Official race shirt
Marathon Man took a 4+ day adventure to Music City, along with a group of 14 Rebel Runners. While the Rock’N’Roll event had it’s troubles, bands and cheerleaders rocked the hilly course as advertised.
The Country Music Marathon website was run on Saturday, 4/24/10 in warm, humid weather. Eventually, thunderstorms would cause chaos at the finish…
Flights, Pasta, & Grand Ole Opry
Thursday 4/22 – No I.D.
Loco and I arrive at PHL in plenty of time for our 1030am Southwest flight, but I soon realize that my driver license isn’t in my wallet, so I have no photo ID. The ticket counter lady allowed me to head for the security area. A supervisor was called and I re-stated that I had no photo ID or a Social Security card. I was escorted through the metal detector, patted down, and had the contents of my bag inspected before being sent to the gate. Apparently, photo ID is not actually necessary!!!
Hampton Inn, West End & Hockey
We grabbed a Gray Line van ($20 r/t race discount) for the 25 minute ride to Hampton Inn West End, near Vanderbilt University. Deposited bags at the counter and walked about a mile to downtown Nashville on Broadway, which served as the first 2 miles of our race. The rolling hills immediately became evident. Passing the ornate Custom House, old train station and several impressive churches, downtown is an attractive mix of classic and modern buildings.
Across Broadway from the Convention Center is a glass-walled visitor center, directly in front of Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL Nashville Predators who happened to be hosting a playoff game that night against the Chicago Black Hawks. When diehard Flyers fan Loco noticed an outdoor table proclaiming “tickets still available”, she didn’t even hesitate in heading for the ticket counter.
Yazoo at Ribby’s
We crossed the street to grab some local Yazoo Dos Perros Ale and an obligatory BBQ pork sandwich at Ribby’s. Then it was time to walk past the famous Ryman Auditorium to take advantage of small opening day crowds at the race expo, just as big as NY or Chicago, with over 30,000 runners expected. Bib, chip, gray tech shirt, goody bag, MGD 64 calorie beer and of course a yellow MGD bracelet for the post-race beer tent. We dropped into Wildhorse Saloon (a big dance hall) and then walked back up Broadway and West End Ave. to our hotel.
Loco ditched me for the game while I strolled around the corner to enjoy a pastrami sandwich at Noshville, a popular NY style deli. When more of our group arrived, 8 of us then walked back downtown and stood in line for famous “Jack’s Bar-B-Que”, sitting upstairs. We strolled past the loud bars and several street players.
Friday 4/23 – The Parthenon, weather watching & Charlie Daniels
The hotel breakfast buffet was great! Scrambled eggs, fruit cocktail, make your own waffles, yogurt, bagels and pastries. Loco and I walked a mile to Centennial Park, where porta-potties were ready in the start area, across the huge lawn from the Parthenon, a full scale replica of the original in Athens, Greece. Loco had run the Athens Marathon a couple years prior. We snapped pics and paid $8 admission to view the art gallery on the lower level. The upper level is dominated by a 42 foot full size replica of the 5th century BC statue of Athena Parthenos, the Greek goddess of wisdom, prudent warfare and the arts.
This Parthenon was originally built as part of the international art exhibition for the 1897 Centennial Exposition. A pyramid and other photographed buildings had been removed, but the “Athens of the South” decided to keep it to bolster the city’s identity.
With a high of 84 degrees and sunny skies, it was a great day for shorts and a ball cap. Loco and I wandered over to Logan’s Roadhouse, where we had a great lunch in a festive atmosphere and they loaded our table with hot bread rolls. By the time we had eaten, many phone calls, text messages and emails later, we were booked to hit the Grand Ole Opry for the evening show.
Another new development was that race management announced a possibility that marathoners with a pace for over a 4:30 finish time may be diverted to the half marathon finish due to forecast T-storms, wind, and possibly hail and tornados. It would be a gameday decision, so now all of the runners, volunteers, and spectators in town were watching weather channels in every bar, restaurant and hotel room.
Pre-race Pasta Dinner & Opryland
Dinner for 15 was great at Amerigo, directly across from hotel, and the $40 taxi ride got us to Opryland just in time. The venue is impressive for the every night shows. Fridays are broadcast on radio, so the on-stage announcer reading commercials between bands added a nostalgic touch. The performers each did 2-3 song sets and introduced each other. Mainly classic (read ‘oldies’) country songs sung by aging artists. It’s amazing that walkers and wheelchairs weren’t used to move them around the stage. Our Rebel group sat high in the balcony. Little Jimmy Dickens (4’11”) had some good “You know you’re old when…” jokes.
