Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hatfield -McCoy Half Marathon Race Recap - The Trip to Williamson

     After a tiring, but amazing trip with my parents to NYC, Dudley and I headed down to Williamson, WV for the Hatfield-McCoy Half Marathon.  I had heard about this race through various running blogs and it gets excellent reviews from Marathon Guide, so it's been on my radar for a while. (Actually, we were supposed to run it last year, but I was injured so we deferred until this year.) Obviously, it's based on the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud that took place around the Tug Fork River Valley in the late 1800's. Considering how much I love history and how much I love a themed race, this thing was right up my alley.
   We had about a 6 hour drive to Williamson from my parent's house, with a planned ETA of around 3:00 on Friday. Since Williamson is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, we had to take several rural highways and roads to get there. Though I'd been through WVA previously, I'd forgotten how beautiful of a state it is. Simply stunning. However, as pretty as it is, there were several times when we were saying a prayer for our car not to break down because we were OUT there. It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible to call for help, if we had car trouble (remember this). It was also a little unnerving to realize how much we depend on our cell phones for directions. While we thought we were going in the right direction, neither Dudley or I had actually looked at an actual map - we were just depending on GPS to guide us there. Fortunately, mile by mile, small coal mining town by small coal mining town, we made it to Hatfield McCoy territory. We could tell because we started seeing signs like this:

We made it.

   We rolled into Williamson right on time. I have to say, I was surprised how big the town was. Granted, I'm probably combining several little towns together, but based on what we drove through to get there, I was expecting a one-road town with no stop lights. Not at all. Don't get me wrong - it's still rural and very small-town (and a complete culture shock considering we were in Times Square a few days prior), but it was larger that I anticipated.  
   Our first stop in Williamson was to pick up our shirts and bibs. The race check-in was held at a local high school. Based on race reports from other runners, I knew not to expect a traditional expo with running gear and nutrition. No, their expo was more of a craft fair with (mostly) Hatfield-McCoy themed items: shirts, candles, jewelry - things like that. As much as I wanted to buy one of everything, I refrained and left with only the standard race swag from the race packet. 

No Feudin' Just Runnin'

   Afterwards, we headed over to the Sycamore Inn to check in to our hotel. This was where I was a little nervous. I had made our reservation in March, but didn't have a confirmation number. You see- the Sycamore Inn is old school. No e-mail confirmations. So, while I was 90% sure that we had a room, without an e-mail confirmation, I wasn't 100% sure. And being that Williamson is a small town, all of the hotels and inns within 100 miles were sold out due the race. If they didn't have our room, I had no idea what we were going to do. At first, it seemed like my fears were coming true, as the woman at the reservation desk couldn't find our reservation. Then she looked again. And again. Still couldn't find it. Fortunately, she finally did. HAZZAH! We have a place to sleep! 

Our home away from home.

   After a quick run around Williamson to shake out the legs, we headed back over to the high school for the pre-race pasta party. While I generally avoid the official pre-race dinner for larger races, I love them for the smaller ones. You can really get a feel for the area at the pre-race dinner. This one was no exception. It was the standard pre-race fare: spaghetti, bread and a salad, but I think the entire town was here, either as a volunteer or a runner. They even had school kids who would carry your food to the table for you, if you wanted. And everyone was just so nice. They seemed geniuely surprised and honored that all of these people would come to their small town for the race. 
Belfry High School hospitality

   The Race Director, David Hatfield (of COURSE, he was a Hatfield), was doing a Q&A after dinner, so we headed down to the auditorium. Before we got there though, we ran into these guys:

"Devil Anse" Hatfield and "Ole Ran'l" McCoy!

   After our brush with celebrity, we made it to the auditorium. While not all of the runners (a little over 1,000 registered) were there, many were. The RD came out and told a little about this history of the race and how it grew in to what it is today. Y'all - I've never seen an RD care so much about a race. I KNOW all RD's care - putting on a race is too hard for a RD to not care - but when hearing him speak, it was obvious how much this race meant to not only Mr. Hatfield, but to the entire community. The mission of the entire race is for people to have fun. According to Mr. Hatfield, if people don't have fun - the race is a failure. This was a good thing to hear, considering some races I've been to seem to be more about the money, than the actual race experience.
   Our friends "Devil Anse" and "Ole Ran'l" then joined us in the auditorium for a little history about the feud. Y'all - this thing mainly started because of a pig. Men were shot and houses were burned to the ground, all because McCoy thought a Hatfield took one of this pigs. Talk about things escalating out of control.
   Anyway, we then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. We had an early morning the next day! 

Next up - Race Day and Blackberry Mountain!

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