Brendan Brodie and Fi Mackenzie travelled to the USA taking in a half marathon and a full marathon (a first for them both!) during their visit. Congratulations and well done to both and glad to have them back.
Hit the ground running
In the dark of November, plan a trip to the USA & shape it around a few different events – Music & Running:-
Tom King Classic Half Marathon. Nashville
Our first stop on the trip was to be Nashville & coincidentally they had their ‘Tom King Half Marathon’ on the day after we arrived, albeit an early start…
By the time we hit the sack in Nashville, before the race, we had been travelling for 24 hours! So 4-5 hours sleep later, we had breakfast early & then met the other runners we would be spending the day & 13.1 miles with.
On arrival at the stadium for packet pickup, the distant sound of the drone of bagpipes on the wind was a bit disorientating! We went for a short warm up & then I lost my camera so no shots of the course from me. [It turned out to be in a secret pocket in my backpack all along.] The race started on time [thank goodness] & was a relatively small event. However the race route differed from my expectations, not in a bad way-as the route we ran went along was by a river & pancake flat; surrounded by swampland bullfrogs desperate to mate and making a huge racket. It was an out & back so we could see who was going to win the race, & see the run/walkers that started early. At the turnaround point there was a little early morning chilled beer refuelling. Brendan had some & said it was most refreshing [9:45 am].
The race seemed to be very straightforward & it was fun doing it in company with American friends we’ve not seen in a long time. The finish was in the LP Field / Titans Stadium, so we were announced on entering the stadium & had our pictures flashed up on the enormous great big screens. To add to the fun, BB was announced in full stadium techno-sound as Brenda Mackenzie from Scotland. We were promised cheer-leaders to present our finishers medals but the first team cheerleaders were long gone after ushering in the first ten leading runners. By the time we finished, it was the C team girls, less enthusiastic at the thought of greeting, hugging and hanging a medal round big old sweaty guys. We did get a long-sleeved technical tee-shirt & a nice medal for our trouble. Bananas, muffins & water on the way out & GU gels, water & Gatorade on the course. Well organised & friendly & if flights were favourable I reckon you could get a pretty fast time, or even a “PR”, as they say in America. Personal Record.
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The Arbuckles to Ardmore (A2A) Marathon
It seemed too good to be true that there could be another half marathon-with a marathon option attached, and was on our chosen trajectory from Lawrence, Kansas to Denton, Texas that fitted our trip timings. Then it seemed a bit silly just to do another half marathon, & I certainly didn’t have any big injury worries at the time. Brendan seemed fit &well too, was the time was right for the Mackenzie-Brodies to do a full marathon? The more I considered it, the more I thought-it was probably the right thing to do. I contacted the race director & her reaction was so enthusiastic and welcoming that I felt it would be churlish to refuse to take part in a marathon that looked so good [& had a small field].
The Southern hospitality & kindness is legendary for good reason. We met many lovely & kind people. The designated race hotel, Ardmore Comfort Inn had a delayed marathon checkout till 2pm, & an early breakfast, & a massive comfy bed too.
We rode to the start on America’s iconic yellow school bus (owned nation-wide now by Stagecoach- or first bus)-when we boarded & found our seats I looked around & suspected that we would be last by a long way as everyone looked very keen, lean & rather fast. Luckily, another 2 buses arrived with more of the sort of people who give you hope that you may not be last. The sun came up as we milled around the rural Turner Falls beautyspot area where hot chocolate, water & toilets were all available. It was still quite cold but the wind hadn’t risen to its previous days strength.
There was no timing mat at the start, merely a spray painted start line but both turnaround loops had mats.
After the short & the unusually audible race briefing, The Star Spangled Banner burst forth from the tannoy system, the crowd had hands on chests; everyone looked to be checking out their heart rate, but really it’s more serious than that.
The race was started on time at 8am, with a massive shotgun! I knew it was going to make a big bang but still it scared the thingmy out of me, & so we were off, for a long downhill run. We took it easy for a couple of miles as a warm up, & then the first aid station came into view. They had water and Gatorade and toilets virtually every mile, with masses of volunteers. Amazing.
We met Mike, our chauffeur from the previous day when we turned into the ranch at 8 miles. He was a cycle marshal, with lots of his friends, so we had a chat with him as we ran the few miles in the ranch. Lots of horses, none of them dancing!
After the ranch we rejoined the downhill concrete highway and continued to dedicate each mile to family members & all those who had helped us in our training.
Not long after we hit the Ardmore city limits, around 19 miles, when neither of us seemed to have found any particular wall to hit, I went ahead [my legs were so sore & I needed to finish this thing] & close to the finish stadium, turned the opposite way to fit in the last 10k. So close & yet so far. Some of the people I passed by this time weren’t looking so hot, but I felt quite strong. I passed a few of the guys we had met on the bus [they were on the back bit of the out & back] & that was fun doing high 5s with new friends.
Then I passed Brendan when I was on the back bit, so it was good to know that he was OK. Once more I came to a stadium for a finish, this time I was on my own, but getting to run on a lovely tartan track was like a dream- I could have gone round a number of times, but felt I should stop after going over the finish line.
Felt a bit teary on the last bend, but remembered I needed my best finishing smile so my new years resolution could come true. The race director was there to greet finishers & I gave her a great big hug of gratitude. I hope she didn’t mind-as I was really sweaty. What a feeling!
Once again, the volunteers were fabulous, one of them greeting me with a foil blanket and keeping me walking after the finish & checking that I was ok to be pointed in the direction of food, drink & massage tents. Importantly, before all that, I was presented with my Finishers technical tee-shirt, which says I finished a marathon – so I don’t need to do another one if I don’t want to! Never say never though.
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Technical finisher tee shirt-as well as a really good quality cotton tee shirt, chunky medal & 5g of pain relieving gel. I’m sure I could have bathed in it & it still wouldn’t have been quite enough – over to Brendan… – I hear Kilomathons are quite good and shorter!