Pam Tillis, The Whites and others warmed us up for Charlie Daniels and his band, who made the evening worthwhile as he proved to have recovered well from recent publicized heart issues. I was in bed by 1030pm.
Saturday 4/24: 4:30am wake-up
Tony & I left the room at 545am, after watching weather forecasts for the 10th time in 24 hours. It was warm and humid enough that no throwaway was required. We walked up West End Ave towards bag check in the park. Upon approaching the start area, the announcer said “The only change is that start time has been moved up 15 minutes to 645.” Well that’s pretty darn significant, so we quickened the pace to drop our bags and head for the potty line, wondering when and how the time change was made public.
No rain yet, so we figured that things were looking up, even though the high was expected to be 74. Of course the 645 start found runners scrambling into position, with lots of bewildered participants walking on sidewalks in the opposite direction during the first several blocks after the gun went off.
With 31,000 runners, the wave start helped us find a reasonable pace. But being in corral 2 of 31 was a bigger help. Mostly downhill for the 2 miles to downtown helped us relax. Tony and I would run mostly side by side for almost 10 miles as he pulled me up many of the climbs. Bands rocked us and high school & grade school cheerleaders pumped us up as advertised.
Running towards downtown
At 2 miles, we turned on 4th Ave to head back out on Demonbreun Street. This first big loop included lots of gentle rolling and was highlighted by the “Musica” statue of naked dancers and a couple “beer stops”. Water/Cyclomax stops were large and well-staffed with spirited volunteers. Even narrow, tree-lined streets were appropriately full of record studios as we toured Music City. A slight breeze sometimes was a headwind, but felt good in cooling us off. Several long stretches of runners coming the opposite way were fun and back downtown we eventually arrived at the 11.5 mile split off of the half marathoners, which greatly diminished our numbers. Tony’s pace slowed, so a gap was developing between us. I was also de-motivated realizing that
we still hadn’t reached the halfway point.
The second loop
Two minutes ahead of our 3:30 time pace was reasonable, but with spaced out runners, it was harder work. I settled in to a true 8:00/mile pace (maintaining the 2 minute cushion) for a few miles, but although there were less hills in the 2nd half, the sun sometimes peeked out to intensify the heat. We silently ran on some wide industrial streets until enjoying a scenic 2 mile stretch on a levee along the Cumberland River. A short but steep downhill signaled our turn back to town to complete this second loop. At mile 19, we re-joined the throng of half marathoners as they headed for their finish, crossing the bridge towards the Titans football stadium. At mile 20 there were plenty of finish area spectators, but then we were eerily alone again for the final 10K.
3:30 pace group?
I was struggling to try to maintain a sub-3:30 finish, but was losing ground. Another stretch along the river and around a park helped make loop 3 more bearable. Just before mile 24, I was passed by the 3:30 pacer (whom we had not found in the corral). That was disheartening, since I couldn’t stay with him. To make matters worse, he was alone, having lost his entire group. A lone runner carrying a pacer sign is depressing. Then we again experienced the oncoming runners, as the clouds darkened and a few raindrops fell.
I hadn’t totally lost my stride, but didn’t have the legs to move faster. Mile 25 was good to see, but just before the last water stop I was surprised to see a steady stream of runners coming around a corner to join us. I was afraid to ask what brought them there and even wondered if I had made a wrong turn but I definitely had not run on this street before. Besides, all of my concentration was focused on finishing.
The sore left Achilles that had hampered my training could be felt since mile 8, but never really worsened and I didn’t encounter any other specific aches or pains. Only hills and humidity to blame for a tough run. I was moving at a faster pace than the main group, so passing runners was a positive, but sharing my finish time with slower runners was a negative, especially since I still didn’t know where and when they’d been diverted. I enjoyed the home stretch as much as possible, with a half-hearted kick being cheered by a good number of spectators and my 3:32:30 chip time didn’t really make me unhappy.
Less than 2 minutes after finishing, rain started falling and lightning was visible. Wind kicked up as I collected medal, blanket, water, bananas and whatever I could fit in my Race-Ready shorts pouch. Of course, most of the 25,000 half marathoners had already finished so the finish area was mobbed. It was also very chaotic, with few signs explaining where to go. By the time I found bag check (at furthest point from the finish), I had declared that organization was a mess. By now, it was pouring and people were crowding under tents, stadium entrances and anyplace else for shelter.
Since I found myself near the beer tent, I grabbed one and squeezed in with other storm victims. The rain would not stop, so I kept eating my provisions and grabbed another beer. The wind and downpour only got worse, so I finally did some stretching with one hand while holding the foil blanket closed with the other, since it was windy, wet and cool. I spoke with 2 different young guys who had completed their first marathon, one in 3:37 and one around 4 hours, who turned out to be one of the last to pass before runners started getting diverted at mile 20.5 or so. They were happy. I also spoke with 2 ladies who had been diverted while trying to complete their first marathon. They were sad — as were many others.
