Race Recap: 2014 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon (Relay)

It has hard to believe that four years have passed since I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. I felt like I died trying, but I made it there and that’s why Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. The following year I was able to run this event as part of the Biggest Winner team and then the next year I set my half PR. Last year I was able to walk it with my Momma and friend, Yvonne. Not only am I a participant on race day, I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to volunteer extensively for event.

The week leading up to race day, my training partner/BFF Brittney and I joined several other ladies to have a “bib party”. Basically we all meet and put name labels and timing chips on all bibs involved in marathon weekend. This year we labeled over 8200 bibs. I’m happy to report that I did not get a paper cut this year which is a major success given my injuries the past three years.

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This was my third year on the Marathon Organizing Committee (MOC) and I was thrilled to be able to be part of such a hardworking group. In the weeks leading up to race day, we had a few meetings to discuss the ins and outs of race weekend and spent quite some time checking out the numbers. This year was going to be our biggest event yet! I got Brittney on board and she became the captain for Kid’s Area and was a valuable asset on Expo Day. I joined my longtime friend Robyn as a swag bag captain even though she did most of the work. Primarily the jobs involved were stuffing all of the goody bags that participants would receive as well as hand them out on race day.

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Expo was a joy to work as always and our day started promptly at 7:30am in anticipation of all the runners who would come through when the doors opened at 9:00. Expo is one of my favorite parts of race weekend because of the hustle and bustle and excitement that fills the air.   Everyone is there for a sole purpose and you just can’t help but smile. I also love seeing and catching up with so many people who I might only see on this one weekend. This year was probably my favorite Expo to date!

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As an Expo worker, I’m on my feet (on concrete floors) for almost 14 hours. That does not equate well to running the next day. When Brittney and I talked about doing the half this year, we both decided to form a team for the 4-person relay. Neither of us had done the relay yet so it was a perfect opportunity to still race and get a medal yet run a shorter distance thanks to sore and tired legs. Our “coach” Bryan was doing the half so he would be our first leg and then we recruited our friend Scott to join us also. Thinking of a team name with a theme was tougher than we thought but we settled on Green Legs and Ham. The idea was for Bryan, Brittney, and I to wear green compression sleeves and then Scott would wear red and be our “ham” which totally suits his personality. Spoiler alert: Scott’s hammy personality really shined through on race day when he showed up as Waldo. Logistically we had worked everything out and we all opted to go to exchanges as a group instead of spread ourselves out.

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The best part of race day was knowing that my sweet Momma was ending her journey on the Biggest Winner team and that she was going for a fast half marathon. Just in case y’all didn’t know…my Momma is an incredibly fast walker so add in the “shuffling” that she has been doing and she was ready to be unstoppable. I was so thrilled for her. We got up on race day and ate our normal breakfast and made the hour commute to Knoxville. It was suuuuper cold on race day so we were glad to get warmed up on our walk across town to the convention center. Once inside, we easily found our team and the excitement began to amp up. Part of being a member of the Biggest Winner meant Momma and her teammates had a personal photographer on race day. David Luttrell was on hand to capture every moment of the team’s day and I’m glad he was because he got some great pictures of my Momma and even my relay team.

momma

About ten minutes before the race I gave my Momma a huge hug and wished her luck as our team had to make our way to the first exchange or else the roads would close. We had so much fun taking these crazy backroads and interstates to get to our spot but it was so worth it because we got to use indoor bathrooms and soak in the excitement at the first exchange. Our first runner was Bryan and since he was doing the half he was able to tell us exactly what time he would be through. As luck would have it, he came barreling through right when he said he would and then Scott was off! We cheered a little longer before heading to the next exchange. Since we were forced to basically drive the course backwards, we were able to see ALL the people who were still running on the boulevard and we honked, hollered, and yelled at my Momma who was moving along way faster than we expected as well as other members of the Biggest Winner team. We may have been obnoxious but I love good crowd support.

Scott and I cheering runners on at the exchange!

Scott and I cheering runners on at the exchange!

