Mary Baum

St. Jude Country Music Marathon Recap

The Country Music Marathon was hands down the hardest race I have ever run. I worked incredibly hard during the training for the race, and I had high expectations. This race taught me that sometimes, you just have to throw your expectations out the window, and just finish what you started.

Let’s just start with the beginning. We stayed close to the start with our friends Chris and Allison, so that we could just wake up and walk up there. The weather was perfect on our walk, hovering in the upper 50’s. It didn’t last long. The temps started rising as soon as the sun peaked through the clouds, and we knew we were in for a very warm day.

I was given a Brooks Porta Potty Pass from my friend Sarah Beth that lives here in Nashville. She bought $100 of Brooks merchandise, and was given the pass. It was pretty awesome!

The bathrooms were all climate controlled, and even gender specific. The staff was ready for all the runners, and had mints, peppermint patties, and a few Clif Shots to fuel the VIP runners. Way to go Brooks – such an awesome concept!

After our Brooks bathroom stop, Marcus and I headed over to the starting line and got in our corral. We were lucky enough to get into Corral 2, with our projected finish time of 3:30. Marcus knew from the beginning that he would only be running the half marathon, as he hurt his back a few weeks before. As we looked behind us, there were people as far as the eye could see. There were tens of thousands of people, littering the streets in all 35 corrals.

Just standing in line for the start, I could already feel the heat rising. It was significantly warmer than the temps we experienced on our leisurely walk up to the race. I knew at this point that I had to start fueling far earlier than I normally do.The national anthem was sung, and I was off. The first mile or so was completely downhill, which was easily detectable by my 7:10 split for mile 1. That was way, way too fast if I was expecting a good end result, so I quickly backed up a bit and let off the gas. Miles 2 & 3 were a much slower 7:40 pace. It was still a bit quick, but I figured the extra few seconds would help me later in the race when I was getting tired.

Then the hills came. By looking at the elevation map, I was expecting hills from miles 2 to 5. They were significantly steeper than I was expecting, and lasted for much longer than the elevation chart lead me to believe. I can honestly say that from around mile 2 to mile 10, there were rolling hills the entire time. Not to mention by this time, the heat was incredibly intense, even though it was only around 8:20 am.

This elevation chart was not up to par!

We said goodbye to the half marathon runners at mile 11, and had a grueling 15 more miles ahead of us until we were able to see the finish line we longing dreamt about. For me, miles 11 through 17 were a bit of a blur. My pace was on track, and there was not a whole lot to look at – I just churned through the mileage. The citizens of Nashville were all out in full force, many with their hoses spraying full force in the street, knowing that we were in desperate need of cooling off. I ran through almost every one that I saw, along with grabbing water and/or Gatorade at each and every stop. At mile 17, we came up and ran right by the half marathon runners. It is always hard to see other runners finishing when you still have a solid 9 more miles to go. This time was no different.

The heat became incredibly intense at this point, and I started getting goose bumps – not a good sign in 80+ degree weather. If there is one thing I have learned in my running journey thus far is to listen to my body. I knew I needed more fluids, so I stopped at the next medical tent. At the tent, I got a quick cup of Gatorade, along with a large handful of ice that I stuffed down my sports bra. It was the perfect trick to cool me off in a hurry, and I was back on my way with a solid 2.5 minutes tacked on to my time, which was just enough time to put me right back to the 8 minute pace I was looking to follow.

That moment was where things went downhill. I started back up from that quick stop, and my legs felt heavy. The crowds thinned out enormously, and my music stopped. Remember all those hoses I ran through? Well, iPods do not like hoses, point taken. Lucky for me, I saw Marcus about a half a mile later, around mile 19.5. He could see it in my face. I was not doing well. He gave me the encouragement I needed, and told me to just stay strong and finish this race, no matter what time my watch said. The heat was playing a factor in everyone’s race today, and I was no exception. He was awesome and grabbed a banana and Gatorade, fueled me up, and then sent me on my way.

I didn't need this pace chart anymore!

Miles 20-26 were the toughest miles of my life. I felt like I couldn’t run. My chest was tightening up, and my legs were heavy. I stopped at another aid station, this time for more ice and a salt tablet. Note to RNR, use tablets and not salt packets. Sucking on a salt packet is less than desirable when you already feel as if no amount of water is enough to quench your thirst.

This part of the course was the only part that I really had complaints about. The race took us out to a golf course, which on most days would be a great run – not on marathon day though. A golf course means no access for support. I think I could count the number of people I saw out there, and it was incredibly minimal. When I was at mile 21, I could literally see the mile marker for mile 24. I knew that meant that for the next 3 miles, I would be running an out and back course – not prime for the end of a race.

