The Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon holds a special place in my heart. It is the first half marathon I ever did after ignorantly signing up my freshman year of college. It was the race to show off my hard work after being a contestant on the Biggest Winner. It was the race that I PR’d on last year and the race that I ever ran eight consecutive miles in. I also happen to be on Race Staff and work alongside my dear friend Robyn doing goody bags. We stuff bags for about six hours the weekend before the race then hand them out on race day. Needless to say, this is my race.
No matter how sentimental this race is to me, this year went a little bit different. I’ve struggled with my weight really bad the past few months and have really packed on the pounds since last year. I’ve stopped running and prefer to just take shorter walks. I am finishing up my senior year of college with lots of hard credit hours. I had to work 13 hours at the expo the day before the race and got minimal sleep on race eve. And yes, I am complaining about all these things when most people have it way worse. I was really tempted to drop to the 5k and just cheer my mom and our friend Yvonne on while they did the half. But that seemed like a cop-out to me and I wanted to cross that finish line with two very special ladies especially since my Momma was doing this race for her birthday. The decision was made to suck it up and just walk the entire 13.1 miles with them.
Expo was long and tiring, but so very fun. I got to work with some amazing volunteers who really brought a special spirit to my day. A blogging friend, Layne, came down to do the half marathon and I’m so grateful I finally met her in real life. Lots of people came through my line that I only see once a year so it was a big reunion party. It was just lots of fun and even though my legs and back hurt like crazy afterwards, it was worth it.
I tried so hard to sleep on race eve, but tossed and turned with no luck. Race morning came and I snoozed as long as possible. Fortunate for me, I literally live about four blocks from the race start, so I could afford taking my sweet time. Momma and Yvonne met me at my apartment for the walk to the start line. We got there just as the wheelchair division took off. Nothing like easing pre race anxiety like showing up three minutes before the start. We eased our way to the very back just as the gun went off. Footloose was blaring as we crossed the start line and there were lots of cheers and high fives being passed around. About a half mile into the race we passed my apartment and started the walk through campus. There sure was a lot of camaraderie in the back and lots of people motivating each other. I wasn’t full on complaining but I had no problem telling my Momma that I was already over it. My legs were dead, my mind was shot, and my heart just wasn’t in it. But it was important to me to finish.
We made it another four miles or so before making it to the Boulevard and Sequoyah Hills-a very important part of the course. Momma and Yvonne often got a tiny bit ahead of me so I could slow down, then on the downhills, I would shuffle to them to catch back up. There were a few people on bikes that kept on making random appearances, cheering us on, offering advice, and being so wonderfully kind. One guy even had a Channing Tatum sign. Thanks for the motivation, sir. We trekked and trekked. Around mile 7 we hit Noelton, the most famous course on the hill. This is where Momma hit the wall last year. Noelton has two parts…one big incline, then dips down and goes back up one more time for a smaller hill. We made it to the big dip in the middle and Momma turns around and says “There is Kingston Pike, WE ARE DONE”. I’m thinking to myself that no we are not done, we are just done with Noelton. It was still a big feat getting up that hill but we all felt much better after making it to the top.
Once we hit the greenway all was well and it felt like being in Townsend again. We welcomed the miles as we passed them and just tried to talk and have fun and make the most of our experience out there. Towards the end of the greenway section, we passed two pregnant women…one of them was two weeks from due date! What an amazing thing to be out doing a half marathon so late in pregnancy. Kudos to her.
The last part of the course was extremely tough mentally. We had less than two miles to go but they went so slow. The hills were hurting, my feet were hurting, and my hips could barely move. But we pressed on. I can honestly say that it would not have been possible if my Momma and Yvonne hadn’t been there with me. After finally making it to the course split, I could hear the cheers and see the stadium. FINALLY. We decided to just take it nice and easy across, savoring every moment of being on the field and having all attention on us. We held hands and lifted them high as we finished in 3:336:42. All of us had the exact same time on the results page. Some very tall and very large UT football players handed us our medals and all was well.
Afterwards, I felt sick after stopping and my leg muscles started to cramp like crazy. We took just a few pictures before meeting up with Yvonne’s husband and kids and my boyfriend. Luckily for all of us, Yvonne’s husband had parked directly by the exit gate and drove us back to my apartment. He had drinks and everything for us. I’m really thankful for that and thankful that I didn’t have to walk back.
After a nice long nap at my apartment, TJ treated me to a large cup of red velvet ice cream at a local ice cream parlor. The cold taste was amazing after a long hot day on the race course. I tried to share it with him, but I devoured it.
That night, we headed back to Townsend for some more fun. TJ and I sat outside for a nice long while and hit some golf balls and just enjoyed the perfect springtime weather that Tennessee is finally being blessed with. Moving around definitely helped get rid of some soreness.
This race was my 11th half marathon. After PRing last year and riding high, I had very big hopes for this year’s race. I knew that I wasn’t prepared to run it and looking back probably shouldn’t have even walked it, but I did. It was worth it. The half marathon distance has been important to me for some time, but I think I’m going to take a break from the distance events and work on getting back (slowly) into running and maybe even doing the couch to 5k program. I want to be a runner again and I specifically want to work on my 5k times. Hopefully by the end of the year I can be back into running consistently and working towards getting faster at short distances. Oh, and next year if I work expo all day I will not run the next day. Lesson learned.
I’m still very happy I did this race and wouldn’t take it back. It was great to see so many different types of people out there working hard and being strong for this sport. Distance ain’t no joke and I’d like to say congrats to all the walkers, runners, and wheelchairs that finished.