Once at the next exchange, we waited for Bryan to come down the hill towards the finish so we could cheer him on to his first SUB 2 HALF! After supporting him, we went inside to hang out and warm up until Scott got there. Brittney and I both had to use the restroom and I totally assured her that we had plenty of time until Scott got there but she was so worried she would miss him. How can you miss Waldo? I went to the bathroom alone and when I came back Brittney was gone and Scott was standing there with Cameron. Good thing that she didn’t go or else she would have missed him. Scott ran way faster than he had expected but we were all so happy to see him. Before we knew it we were off again to the final exchange.

We got there super early but it was fun to wait around and cheer all the marathoners on. I started my leg around mile 21 so it was where most marathoners would be starting to really struggle. Crowds lined both sides of the exchange area cheering every runner on. Waldo provided lots of entertainment for everyone while I tried to warm up. In perfect timing, we saw Brittney’s green legs coming at us and I threw my jacket to Scott, grabbed the slap bracelet, and I was off!

It started on a downhill which got me going at a fairly good pace to start off the run. The sun was out and the temperature was perfect. I passed several marathon runners and told them great job for encouragement although I felt super guilty since they were at such a rough part in their run and I was fresh. This part of the course was totally new to me and I enjoyed being unfamiliar with my surroundings. The Island Home neighborhood had wonderful crowd support with lots of signs and several of them were wearing themed tshirts. I didn’t care about pace at all but would glance down every now and then to see my average pace at a good number for me. My only goal was to get to the finish line to see how my Momma did. The run wasn’t really eventful except for seeing fellow blogger, Amy, with a sign supporting her husband who was doing the full. I let her know that I had passed him not to long ago so that she at least had an idea where he was.

My favorite part was running through Market Square and all the cheering plus knowing that we were almost done! I came across the final bridge and saw a good friend there who offered some encouragement before I barreled down 11th street towards the stadium. Thank goodness my team had obnoxious green legs on and that we had Waldo because I could easily spot them in the distance. It was fantastic knowing we were almost done and that as a group we had successfully finished a full marathon. The last hill up Estabrook gets me every single year but rounding that corner and heading onto the field is the greatest feeling ever. Before I knew it we were lined up running towards the fifty yard line and crossed in 4:25. I really wish I could tell y’all how great this moment was and how wonderful it was to have my training partners by my side.

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We collected our medals and headed to our own VIP tent where my Momma, boyfriend, and family were waiting. It was so nice to have my Momma’s best friend since sixth grade and her kids there to watch us all finish. They are closer than family to us and after the loss of their father this year, it was great to see them get to enjoy something so much even if it was just being on the field at UT. There were TONS of pictures to be taken and I was so thankful that we were allowed to remain on the field for as long as we pleased. We talked about our race, gave lots of hugs, and took lots of pictures. I literally could not wipe the smile off my face.  We hugged and congratulated other Biggest Winner teammates and talked with them about their races, also.

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The best part? Hearing my Momma tell me that she did the half in 3:12 which is 24 minutes faster than last year!!! I’m so ridiculously proud of her. She is so successful and has worked so hard to get to this point. My only regret is not being there to see her cross but there were lots of great photos of her so I’m glad we have those.

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It was a truly memorable day and I wish that all of these words could convey the happiness that the day brought. I’m so glad to be a part of this event and I think that the 4-person relay will now be my event of choice.

This past Thursday, we attended a party for marathon volunteers at Calhoun’s on the River. They provided a wide array of delicious food and I sampled just about everything. It was so fun to set at one big table with so many people that I love and talk about the race, running, life, and good food. This is also one of my favorite events with the marathon. Oh, and the views aren’t so bad either.

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After all the hoopla and excitement we’ve had with race week it is hard to believe another year has passed. We are already planning for next year and it might just be the best one yet. Have a great week, y’all.

Race Recap: Knoxville Half Marathon 2013

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.

wrong number at expo

wrong number at expo

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.

the coveted finish line

the coveted finish line

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.

like mother like daughter

like mother like daughter

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.

the animal cracker on top made it special.

the animal cracker on top made it special.

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.

sitting on tailgates make for good post race recovery

sitting on tailgates make for good post race recovery

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.