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Heart & Sole Half-Marathon Disaster

AM: 20 min w/u
13.?? mile race in 1:21:11 (1st**) $350 (off course)
40 min c/d, 20+ miles

1st with many ***..let me explain...

I typically like to run a half about 3 weeks out from a full, so when I found this race online and saw that it was in Jonesboro and the payout was decent, I expected I would run into Leah Thorvilson (who is coming off an injury) and Zamzam Sangau. I was right, they both showed up.

Before I go any further I would just like to clarify..I did not truly beat Leah and Zamzam. There was a whole lot of chaos around mile 6 with us all running off course...them much farther off course then myself because I had let them gap me a good bit. It was just a huge worth an explanation.

I had viewed the reviews of this race online and knew it would be difficult. It was net uphill, but the recent course modifications mentioned that they had removed a few of the hills and promised a mix of "hills and flat" (...haha...right). It also offered a cash purse, and being that Jonesboro was just a short drive from Memphis, I expected a decent amount of elites...even when the race director denied us all a waived entry because the race was for charity.

Things didn't unfold well the day before for me to race well. Friday I left work early and had got on the road just after 2pm, planning to arrive in Jonesboro around 6:00pm, but a bad accident and road construction just outside of Olive Brand left me sitting at a dead stop for 2.5 hours. By the time I finally got to my hotel room it was 9:30pm, all I had eaten for the day was a yogurt, a chicken sandwich and some gatorade. I downed a power bar and went to bed.

Warming up that morning my hamstrings were super tight from spending the better half of yesterday in the car..but my energy felt ok. When we finally got started (the start line was us standing in the middle of the road with the race director sounding an air horn) I immediately felt drained. We went through the first mile in 5:55...not fast..but I just wasn't feeling it. I made the decision to drop back for a few miles until I felt comfortable again.

Just before mile 2 we hit the hills...and they just kept coming. It wasn't just hills either, there were so many turns that I was unsure if we were running the right direction, I figured someone up front knew the way..I could see Hillary Kogo ahead of Leah and Zamzam...he seemed to be leading things. At about mile 5 I started to feel good again, but I missed a turn (through a parking lot) that undid some of the work I had done to catch this point if I didn't start working I wouldn't be able to close the gap..and I wasn't closing it very fast. I could see Zamzam slip back a bit, but I couldn't tell if Leah was dropping her much or not.

It was just after mile 6 when things went sour...there was a bigger gap now. Leah was at the top of the hill, Hillary had turned around and was running back towards Leah, Zamzam was on the hill and I was at the bottom. All of a sudden a lady in a white van came screeching up behind me and shouted "Hey, you are running the Heart & Sole??!! you are going the wrong way! You need to go that way!" I stopped and turned around, she was pointed behind me to my left. I somewhat didn't believe her, there was no one standing there and no sign..but she seemed absolutely certain. I started running towards her and shouted "Ok, you need to go get them! There is three people up there...they went the wrong way too!!!" She looked puzzled and then she noticed the others and took off. I started running in the direction she told me was "the right way".

There was no one on the course.

I thought I was lost. Every once in a while I noticed an arrow on the pavement so I went in that direction. I felt like I hit a million turns...and the hills just kept coming. Every mile or so I would see someone at the side of the road and ask "Is this the right way" And they would tell me "Yes" or "No, go left/right." At one point I followed a turn right onto the edge of the highway...a suburban passed by me on my left...a big gust of wind in my face. I thought "Is this really the course? Someone is going to get hit by a car" (BTW, the third place male did get hit by a car) I just kept following the arrows...hoping that I would see someone that would assure me I was going the right way.

Then Hillary caught me and I immediately felt better. He was in 4th place when he missed the turn..I don't know how far out of third but he was pretty unhappy. I let him vent for about a was just nice to run with somebody after 9 lonely miles. We finally saw a marker for mile 10 which we passed through in just under 62 minutes. I laughed a little bit. I didn't know how far I had already ran ( I forgot my Garmin at home) but this course and this race was just funny to me...I guess. The time was irrelevant at this point.

Hillary told me he was going to try and run the last 3 miles I held on as best I could. I think he kind of got comfortable running with me so he let me tag along and I was surprised at how good I felt after we picked up the pace. The last 3 miles flew by..and once I saw the parking lot for the Malco theater I kicked it in hard...not sure why as the time didn't even matter. Hillary kind of coached me through it - which I appreciated very much. Zamzam and Leah finished shortly after.

Everyone was pretty upset, especially Leah being that she was leading when she missed the turn (she would have won). I suggested we split the pot, that way we all go home with $350. Everyone seemed to be ok with this..we all got trophy's and no one went home empty handed.

As for me, I got 80 minutes of semi-hard running in. (10 miles tempo, 3 miles hard running). The disappointing thing is I don't know how fast or how far. I guess, it is what it is...a great big mess.

On another note--the BEST pre-race food I have ever seen. After twenty miles I filled up on fruit, yogurt, granola, breakfast casserole, gatorade, frozen yogurt, quiche, diet and regular soda, bacon, sausage, homemade almost made up for the earlier events....almost.

The rest of the weekend was family filled fun!

Good luck to everyone running/racing this weekend.


L.A. Runner said…
Wow! WOW! I am just floored. What a cluster! Your attitude about it all is amazing. A few years ago, I ran off course at the Baton Rouge Marathon, ended up running 28ish miles and with 2nd place. The first place woman had gotten lost and accidently cut the course. Oopsies.

I hope energy returns to normal, but that's still a ROCKING time. Keep up the good work.
Lize Brittin said…
Wow- it sounds like it was a mess out there. I can't believe someone got hit bar a car! That's insane. I'm glad you got through it OK.
This is the second recap of this race I read, and I continue to be amazed with the lack of organization here. So gracious of you to split the money prize. And so encouraging that you felt your best toward the end of the race.
Gracie said…
This race clearly needs a lot of work - you were so kind to split the prize.
@L.A. Runner - if you're talking about BR Beach, I ran off course there, too! Last year I ran 27.2 for 3rd place!
Vicky Cook said…
Well done for not getting so upset it affected your running too much, not much bothers me but I think this fiasco might have reduced me to tears of frustration! It was pretty uncomfortable just reading about it! I always like to know the course before hand but with all those turns it wold have been impossible to memorize.
Anonymous said…
Good grief what a MESS. I congrats on keeping a positive attitude and for running hard, and for being gracious and understanding with the other runners. You are a class act for sure! I hope the race makes some major apologies and changes for next year (and SO glad you didn't get hit!!)
Katie said…
This is definitely the craziest race story I've read! I can imagine how frustrating it is not to know your actual running stats for the race, and how crazy it probably felt running a race not knowing if you were on course. You have such a great attitude!
Happy Feet 26.2 said…
I love that you were able to find "the bright side" (the food & the cash) of this race. sounds like you made the most of it and got a great workout in on the hills.

so strong!

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