My thoughts on the 11th annual Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN…
Country Music Marathon
April 24, 2010
My Run: Overall, the Country Music Marathon (CMM) was my fourth full marathon, and my second in the last four weeks (Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon on 03/28). In Knoxville, I set a new PR of 3:39, and in the back of my mind hoped that I could improve on that time at the CMM. I really like running with pace groups, and at the CMM, the pace groups are set every 15 minutes. It took me a while to decide whether I would run with the 3:45 group, and attempt to pick it up at the end, or try to hang with the 3:30 group. I ultimately decided to go with the 3:30 group which turned out to be a poor decision considering the conditions on race day.
All week, the forecast had called for severe storms on Saturday, and ultimately the race organizers decided to cut off the full marathon after 4:30. The prediction was for a first wave of storms that would clear out around 6am, and then a second wave would move in around mid-day. This is pretty close to how it turned out, but what I didn’t expect was that during this gap there would be warm, sunny, and humid conditions.
I was able to hang with the 3:30 pace group through the first 11 miles or so, but the heat and humidity took a big toll. Between miles 11 and 12 I hit the wall very hard (bonked). My heart rate was in the mid 180s, which is much higher than I am used to after coming through the winter months. I had to walk for a bit to try and lower my heart rate, and began dumping cold water over my head. I began to think that finishing the race was going to be extremely difficult. Once I reached the second half of the course, I was able to regain some semblance of a running rhythm, and made the decision that I was going to walk for a couple of minutes at every aid station, and simply focus on finishing.
I continued with this strategy for several miles, and felt OK, though my legs felt like they weighed 100 lbs each (full of lactic acid). I tried to run with the 3:45 pace group for a while, but lost touch with them around mile 20. Just before this, it began to get cloudy, and we were told that the storms were quickly approaching.
My run/walk plan kept me going through miles 21, 22, 23…It began raining at mile 22, and then there was lightening when I reached mile 23. I decided that I was going to try to run the last 3 miles without walk breaks. I did have to stop once, but was mostly able to keep going.
As we made the final turn back towards the finish, I noticed there no other runners coming in the opposite direction. Because of the impending storms, the race organizers had shut down the course around mile 21. I was grateful to be ahead of the cutoff, but felt really bad about all of those that were not able to finish. The organizers were really in a no-win situation.
The rain really started coming down harder around mile 25, and I decided I was going to give it everything I had to the finish. Somehow, I was able to finish strong on the last mile, and came in at 3:52:55. I was absolutely ecstatic to finish considering how bad I felt. Even through I was over 22 minutes slower than my original goal, the fact that I was able to fight through hitting the wall at mile 11, and finish 26.2 miles in a respectable time is very encouraging to me. This was not only my hardest race to complete, but one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.
The Race: Overall, I would give that race organizers a solid “A” – This race is part of the Rock n’ Roll series run by The Competitor Group, and is impeccably organized considering there are 32,000 participants in the half & the full. The first half of the course is extremely well designed and interesting, though the second half is slightly dull and could use some work (see more below). All full and half marathon participants received an Brooks technical t-shirt (very high quality). The finisher’s medal is great (like all Rock n’ Roll events). There were 20+ aid stations, and all had water and Cytomax. Like most big races, the water and Cytomax were in different cups, making it easy to distinguish. The mile markers were elevated, making them easy to see, and all included split times. The finish area is really the only disappointment (as it is every year). For some reason they, try to squeeze everybody out of a very small opening back into the parking lot, and it gets really congested. However, they do have heat blankets, sponges filled with ice water, and lots of food and drink. The bag check location was clearly marked at the race start and finish. The pre-race food and refreshments are excellent, and there are LOTS of port-a-potties.
The fact that the weekend includes a kid’s race and a half marathon, makes it a great event for the whole family. This race was special because my daughter did the kid’s marathon, and my wife did the half marathon (her second). I am especially proud of my wife, because she beat her goal by 10 minutes, and set a new PR by 18 minutes.
One thing that I don’t understand is the timing of the race. By having it in Nashville in April, there is a very high likelihood that it will either be really hot/humid or stormy (or both like today). This has been a consistent problem throughout the history of the race.
The Course: The course is hilly, especially in the first half, though it is not as bad overall as Knoxville. There are moderate hills throughout the course, but really only one significant hill at mile 18 coming out of Metro Center. The last 5 miles are pretty flat, so it really sets up well for a strong finish.
The first half of the course is awesome. It starts next to Centennial Park (home of the Parthenon) and includes downtown Nashville, Music Row, and the beautiful Belmont Road area.
The second half is somewhat dull, and includes Metrocenter and parts of East Nashville, including Shelby Park. There is also very little crowd support on the second half, and there are long sections that are completely exposed to the sun and wind.
The finish is outside of LP Field where the Titan’s play. Seems like they are missing a great opportunity for a really cool finish inside the stadium (like the Tom King Marathon), but I would imagine that the 32,000 participants would make it difficult to pull off without tearing up the field.
- Race options for the whole family
- Brooks Technical T-Shirt for the half & full marathon
- Stunning first half of the course
- 20+ aid stations, all with water and Cytomax (with different cups)
- Great volunteer support and communication
- Great finisher’s medal
- Great food and refreshments before and after the race
- Great perks like ice-water filled sponges and heat blankets
- Incredible organization
- Good fan suppor on the first half.
- Elevated mile markers with split times.
- Congested finish area
- Dull second half of the course
- Poor race timing (Nashville in April)