Today I ran the first race of the Appalachian Series. Today’s marathon was in Bluefield, WV. Bluefield is a community that spans the Virginia – West Virginia border. The course was 12 out-and-backs along a paved road that goes through Lotito Park. The park is only about four miles from my hotel, but driving there takes you across the state line four times.
We were running through both Virginia and West Virginia. The start and finish lines were located far enough apart that we started and finished on different sides of the state line. That way, members of the 50 States Marathon Club could count today’s race as either a Virginia race or a West Virginia race.
My only goal for this race was to break four hours. To do that, I had to average 20 minutes for each out-and-back. Normally, I could do that pretty easily, but I was feeling unusually tired today. I didn’t sleep well last night. By itself, that wouldn’t slow me down, but I also didn’t get much sleep Thursday night. The cumulative lack of sleep had me dragging.
When I left the hotel, it was 64 degrees. That’s warmer than I expected, but it wasn’t going to get any warmer. There was a 50 percent chance of rain throughout the morning. I wore shorts and a singlet, but I had a rain poncho in the car, just in case.
Bib numbers for this series are apparently assigned according to the number of marathons you’ve run. Numbers 1 and 2 went to Larry Macon and Jim Simpson, who have each run well over 1,000 marathons. I came into this series with 236 marathons, but I had number 17. Yeah, there were a lot of frequent marathoners here.
About 15 minutes before the race, it started to drizzle. That didn’t concern me too much. Then it started raining hard. I missed some of the pre-race announcements as I dashed to the car to get my rain poncho. If I was going to ne drenched for four hours, I needed an extra layer.
For the first lap, the RD led us on a bicycle. There were two or three runners who took off fast. I followed, but didn’t try to keep up with them. We went through a parking lot that was full of large puddles. We were running diagonally across the puddles, making it hard to run between them.
Next we got onto a road through the park that we were told had a few small hills. There were actually seven or eight hills, but only four that were steep enough to make you slow down. They were all short, but the constant slowing down and speeding up made it tough to get into a consistent rhythm.
After turning around, we did all the hills in the opposite direction. Make that eight hills steep enough to make you slow down. We would run 12 laps. Do the math. This was a hilly course.
I checked my watch at each turnaround. In the first few laps, I was averaging 18 minutes per lap. That was a little fast. By the end of my third lap, the rain stopped, so I took off the rain poncho and brought it to my car. That took a couple minutes. After that, I settled into a slower pace. I was still running 19 to 20 minutes per lap, which was fine.
Once the rain stopped, it was easier to enjoy the views. The park was surrounded by hills, and the leaves were a variety of colors.
My legs were getting heavy in the last few laps, but I was able to maintain my pace. I finished in 3:51:57. Today should have been easy, but I worked pretty hard to run that time. Tomorrow we run the same course again, but I’ll be starting with sore stiff legs. Breaking four hours tomorrow will not be easy.
The medals for these races consist of one large medal for the series, with additional medals each day in the shape of the state. Today, we had our choice of Virginia or West Virginia. I chose West Virginia. The medals chain together. Here’s what it looks like so far.