Race day started at 4:00 AM. Yes, that is insanely early to get up to run, but Middle Tennessee State University (where the race was held) is about 45 minutes away and the race started at 7:00 AM. We had heard that parking was a cluster due to construction, so we wanted to get there early. Fortunately, while there was construction, traffic wasn't too bad and we easily parked in a relatively close lot. It was a little chilly that morning, so we (Dudley and our friend Jennifer) decided to utilize the race bag drop and wear warmer clothes on the walk to the starting line. We ended up turning right back around though because even though the tag said "bag drop," it was actually more of a "key drop" and backpacks weren't accepted. Whomp Whomp.
We were able to hook up with several of our friends pre-race. As I mentioned, this is a very popular race and lots of East Nasties (and other friends) were there. It's popular for several reasons, but the main one being that it is FLAT FLAT FLAT. People come from all around to try to PR here. And while I'm not currently in PR condition, I was curious to see how I could do. My running confidence hasn't been all that great recently. I think this is mainly due to how freakin' hot it's been and I wilt like a delicate flower in the heat. Hopefully, my runs will be a bit stronger with the cooler temperatures.
The race started right at 7AM. Well, actually, I take that back. They tried to start right at 7AM. They did the countdown and everything. But the timer wasn't working or something so they didn't actually start the race after the big countdown. They fixed it within a minute or two and we were off.
I started running with Jennifer and another EN Patrick. We were planning on lining up with the 2-hour pacer and see how we did. My schedule called for me to run this in 2:05, so I knew 2-hours would be a bit of a stretch, but not too much. Unfortunately, there were a ton of people who wanted to run 2:00 and we lost the pacer almost immediately. Oh well.
The first 7 miles of this course were great. We ran past some beautiful historic homes and the Oaklands Mansion. There was also some wonderful course support from spectators. I was feeling really good, too. Sure, I was kind of tired of running after an hour or so, but I felt fine. Then we turned Mercury Blvd. and it all changed. This was a bigger, more highway-ish, road and not as scenic as the previous miles. We also lost most of the spectator support (the water stops / bathrooms were still on point, though). Without the distractions of pretty houses and bands, the race wasn't so fun for me anymore. The pain kind of started to creep in. We were on this road for about a mile, and then we turned Rutherford Blvd. and it was like stepping into a wind tunnel. Sure, flat races are great - unless it's windy. From miles 8-12, we were in a crazy headwind. It was brutal. At mile 10, I knew I was supposed to pick up my pace, but I just physically couldn't because of the wind. I was killing myself but not going any faster, which is really quite frustrating, so I backed off a bit and just tried to get through it without stopping to walk. And believe me, I wanted to stop to walk.
At mile 12, we turned off Rutherford and headed back to MTSU. It was such a relief to be out of that headwind. By this time, I knew I wasn't going to break two hours, but I was still under pace to beat my 2:05 assigned time. I held on and crossed the finish at 2:03. I'm satisfied with that.
The post-race festivities were great. They had all sorts of food for the runners, with plenty of tables and chairs for us to use. That's something that is generally lacking at races, and was appreciated here. We also received a great finisher's medal, celebrating the 10 years of racing.
Now that I have finished The Middle Half, I can see why it is so popular. It is truly a flat race that is very well-organized. And if you're local, you're probably going to know a ton of people racing so it becomes a huge social event. A round of thanks to the race organizers, volunteers and spectators for putting on a great race and also to Jennifer and Patrick for running with me for some or all of the course. And, of course, to Andrew at FTP Coaching for getting me to the finish line uninjured and faster than expected. (FYI - Dudley had a good race too - we just didn't run together on this one.)
Next up: the NEW YORK MARATHON!!!