Mississippi River Marathon (February 2016)

The Race: This race might take the cake so far for the nicest participants and most well- organized small town event.  Packet pickup was at the Greenville Mall and super- easy to get to.  I stayed at the Rodeway Inn which ended up being across the parking lot from the bus pickup and finish line—a definite plus.

The hotel parking lot from the finish line

Since this was a point-to-point run from Arkansas to Mississippi, we got on school busses at 6:30 AM to take us to the start line.  (It’s daunting, by the way, to be on a bus for an hour knowing you are going to have to run all that way back….)  My seat neighbors were all very friendly, as was everyone else I met prior to the run.  It was a coldish morning (32 degrees) when we started the race, but the directors had set up some glorious bonfires which did wonders to keep everyone warm…. And to make us all smell like bonfire for the rest of the day….

I had read several comments on Marathon Guide that this course was long, but my Garmin measured it at almost exactly 26.2 miles.  The run through Lake Village for the first six miles and Greenville through the last six was lovely.  The rest of the race is pretty much run on the highway.  You get some nice views of the river, but aside from that it isn’t terribly scenic—with the exception of the three or four miles that are run on the bridge crossing the Mississippi.  This was a very cool portion of the marathon.  Aid stations were plentiful and spaced roughly a mile apart, and while there was little crowd support along the course, the post- race celebration was well- managed with plenty of food and beverages for the runners.

My Race: This race advertises itself as having a fast course, and I’d say that would be accurate most years.  It’s almost completely flat with the only elevation gain or loss being the bridge over the Mississippi River.  There aren’t a lot of turns either, so if you get a good day, I think you could fly through this.  That was not my day, however.  First, it was a little cold; I couldn’t feel my toes for the first two miles of the run.  I think it would have been a perfect weather day overall if it hadn’t been for that damned wind.

So yeah…. The wind… I had an awesome first six or seven miles through Lake Village.  It’s a pretty little town with lovely views of the river.  However, once we got out of town and onto the highway, we REALLY felt that wind (it was between 12- 15 MPH.)  This doesn’t seem terribly strong, but holy hell could you feel it!!  Because the course was so flat and run along the river and cotton fields, there was absolutely nothing to break it, and because the course wasn’t a loop, it took roughly fourteen miles to turn out of it.  Those may have been some of the most miserable fourteen miles that I have ever run.  Going over the bridge should have been a highlight of the course, but I just felt like I was being bitch- slapped by mother nature the entire way up… and down… I stupidly got rid of my gloves at mile #4 before we changed direction, and my hands had formed little frozen claws by mile #10 or so.  Thank god the course direction changed as we ran into Greenville.  The last six miles or so—which can get tough in a marathon– were ridiculously pleasant in comparison.  Even though I ran this race slower than anticipated, I was still the third girl in, so I got a cool trophy 🙂

My race swag

Fun Fact about Greenville: The water is brown.  This isn’t because it’s contaminated—it’s 100% potable.  Cypress tree roots grow into the water sources around the town, and the area can’t afford mass filtration systems that would change the color.  Most of the water along the race course was this brown color, as was my hotel shower and toilet bowl.  It isn’t a huge deal, but definitely a good thing to know about before visiting the area.

** Race Highlights: The course is pancake flat with tons of aid stations.  Very well- organized for a small town race with lovely medals, shirts, and awards.  Parts of the course are very scenic, and it’s very cool to run over the Mississippi River bridge.

** The Downside: If you hit this race on a windy day like I did, it’s like running through a fourteen- mile wind tunnel from hell.  The start and end of the race are pretty, as is the bridge, but about half of this run takes place on a four- lane state highway.  It’s not so pretty.

Sub 4:00 State #4, BQ State #3

Finish Time: 3:37:52

Overall Place Within My Gender: 3rd/ 75

Favorite Race Day Song: Standing Outside the Fire (I think the country mix should be retired now…)

Total Training Miles: 1541

Shoe Total: 6

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