of getting out there and fixing the problem.
I was clicking off the miles and doing fairly well, passing people on regular basis and was just under a 4 hour pace after the first loop. Then I got overconfident. I broke one of my “rules of marathoning.” I had read somewhere that you shouldn’t pour cold water or use a cold compress on yourself on long runs. The reasoning was that the cold water causes your pours to close and you can’t properly sweat and wind up overheating. I don’t know if this is true or not, but trying it during a warm and humid marathon, probably wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had.
At the first aid station on lap 2 (about mile 15), I took an ice cold compress and wiped off my face, neck, chest and back. I’ll admit, it felt great, but after about 3 miles, I felt like my body was on fire. I became nauseous, started to cramp and became exhausted. During miles 18-24, my pace changed from a 4-hour finish, to a sub 5-hour finish.
Aid station workers kept telling me I looked good and that there was a ton of other runners still on the course. I knew they meant well, but I didn’t believe their lies. I kept trudging along, running the flats and the downhills while slowly walking the uphills. Somewhere around mile 20 I lost all of my appetite and felt water logged. My intake of fluids almost completely stopped. I was able to eat a few pretzels, but otherwise my food and fluid consumption grinded to a halt. Looking back, with the combination of the humidity and lack of fluids, I’m surprised that I crossed the finish line at 4 hours and 45 minutes.
Overall the course was fantastic, not too difficult and very scenic. Race was organized well and support and aid stations were fantastic. All the runners were extremely cordial and very friendly. Photographers took excellent shots and post race spread was top notch. This race can be chalked up to definitely worth doing again or suggesting to others.