The Rocket City Marathon 2012 RR: I'm Running a MF Marathon

Have you ever run a marathon in the South?  If not, have you spent any significant time in the South?

You should.
I love Christmas, I love marathons, and I love running down here.
I'm from North Florida. So far North in Florida that my dad says we're "from L.A." (not Los Angeles; Lower Alabama).  The part of Florida I'm originally from is NOTHING like Orlando.  The tea is sweet, the chicken is fried, and you never met someone you didn't know.
My parents live in Fort Payne, Alabama.  It's affectionately known as the town the band Alabama is from.  The band even has a Christmas song called Christmas in Dixie that mentions their hometown.  At the very end, they sing, "and from Fort Payne, Alabama - Merry Christmas tonight!"
But I'll go ahead and spare you the yammering if you want to cut to the deets - I did not go sub-5, which means my 5-year BQ plan is officially 5 years. I did, however, PR by about 6 minutes. I did, as I have alluded, try a very new HARD AS SHIT half marathon plan. I did have some very unconventional LONG RUN and training strategies. And this was possibly the hardest marathon I've ever run. It was almost 20 degrees warmer than expected, hillier, and 80-90% humidity for the whole race. My legs were tired from a long run that my sinus infection forced very close to the race. I had to walk more than just every other aid station.

And to top it all off, at about mile 8, disaster struck.

My heart rate monitor died.

I was forced to run nearly the entire marathon by feel.
But, back to marathoning in the South.
At the Huntsville Holiday Inn
People down here are just . . . . special.  Yes, I consider myself progressive; yes, there can be some laws and customs that are a bit . . . . well . . . . backward. And you should know that Huntsville is called the Rocket City because it's home to a hub of aerospace engineering.
This is not, by any means, a backward, podunk town.
But there is something about the South you just cannot explain to those who have not experienced it.
I have mentioned before that I LOVE local races. And there's something about deep-South running that just warms the soul.  In both Savannah and Huntsville, the crowd support was magnificent.  Everyone lines up on porches, all the way through mile 14-16 in Savannah to tell runners "good morning" and "good job." (Compare this to Disney, who doesn't even let supporters in the park to cheer you on; or Orlando, who doesn't even have their own marathon.)  And Rocket City (Huntsville) in particular, had supporters lined up for every single mile of the race -not just at aid stations, but all the way through mile 24 - TWENTY-FOUR, I TELL YOU - and the runners were just as supportive of the supporters, offering each a heartfelt "thank you." 
I made a friend at the start with whom I ran until almost mile 10 - her name is Laney.  She was doing her "first and last" marathon.  Her family got used to seeing me and they even cheered for me, too.

Southerners live and die by our college sports teams. It doesn't matter whether you went there, grew up there, or had an uncle who attended - it's all about the college sports. It's the spirit, the camaraderie, the joie de vivre.  I have a friend whose grandfather was the sports medicine physician for UNC.  My dad's family went to UF. My parents live around the corner from the University of Alabama, and my roommate and her family either go or live there.
So, for a marathon in Huntsville, I sported my houndstooth and crimson.  And, about every aid station, someone acknolweged this. Laney's family was for the rival team, and they acknowledged that, too.
It was a magical experience.  Then again, running a marathon is always a magical experience.  I'd even go so far as to use the word "transformative."
Rocket City 2012 was no different.
The truth was, given the circumstances during my training leading up to this 5th marathon, it was a stretch to expect a PR at the half marathon OR full distance this year.  But, because I worked hard, played hard, and trusted the team advising me, I got both (plus a 5k and 15k PR to boot). 
We all face challenges when we train.  Life happens. I had work change, and friends cancel race plans on me, and things upset me, and a 3-week sinus infection that led me to multiple nurse practicioner visits, and was recovering from a mild tibial stress fracture.
But, because I was an otherwise balanced indidivudal with a solid plan, a team of coaches and physicians told me by and large, you are doing the right things to get faster, stronger, and healthier - so keep on keepin' on. 
So I did.
Rocket City 2012: AKA "El Cinco."
This was my fifth marathon in my fifth state (hence the rampant obnoxious hashtags about #elcinco and #irunthistown). And, as you can tell by some of the pictures below, the conditions were less than ideal - gray, rainy, exceptionally humid, 20 degrees warmer than expected, and  - despite course descriptions - NOT flat.
I would 1,000,000,000 times rather run a cold marathon.  Like Philly 2007: sleet.  Like Disney 2010: snow the day before (in Florida), 35 degrees max temperature on race day.  I'll take all of this over 80-90% humidity and almost 70.
But, you race the conditions you are dealt.
And, if you survive those conditions and finish a race . . .
And, if you survive those conditions and PR . . . 
Then, well . .  .
You head into the off-season with a smile.
You know you have some serious swimming in your near future.
You hug the shit out of your parents when you cross the finish line, you get a Moon Pie and a beer, and you say, "ya'all wanna go over to the convention center and see the craft show?"
And, from Fort Payne, Alabama, you might just say Merry Christmas tonight.
So I did.
I'm off to the off-season, the holiday season, and a very, very bright outlook for my 2013 goals.
Whatever it is you celebrate, I wish you the happiest yet.

ME, at mile 21, waving at Mom, who is the best cheerleader on earth: equal parts sappy Mommy and Drill Sergeant.  Mom:"YOU'RE LOOKING GREAT, SWEETIE! Daddy says you're making great time."  Me: "yea, but I'm not going to make my goal." Mom: "WELL THEN GET YOUR BUTT MOVIN'! YOU GOT 5 MORE MILES TO RUN!!!"    (About this point, I said, she's right. I'm running a MF marathon!  Tired legs or not, I couldn't keep the grin off my face.)
The toy soliders in the Chattanooga airport.
Me, post-race.

Mom and Dad's tree

Chattanooga airport.

Great beer
Race medal and hounsdtooth scarf

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