Since my husband and I (Sue) have a second home in Georgia and we usually make a trip down in the fall, I decided the Mainly Marathons Appalachian Series would be a perfect fit. Mainly Marathons provides unique race series that are like no other races I have done. The Appalachian Series runs seven consecutive days in seven different states; however, I only ran in the first five as they geographically fit perfectly into my route south. With my car packed for both our normal trip to home #2 and a large amount of running clothing and gear, we hit the road on Friday, October 7. We spent the first night in central Ohio and arrived in Bluefield, Virginia late afternoon the next day. We checked into our hotel and made the 15 minute drive to the race location in neighboring Bluefield, West Virginia. (Actually, it depended on where in the lot you were standing as to which state you were in – I could have done the Geico commercial hopping back and forth – lol) I then got my bib, shirt, base medal, and a quick rundown on how the series works.
All courses are a short, but measured, approximate 2 mile out and back loop. All were in parks or park-like locations and very scenic. Each time you make a loop back to the start/finish, you pick up a rubber band at the designated table and once you have accumulated the necessary amount of bands for your specific distance for that particular course, you are to check in with the timing table (who keep a watchful eye on the runners and rubber band table). There they record your official time and you can pick up a medal for the state you have just completed. Each of these state medals hook onto the base medal, with a final piece provided to commemorate the year. Of course I ran the half marathon distance each day, but they also offered 5K, 10K, full marathon, and 50K distances.
I could fill this blog with details of how amazing an experience this was, but I will try to just hit some of the highlights and hope you understand I just couldn’t fit it all in – foremost is the atmosphere surrounding these events. Runners are always friendly; but Mainly runners…well, they are the cream of the crop! Many of them run several of the different series and have formed solid friendships. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for those of us new to the group. I was not a stranger for long! Since most people are participating for several days, things are more relaxed and easy-going. Many walk and very few run all out. An example of individuals I ran with: Larry is 71 and started running just 18 years ago. He has a total of 1780 (or more now) marathons under his belt and is the world record holder for completing the most marathons in one year – 239! How could I not be in awe of those around me?
Then we have the race staff who go out of their way to make sure every detail is tended to, keep you informed, and take care of us while we are out there. From course markings, to filling water bottles, to keeping the food coming (I’ll get to that later), to Vaseline, Band-Aids, Kleenex…you name it. Did I say food? Oh man, I said FOOD! This was not your typical bagel and banana race. Throughout my time there, we had soup, paninis, quesadillas, rice, grilled cheese, ham sandwiches, potato chips, corn chips, cookies, cookies, more cookies, various candies, pickles, olives, pickle juice (YES!!!), hard boiled eggs, brownies to die for, coffee, tea, water, gatorade, chocolate milk, and much more that I’m forgetting!
How did it go? Really well! The first and second days were on the same course since the Virginia/West Virginia state line ran through the parking lot. I started out running with my watch chiming off my normal 2:30run/:30walk intervals, but about half way through the first day, I abandoned that strategy and decided to walk up the hills and run the descents and flats. I didn’t push myself, but still experienced some cramping after collecting all six rubber bands for the finish. The weather was cooler than I like for running and I believe that played a part in my physical discomfort, which I knew was nothing compared to what is experienced by those we are running for. Day two was pretty much a carbon copy of day one except a little colder and a bit slower. I went back to the hotel, showered, and packed up the last of my stuff. Hubby loaded the car and we headed off to Bristol, VA/TN (yup, there’s that Geico commercial again). We checked into our hotel on the Virginia side and the next day I participated in the race on the Tennessee side. This time I walked the entire half marathon, giving my body the rest I felt it needed. Walking also gave me the opportunity to make some wonderful new friends and enjoy an absolutely beautiful course. And then it was time to move on once more…this time to Fletcher, NC.
Wednesday, or day four, was special for me. Yes, it was my birthday, but more importantly it was the day Rhonda and I would finally be reunited and running together again. There could be no better birthday present than running side by side with my BRB (best running buddy)! It was still dark and cold when we met up that morning. Not to mention, quite foggy! I wasn’t sure how it would go since this would be my fourth day in a row and Rhonda was starting out fresh. But as usual, we meshed well and she was willing to take it slower for my sake and the fact that this was only the first of four in five days for her. It was another scenic course with a few narrow gravel or rougher trail areas. We, in fact, witnessed one woman’s trip on a tree root which caused her to bang up a knee. She later stopped us on the trail and thanked us for picking her up.
As soon as we finished, we gathered our belongings and headed out…Rhonda home and me back to the hotel to shower, pack, then off to Rhonda’s for the evening. After being on the road and a different hotel almost every night, it was a true blessing for Bud and I to spend time in the home of good friends. Our husbands get along, they have the sweetest kids, and we got to meet Rico (Suave) – a gecko who happens to be the newest addition to the family. The perfect ending to a perfect birthday included a delicious steak dinner and cheesecake. YUMMY! Then it was time to go to bed since we’d be doing it all over again in just a few hours. But I’ll let Rhonda take it from here since Thursday was a special day for her.
Thursday morning came earlier than I expected. I was so happy to be running with Sue again today! We got ready and then drove over to Seneca, SC. Today I would be celebrating my 50th lifetime half marathon running in my state and with my BRB! I was over the moon! The group of runners and volunteers were amazing and I had these really cute Ali Glasses. I truly felt special as they announced my accomplishment and had several dozen congratulations before, during and after the race. We took our time, enjoyed the course, chatted with our friend Wendy who we hadn’t seen in a while, and ate…..the food was just so good! We finished up and heading back to my house. Sue and I were treated to breakfast by my amazing hubby and then her and Bud loaded up to head further South. It is always hard to say good-bye to my twin but we knew we only had a week and then we would be back together again!