I wanted nothing more for this to be an amazing race experience for me! I have been anticipating The Hatfield & McCoy Marathon as my West Virginia state for a few years, but because travel to this part of the state was a logistical nightmare, there were a few wrenches tossed at us.
- Wrench #1: This is a ‘small plane’ destination. If you know me, you know that I book flights by plane size first, then cost. Ha ha. When we booked this, there was only one flight a day out of PHL, and it was a 13 row plane (EEEEK). I decided to suck it up because it was direct and fast, and it being a Saturday race, we needed direct and fast. We were scheduled to leave at 4:30 p.m. Because of all the rain of late, Reilly’s school actually moved their year-end field day to the same day we were leaving. and with a 4:30 flight out of PHL, Reilly would miss the field day. When we broke the news to him the weekend before the race, he slithered up stairs, crawled under his bed and started crying. I didn’t want to be that sucky mother, so I called and changed the flight to 5:45 p.m. with a layover in DCA, getting us into Charleston, West Virginia (CRW) at 10:04 p.m.–the day before the race. Not great. When I did that, I forgot that the drive to Matewan, WV was 1 hour 45 minutes of scary, windy roads, to our bed & breakfast. I was destined for no sleep from the beginning. Which leads me to Wrench #2.
- Wrench #2: Where should we stay? In researching hotels, the closest Marriott or Starwood property was 1 hour 45 minutes away (EEEEK). We found a bed & breakfast in Matewan, WV. We stayed at the Matewan Historical House in the Hatfield & McCoy room. Not what we were used to for accommodations, but this was such a remote area, that all the lodges and bed & breakfasts were sold out 6 months in advance due to the race. It was nice, but we are not big into the ‘communal living’ with a bunch of strangers. I just don’t feel like telling my life story to people I will never see again (sounds awful, I know). The town was one main road with one liquor store, two bed & breakfasts and two restaurants. That’s it. To top it off, no cell service, and the house was 10 feet from the train tracks where trains barreled through every hour, horns and all. #firstworldproblems
- Wrench #3: The z-pack…for five days…less than a week before a race… is good for no one. I was sick in bed from Friday to Sunday last week. I started the z-pack in hopes to kick the bug. If I have a few sniffles, fine, I will do some light running, but when I’m down for the count with a throat that is so sore it’s nearly swollen shut, I rest. Leading up to the race, I hardly ran (between Vermont City Marathon and this). When I did, I had to stop and cough my brains out for a few minutes. I knew I was in for it for this race.
As we were getting ready to leave on Friday, we started getting our favorite notifications of all…the flight delay notifications from American Airlines. UGH, not today American, not today. Why am I so loyal? The regional flights, as you know, are operated by American Airline partners. The planes are old, junky and falling apart. I’m not even exaggerating. Maintenance delays are the norm. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be on a plane that’s not safe, but it seems that every flight is delayed due to maintenance. Our flight from DCA to CRW was now scheduled to depart at 11:30 p.m. (hate you American). That would put us into Matewan at 2 a.m. (hate you American). And because I’ve seen this movie before, I called to confirm it was a maintenance delay (skies were clear and a delay notification 8 hours from departure is likely maintenance). I also checked to see if there were other flight options out of EWR. To no avail, we were stuck. In short, we ended up taking off at around 10:15 p.m. on Friday from DCA. We landed in CRW at 11:15 p.m., then had the 1 hour 45 minute drive to Matewan. The roads were mountainous, so it was impossible to sleep with the sharp curvy swerving. For my race the next day, my head hit the pillow at around 1:15 a.m. My alarm was set to go off at 4:45 a.m., but no matter what, I needed to be on the bus down the street by 5:45 a.m. I made it. I was DELIRIOUS. I’m an old lady. I need my sleep!