This is where I walked. Mentally, I was crushed. Physically, I was exhausted and in true concern for my well-being. Sounds dramatic? Yes. True at the time? Absolutely. At mile 21, I would run for a half mile, and then walk for .10. I did this until I hit mile 25. It was the only way I was able to get through the race. It slowed my pace down to 11 minute miles, far from the 8 minute pace I needed to hold. I knew that I would not be hitting a 3:30 marathon, let alone a PR.

The best part of this moment, was that I didn’t even care. I just wanted to finish. Out of all the training I did for this race, and amount I was prepared for it, my goal flew out the window. I was going to finish this race as strong as I possibly could, even if I had to walk. My safety was all that mattered to me at this point. If I had continued on with no concern for my health, I could have easily ended up not making it to the finish. I was determined to get that medal, and was going to do everything in my power to do so.

I dug down, and pounded out the next few miles. I knew I would see Marcus at mile 25, and that was all I could think about. When I saw him, I immediately perked up, and knew I was so close to the finish. He stepped out on the course, and joined me for the last mile. I could not have been more thrilled. I needed his amazing attitude at this point, and his face was all I wanted to see. He lifted me up the last mile, then dropped off right when the crowd barricades started. This was my time to finish.

My amazing husband supporting me!

The crowd was incredibly loud, and all I could feel was the extreme excitement of knowing I was about to complete my 6th marathon. I turned a corner, and there it was – a sight I have had my eyes on for 18 weeks, the finish line. Out of all the races I have run, this was the first time I completed a race and teared up. Not because I didn’t hit my goal, or that I was unhappy with myself. I had never been more proud of my effort, ever. I fought through that entire race. I earned my finish time. I listened to my body, and didn’t put myself in danger.

I still believe my training was better for the Country Music Marathon than any other race I have completed in the past. I went into the race injury free, and completed it in the same way. For me, this is a huge deal. As soon as I finished up, all I could think of was the 2 weeks of rest I am going to take, and October 7th, the Chicago Marathon. I still believe I have it in me to PR and get that 3:30. I know I do. One race will not get me down. It’s just a race. Not an indicator of my capabilities, not something to obsess over what did or didn’t go wrong – but a race.

6 Time Marathon Finisher!

I can make up excuses of why I didn’t PR on Saturday at the Country Music Marathon. But that would be silly. I didn’t PR because I didn’t PR. Not because I am a bad runner, or because the conditions were not good. Saturday was not my day to reach that 3:30. I don’t know why – it just wasn’t. But I know some day soon will be.

There is no difference between the person that reached that 3:30 time, myself, or someone who ran a 6 hour marathon. At the end of the day, we all are marathon finishers. We all covered the same distance, and we all deserved getting that medal hung around our necks. Congratulations to everyone that finished the marathon this weekend – it was not an easy endeavor!

We all did it!

A big, HUGE congrats to 2 of my best friends, Chris and Allison for conquering their first 26.2! This was a beyond big accomplishment for both of you, and I am so proud of you both. Your hard work definitely paid off! Chris’ parents, Bob and Denise also came to the race to cheer us all on. We had quite the crew in Nashville :)

Thanks so much to Gabe and Sarah Beth, our hosts for the weekend. They toted us around to the expo, the race, and everywhere in between. It is so much fun to have friends at races, and share with them something that you put so much of your life into. Thanks for everything!!!

Our awesome support group!

And thanks to all of my readers, supporters, and Twitter followers. I loved getting all the notifications of your well wishes throughout training, before, and after the marathon! Your words of encouragement mean so much to me, and I appreciate each and every one of you!!

159 days until Chicago, but hey, who’s counting?



39 Responses

  1. Callie @ The Wannabe Athlete
    Callie @ The Wannabe Athlete April 30, 2012 at 10:53 am |

    I am SO proud of you for running a SMART race. There will be more marathons. Way to gut it out while taking care of your body at the same time!

  2. Krissy @ Shiawase Life
    Krissy @ Shiawase Life April 30, 2012 at 10:54 am |

    Way to go for finishing strong, Mary! I know how desperate it can feel at the end of a race, especially when you have to mentally accept the fact that your A goal isn’t going to pan out that day. You still rocked it hard and I know you’ve got that 3:30 in you! :D

  3. Heather Montgomery
    Heather Montgomery April 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |

    way to go girl! I feel your pain. I ran a half a couple weeks ago at pensacola beach and starting temp was 74 with 86& humidity and zero clouds. I was hoping for a PR but that went out the window. Disappointing but I learned a lot.

  4. Meghann
    Meghann April 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |

    Loved this post. I was tracking you on Saturday and could tell you were struggling in the end. Your attitude for those last few miles is so refreshing and something I definitely needed to read leading up to my own marathon on Sunday. You trained beautifully for this race, but this race was just further proof that you never know how race day is going to go. Congrats on your finish (PR or not – you still kicked ass) and congrats to Marcus as well. Chicago is an amazing experience and I have a feeling you are going to shine in that race!

