Some days when you run a marathon you don’t have to work until almost midnight the night before. Some days when you run a marathon you don’t have to drive 2.5 hours to the start line on 4 hours of sleep. Some days when you run a marathon you nail the nutrition. Some days none of these things line up and you run a personal worst time. This was the story of the Mississippi Coast Marathon.
I signed up for this race on a whim just a week before race day because it was on the way to the airport, I was heading there that morning already. Over the summer I had decided that I wanted to run a sub-4 hour marathon in all 50 states so I needed to rerun a few, Mississippi being one of them. My school was playing in a football game Friday night so I was out working until past 11 and up at 4 to make the drive. I decided I needed a little protein for the race that day so for breakfast I had a leftover thanksgiving turkey sandwich and a cup of coffee for the drive. Brooklyn, her sister, & I hit the road just before 5 am to head to the race. The race is held on the campus of the NASA Stennis Space Center so there was a security check at the gate to get in. Once we were past it we didn’t have much trouble getting to the starting area. After I checked in and picked up my bib Brooklyn left with her sister to finish the drive to New Orleans to the airport and I took to the starting line. While waiting for the start of the race I saw one of my former band directors from when I was in high school, he was running the 5k event that morning.
The race started and runners were off for the first of the 2 loop course. The course circled around the space center roads. It was a small race field, but there were enough people around during the first half to make a few new friends and talk for the majority of the run. It had warmed up quickly on the course and I was feeling the sunburn on my face. As I was coming around at the end of the first loop, around mile 12, my former teacher was driving away and asked if I needed anything. He didn’t have any sunscreen, wished me well on the second half and drove off. I crossed the 13.1 mark right at 1:50, well on my way to finishing sub 4.
As I started the second half my legs felt heavier than normal, a lot of flat road running was working my quads more than normal. The second loop was much more lonely than the first, the field was more sparse & the runners were spread out to the point where, at times, I couldn’t see anyone in front of or behind me. As I started mile 14 a car pulled over on the side of the road just passed me and out came running my former teacher with sunscreen in hand! I was beyond thankful as he threw it in my bag and wished me well. By mile 16 I was starting to have severe cramps in my calves and quads, at one point my entire left leg seized up and wouldn’t move. Luckily, another runner coming by happened to have bio freeze in his bag and helped tremendously.
I hobbled in the last 10 miles averaging between 12-15 minutes per mile. I watched as 4 my 4 hour goal ticked by on my Garmin watch. I watched as my Garmin battery died in mile 24. I watched as each water table had fewer and fewer people at it. The heat was bearing down, the 48 ounces of water and Nuun I was carrying on my back was gone, my nutrition was depleted, and my legs were barely moving. I have never felt more like taking a DNF than I was the last few miles of the run. Even passing mile marker 26 I wasn’t sure if I could make myself go the last 2 tenths. As I came to the finish chute, Brooklyn had made it back from New Orleans and was cheering runners as they came by.
I finished the race in 4:51:03. (A full 10 minutes past my time at the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon, picture stops included) It was a small race field with just over 100 people running the full marathon and luckily I still placed in my age group & received a nice plaque to hang on the wall at home.