I took the shuttle bus to the start. I knew nothing was going to be easy for me for this race. The bus driver dropped us off at Food City, which is where the race started. I’m so funny. Many of you already know this, but in case you didn’t, I have direction deficit disorder. When I was researching the starting line compared to the finish line (…the day before), I kept looking for Food City, West Virginia. I thought ‘Food City’ was a small town. Ha ha. Nope, much to my surprise, Food City was the grocery store where they hosted the starting line of the race, 3-miles from the finish line in Williamson, West Virginia. Ha ha. On the communications leading up to the race, there was incorrect information that you could pick up your race bib @ Food City. When I starting walking around and asking, everyone told me I needed to go to the finish line to get my bib. Dude, it’s 6:41 a.m. The race starts at 7:00 a.m. UGH. I find an empty shuttle bus (literally, the short school bus), with another runner who needed to drop her bag. We hopped on and asked the driver to drive us to the finish line. Image my best West Virginia drawl, “Uuuummmm…Ma’am y’alls going to miss the start of the race.” We know, but I can’t run without a bib. He drives us down, and because the roads are all closed off, we had to run about 1/4th of a mile to get by bib and drop her bag. I get my bib, and there’s no return bus. Seriously. It’s now 6:52 a.m. The race director was there, so we begged him to drive us to the start. We had to empty his car first (race stuff). He drove down as fast as any person could (even ran a red light), to get us back. Just as we got back, they were signing the National Anthem, so I hit the porta-potty just as the gun was going off. No stretching. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. I kind of went into this race with that mindset with all the wrenches. At this point, it truly was a miracle that I even made it to the starting line.
I don’t think I will ever be able to talk Babe into coming back to West Virginia, which is sort of disappointing because this truly was one of the most stunning courses I have ever run. I just let my mind be free and I soaked up the beautify of this course. It changed scenery so many times, but the sounds of roosters, streams, and birds were constant through this whole race. I had my earphones in, but listened to nothing. There were a few cars at a few points, but they were so respectful of the runners (20 MPH, which is rare…usually, it’s a death sentence). We were fully shaded up until about mile 14. The Hatfield & McCoy Marathon is ranked one of The Weather Channel’s ‘Toughest Marathons’ on one hand, and Road Runner Magazine’s ‘Most Fun Races’ on the other hand. It was a course of rolling hills where we ran literally up and down a mountain, through various nature trails, and over a foot suspension bridge (the gaps were so large and the bridge so bouncy, I felt like it could have been a bridge in Indiana Jones). The vibe of this race was my kind of race. You could tell this was a field of experienced runners from all the clubs (i.e., 50-State Marathon Club, Marathon Maniacs and 100 Marathon Club). Not only were the runners so considerate and friendly to each other, this had to be the best group of volunteers I have experienced yet. Typically, the race director will hold a contest for the volunteers (best aid station), and the runners get to vote. These volunteers embraced that and they were ALL amazing! This part of the country is suffering economically, so the locals know what a positive financial impact a marathon has on their community. Not only did I thank them for being out there, they thanked me for traveling there and running that race. I heard on more than one occasion, “we need you to come back–that’s why we’re trying to make it great race for you.” So awesome!
All things considered, I was in great spirits, enjoying my snail-pace, but all-in-all, this was a real struggle. That is obvious by my finish time. This was my 2nd worst time ever. I ran consistently until around mile 15, then I just fell apart more than I already was broken. The pink pig was given to all the runners as a test to ‘see how far you can run with a stolen pig.’ If you read, the Hatfield & McCoy feud involved a stolen pig (at some point in the many stories). The locals LOVED seeing the runners run with the little pink stuffed pigs. At first I was like, I am really going to carry this thing to the end? But once I started and I realized how much road kill was on the course, I actually had to use it as a muff to shield me from the decaying road kill smell. One whiff of road kill, and I was gagging–then coughing uncontrollably. Funny, not funny.
I hooked up with Lisa at around mile 16ish (who knows). We stayed together through the finish line. I love making friends along the course. We first started to try and do a run/walk, but with little to no shade on the course from this point, and the temperature getting hotter and hotter, it was nearly impossible. It was 94 degrees at the finish. I was woozy, coughing, and had sore feet from walking. Walking is so different on your body. Walking actually makes me more sore, but I couldn’t breath anyway, so I couldn’t run (funny, ya need oxygen to run–what a concept).
I finally finished. Babe and Reilly were waiting at the finish line for me for an hour and a half (sorry guys). There was no cell service on most of the course, so they couldn’t track me and I couldn’t even send a text to tell them I was slow and struggling. I’m so glad I had Lisa to talk me through the last 10 miles. Nothing better than a buddy when in trouble. I crossed the finish line and we were out of there. We made it back to Matewan, and I slept for 3 hours immediately after the race. I had heat rash up and down my legs, and of course, I was dehydrated. This is my 2nd worst marathon time, but state #48 is …DONE!