  5. Lynda @ Hit The Road Jane
    Lynda @ Hit The Road Jane April 30, 2012 at 11:03 am |

    I’m proud of you for listening to your body and knowing when to take it easy. It was getting dangerously hot and no PR is worth the risk of passing out or worse. You’ll get that sub 3:30 in Chicago!! Congrats on sticking it out on this one.

  6. Erin Bamrick
    Erin Bamrick April 30, 2012 at 11:09 am |

    Way to go, Mary! From someone who just ran an incredibly difficult (and HOT) marathon, I know your pain! It is SO important to listen to your body and not push it. You will totally nail that 3:30 in Chicago – the course is fast and FLAT FLAT FLAT. Not to mention, there are people EVERYWHERE.

    You finished your 6th marathon, which is something to be so proud of. What an accomplishment! Way to go :D


  7. Whitney
    Whitney April 30, 2012 at 11:46 am |

    Congratulations! Reading your recap reminded me of Boston and knowing you just had to finish and the rest didn’t matter. You should be so proud of yourself and your time given the race you ran… a huge accomplishment! Chicago is flat and fast…you’ll rock it I know it! Enjoy those 2 weeks…they are glorious!

  8. Whitney
    Whitney April 30, 2012 at 11:47 am |

    Congratulations! Reading your recap reminded me of Boston and knowing you just had to finish and the rest didn’t matter. You should be so proud of yourself and your time given the race you ran… a huge accomplishment! Chicago is flat and fast…you’ll rock it I know it! Enjoy those 2 weeks…they are glorious and well deserved!!

  9. Caroline Calcote
    Caroline Calcote April 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm |

    Great recap Mary! Very dramatic and inspiring. Way to go!

  10. Leah @ Chocolate and Wild Air
    Leah @ Chocolate and Wild Air April 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm |

    Way to go Mary!! I ran the half on Saturday in Nashville, and I know how brutal the conditions were and how hilly the course was – I can’t even imagine running the full. Finishing is definitely something to be proud of!

  11. Meg
    Meg April 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm |

    This is a really great post, Mary, and complements one I wrote last week when I didn’t PR at the Iron Girl Clearwater half. I enjoyed reading your recap, especially the emotional side of this race.

    Congrats on finishing your 6th marathon! That is incredible!

  12. Kristen Whitney
    Kristen Whitney April 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    Great job!! I know that feeling you get when you finish something that you just want to quit… way to hang in there and get that 6th marathon under your belt! :)

  13. Carrie
    Carrie April 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm |

    Sounds like such a tough race! Way to dig deep and finish!

  14. Ed
    Ed April 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

    You were not the only one teared up… Just reading your write up got me there.

    Congratulations — Quite the accomplishment !!!


  15. Julie Baum
    Julie Baum April 30, 2012 at 9:02 pm |

    Hey Mary,
    You are absolutely amazing, thanks for being so authentic in your sharing of your experience. So inspiring! Watch out Chicago…

  16. Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen May 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |

    Congrats on an amazing race!!!! Have you taken the race shirt off yet? :) It sounds like an incredible experience and I’m sure it will stick with you. I love your perspective and everything you said in the post!

  17. Tori @ In Love and Peanut Butter
    Tori @ In Love and Peanut Butter May 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

    “I didn’t PR because I didn’t PR. Not because I’m a bad runner”, certainly words for us all to remember during tough races. Thanks for sharing and you still rock! Way to go!

  18. Michael Miller
    Michael Miller May 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    Awesome job and congratulations to you & Marcus for finishing strong. I live 30 miles east of Nashville and trained all throughout the winter months for this race. Physically I thought I was ready for this and felt somewhat prepared for the hills however in my area the hills are slim to none. The course was challenging and BOY the heat was definitely a factor and played mentally throughout almost everyones mind. I know I hit my wall sooner than I anticipated. I can’t say enough about the support of the volunteers for this race and as you eluded to, those water hoses were extremely benefical. This was my 1st marathon and biggest race to date outside a 15K (where I averaged a 7:50/mile pace). I was hoping for a 4-4:15 finish however crossed the finish line @ 4:35 and I’m proud to have accomplished my goal. Good luck in the Chicago marathon as I’ve heard good reviews of that race and I’m sure you’ll get your PR. I’m looking for my next big race, possibly marathon.

    – Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

  19. Fiona
    Fiona May 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm |

    I ran the half, and I too ended up shivering during the race as well – not fun! It was such a hilly course! Next year I’m running 10 miles of hills to prepare!

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  21. Robin
    Robin May 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

    Congrats on pushing through and amazingly hard race. I know the pain you were feeling in those last 6 miles and am so in awe of your time during such a hard race. Great job, you will get that sub-3:30 in Chicago!

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