Dr. J on Running

17 Mississippi Blues Marathon, Jackson, MS

7 January 2012

The flight from Syracuse to Jackson was uneventful. I ate skirt steak at the Rum Bar & Grill during my layover in Charlotte. The taxi driver from Jackson airport to the hotel chatted about the marathon and the runners he had transported all day. I checked into the Marriott in time to eat a second dinner at the Concierge Lounge. The reuben sandwich with a side of gumbo on rice tasted good.

A foursome of runners in the corner of the lounge hailed me as I left my table. “Hey, 50-stater.” Introductions followed. Jenny, Mike and Tom traveled from Columbus, OH, and Jim came from Alexandria, VA. I joined them for tea and dessert, and we chatted away about marathons past and future.

I slept well after two dinners and five pieces of dessert. I ate an early breakfast at the Concierge Lounge, and went downstairs to look for cappuccino. The desk staff had a good laugh when I asked for a good coffee shop within walking distance. “This is Mississippi. You can get good sweet tea.”

I walked to the expo to loosen my legs. Packet pick-up disappointed – another lousy short-sleeve T-shirt. Granted, the goody bag was colorful and contained a harmonica. Team 413 had a booth at the expo, so I bought two shirts – one short-sleeve, one long-sleeve – with Philippians 4:13 printed on the back. I refrained from wearing my brand new shirt for the marathon as many runners did.

I spent most of the day in my room watching Russian and Japanese television, interrupted by mandatory naps and walks every couple of hours. On my way down to dinner, the elevator stopped at the seventh floor and my Ohio friends walked on. I joined them for dinner in the hotel, then I retired early.

Overnight rain gave way to a cloudy morning at 50 degrees. I planned to run from water stop to water stop, and to walk two minutes at each. Water stops were spaced 1.6 miles apart the first 20 miles, then every mile to the finish line. My plan fell apart at first contact with the 5-hour pace group. I ran initially with three 29-year-old ladies sporting shirts that read “Team Hot Legs.” Although they planned to run a week-end double with Jackson, MS, on Saturday and Mobile, AL, on Sunday, their pace proved too hot for my old legs.

To describe the course as hilly would be a cruel understatement. The course elevation map shows no fewer than 15 major hills. After running several miles with Team Hot Legs, I fell back onto my strategy. I attacked the hills, and coasted on the downhill. The pavement had cracks and potholes, almost as bad a Pennsylvania highways, keeping my attention on my footing. I had fun on pace for a 4:40 finish, then the sun came out.

The temperature and humidity rose rapidly late morning, reaching 72 degrees by 11am. I passed 22 miles in about 4 hours, and hit the wall. I walked most of the last four miles, jogging on-and-off with Terri, a first-timer from Shreveport. She had run the first half in two hours, before succumbing to the hills, heat and humidity.

I could have used some ice in the last few miles, but none was available. I poured water on my head and neck, and it felt good. The final stretch towards the finish line was straight uphill. I looked up with awe towards the finish arch, and hammered up that final hill. I finished in 5:04:19.

The medal was by far the largest marathon medal I have seen. At 11 ounces of solid metal, it got the attention of the security folks at the airport. Pizza tasted good. The quarter mile walk to the hotel was painful. Every muscle and every joint hurt. I had blisters on a few toes. My quads burned. I checked off Mississippi – all in all a positive experience.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran his 17th Marathons in 17 states in Mississippi. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2012 Dr Kamal Jabbour