Mainly due to the weather, the marathon portion of the race had become a fiasco. I wondered how they’d figure finish times and even who had finished the full, since there were no mats past the diversion point. My 2 friends doing the Full had both been diverted. Race management would eventually go through results by hand to determine which “category” each runner fell into (including the previously discussed “marathoners being diverted to the half marathon finish”, essentially running the half marathon. About 720 of us completed the full, another 1,000 diverted to 21 or so miles and maybe 2,000 being forced to run the half.
Long walk in a downpour
There was still one more “leg” to my adventure. Certainly the 10 half marathoners in our group had headed to the hotel or downtown to seek proper shelter in a bar. As the beer tent was being torn down, I started my wet 2 mile walk across the bridge through downtown towards the hotel. Several other stragglers were also limping back across the bridge and I started talking with another idiot who happened to be headed to a hotel even farther up the street than ours. We joked with each other as a deluge of rain fell on us and lightning sometimes lit up the sky. The only people outdoors were soggy runners. Every corner was like a river crossing and soon many of the sidewalks were 2 inches deep with water. It wasn’t the safest thing to be doing and I told him that his wife was gonna kill him. The can of 64 calorie beer I was sipping got weaker and weaker from rainwater, and eventually warm, dirty curb water splashed up by passing cars… Yes, I stopped drinking it.
Upon surviving the trek back, we gathered for lunch at a crowded Blackstone Brewery at around 2pm. With a burger and beer, all was now good. We headed back downtown in plenty of time for the 6pm concert at the arena, where Jarrod Niemann, then Heidi Newfield (formerly of Trick Pony) warmed us up for John Rich. Lenora bought me a beer since I was still without ID.
Chip time: 3:32:30
Top 28% overall – 211 of 750 finishers*
Top 23% Male (45-49) – 14 of 60 finishers*
*All marathoners over 4 hour pace were diverted due to T-storms at mile 13 or 20 or 21
Nashville Convention Center
LP Field – Titans Stadium
The Parthenon in Centennial Park
Ray & Athena inside the Parthenon
Drinking in Nashville
Ryman Auditorium sound check
Rebel Runners of Delaware
Grand Ole Opry (a week before it gets flooded)
Official race photo
Marathon Man attacks the course
Back at hotel after wet walk from finish
Marathon finisher medal (handed to diverted runners also!)
Sunday 4/25: Mass & recovery walk
While some in our group explored the Parthenon, I hit 8:30am Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, conveniently situated right next to the Hampton Inn. Several marathon shirts were among the congregation. Of course, it was a beautiful cool & sunny day. Our group took a leisurely walk along “Music Row” studios and past the Musica sculpture, retracing parts of the race course and finding plenty of used gel packets on the ground as evidence.
We took plenty of pictures, heading back downtown. After stopping in to the magnificent “train station” hotel lobby, we eventually dropped in to the large Broadway Brewhouse for lunch. Service was horrible, but the food was good. More group shots and the ladies even found a store selling “Rebel Girl” hats.
Private concert at the Ryman
Time to tour the Ryman Auditorium, widely known as the “Carnegie Hall of the South” for much of it’s history since completed in 1892. As we viewed the photos of countless celebrities to perform there, we had the special treat of listening Aretha Franklin’s band do sound checks on the big stage for that evening’s show! A tasty visit to an ice cream parlor kept our spirits (and sugar levels) up. Then as some headed to the hotel, we enjoyed some brews
at the very cool Flying Saucer – the place to sample 80 beers on tap and plenty more in bottles. Afternoon was turning to evening when we departed to meet up with others for pizza and more beer at Pie in the Sky.
Monday 4/26: Delays
We took another pleasant walk past Vanderbilt to the West End area, our turnaround point being “Team Nashville” running store. 10 of us headed to the airport early for a 3:40pm SW flight, which turned into 4:30 and finally, 5:00.
I had been apprehensive about possible security problems since I still had the same “no ID” predicament, but I was given the same additional screening as at PHL and the 4 different security people involved were so fast that I got through even faster than the others. I was again astonished that I could get on the plane without any proof of who I was. It turns out that the next day, a plane from Paris to Atlanta was diverted to Maine due to an unruly passenger claiming he had a bomb on board!! Additional delays brought our gate arrival time to around 8pm. At least we had missed rush hour traffic.
Broadway bars in downtown Nashville, TN
Lunch with the Rebels in Nashville (day after race)