On Saturday May 22, Rock Creek held the Scenic City marathon and half marathon on raccoon mountain. Although I run these trails a lot, this would be my first time running the marathon race. After picking up my packet on Friday, I went to dinner with my dad and Wendy who were also running and my sister, Holly, who would be volunteering. It was then time to head home for some rest and get ready for the big day.
5:45 am came way too early but my prerace nerves woke me up pretty quickly. After a light breakfast, I headed up to raccoon mountain. This year's race was almost double the size as last year with close to 500 runners in the half and full marathon. I wasn't so thrilled about the thought of sharing the trail with so many people, especially at first, because it makes it hard to run a decent pace and see the trail. However, I also think it is great that so many folks want to run on these trails, so I got over it.
About 5 minutes before the start, we all lined up on the road. Although I am not a road runner, I did like that we ran the first .5 mile or so on the pavement to spread out before hitting single track. Before I knew it, we were off. Weather was perfect at the start, not too hot but not chilly so you were uncomfortable waiting for the start. As expected, there was a huge bottleneck at the trail entrance, but I was able to run a decent pace despite the huge crowd. I had not been feeling very fresh the past few weeks since Strolling Jim so I wasn't sure how hard to start out. I decided to go out easy and see how I felt. Thankfully the first few miles went well, so I just wanted to stay steady and not push my luck early.
The course is two loops with the first half of the loop being much easier than the second. I ran most of the first loop with my dad and a lady from lookout mountain. Overall, my spirits were good and the only aggravation I had was someone who asked the mileage. This is totally fine for some but I am the type who doesn't want to constantly be informed of mileage/pace. Near the end of the first loop, runners in the half split from the marathoners, so the pack thinned considerably. I was still feeling pretty good despite some stomach issues which seem to creep up on me at every race. There are three aid stations on the course, but I ran through the first two as it allowed me to pass several people. At the third, however, I stopped to fill up my water bottle. This station is at the top of a nasty hill but it was nice to see Matt and Natalie Sims there cheering everyone on.
Now we started on the second loop. I was running by myself at this point which is nice at times because it helps me focus. I was feeling pretty good at the east overlook aid station where my sister was volunteering, and I knew that I had a nice downhill section ahead before a pretty long, nasty climb. It wasn't so bad the first loop but as everyone knows, hills grow when you have to do them more than once! I tried to mentally prepare myself for the hill and just run steady up it. It was around here that I caught up to Dan who was looking really strong. He said that Dreama had gone out pretty fast and was running well along with Leslie who is getting scary fast. The second aid station is at the visitor center after the top of the climb. Again, I ran through but a boy told me I was at mile 20.5. I hadn't thought about mileage since the girl asked at around 8.5, so hearing that I was less than 6 miles from the finish spurred me on. This last section from the visitors center to the finish at Laurel Point is deceptively tough with some pretty steep hills, short but hard the second time around. Because I hadn't filled up my water bottle, I was more than happy to see the third aid station and get just a little heed to last me the last two miles to the finish. I looked at my watch and figured that if I ran well I could easily break 4:30. My dream goal was to break 4 hours but this was obviously not going to happen and I was really just happy to have felt decent during this race unlike the previous two weeks. The sign said 2.1 miles to the finish, and I was running hard, determined to finish strong. Before long, I came up on several runners which motivated me to keep pushing the pace. I think I passed at least 5 or so people in this last stretch which seemed to go on for much more than 2 miles. At one point I was really hurting and wondering if the finish line was ever going to come. I could hear cheers off in the distance but because I am familiar with the trail, I knew that it was further than it seemed. Finally, I popped out on the pavement and rounded the corner to the finish. The clock said 4:27 and change so I was pleased to break 4:30.
After getting a wet towel to cool off with, I walked around and found the crew of local people. Dreama had run a strong race as always. Lance and Kevin were also at the finish along with Mark, all of whom ran really well. Shortly after this, Dan and my dad finished followed closely by Wendy. Overall, the Chattanooga people had a great day. We hung out for a little bit then went to Greenlife for some well deserved post race food. Rock Creek and the Boonies did a great job as always putting on the race, and I look forward to doing it again next year.