Dr. J on Running

42 Hatfield McCoy Marathon, Goody, KY

14 June 2014

On-time graduation necessitated making up my failed Kentucky marathon under less than optimal circumstances. With tacit approval from my wife conditional on walking the marathon, I emailed Marc a request - "All I want for Father's Day is for you to spend the weekend with me in Kentucky." I invited him to walk with me the Hatfield McCoy Marathon. To my surprise, he accepted my invitation to travel, but decline the offer to run. As it turned out, his wife was at a physical therapy conference in North Carolina, freeing us boys to spend the week-end together.

This was the first time in his 30 years that Marc and I went away for a weekend. After a rewarding ACE staff ride to Gettysburg where my Timex Run Trainer GPS watch died and my A4 received its first scratch, I drove 90 miles to Virginia and spent Thursday night at Marc's. We set out for Williamson, WV, bright and early Friday morning after a hearty Paleo breakfast of organic bacon, organic eggs, organic potatoes, organic orange juice, and an un-organic banana.

The last 100 miles of the 340-mile trip took us through Appalachia, and showed us a part of America we had not seen before: unfathomable poverty, boarded-up towns, dilapidated trailers masquerading as homes, a toothless Mc Donald's cashier, and incredible natural beauty. We passed by two active coal mines, and saw multi-mile-long trains loaded with coal. I felt drained when we parked at the Belfry High School for packet pick-up.

The Boones greeted us at the 50 States Marathon Club table. The Hatfield McCoy was a reunion race for the club, and over 150 50-Staters and 250 Marathon Maniacs had registered. With a start in KY and finish in WV, the Hatfield McCoy Marathon could count for either state. I updated my statistics, and proceeded to pick up my race number and race packet. A disappointing short-sleeve T-shirt and a non-expo contributed to my funk.

We located the start and finish lines, then drove 30 miles to Pikeville, KY, for the night. The new Hilton Gardens Inn served the visitors to the University of Pikeville, a Presbyterian liberal arts college with a school of osteopathic medicine, built into a mountainside.

I slept well after a traditional dinner of sirloin steak, baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli at Texas Roadhouse. In the wee hours of the morning, I met Maniacs Angie and Sarah in the hotel lobby, and we gave a ride to Georgia 50-Stater Hunter. Marc dropped us off at Food City, and he returned to the hotel for a cooked-to-order breakfast reserved for Hilton gold elite members.

The wait for the start went by fast. I met the famous Sophia Shi, selected as the 2013 Best Frequent Marathoner. I visited with Ali on her 49th state. I saw Kino whom I had met in Hyannis and Cape May. I also met for the first time many of George’s friends. Lacey looked exactly like her picture, others did not. Finally, I joined the Maniacs/50-Staters photo and in singing the National Anthem on this Flag Day, the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner.

GPS-less, I bought an $8 stopwatch from Walmart to guide my new strategy for a 6-hour marathon. I decided to run to each mile marker, then walk until 14 minutes times that mile on the marker. In theory, this strategy would bring me asymptotically towards a 14-minute pace, with the second half alternating 12-minute walks with 2-minute runs, crossing the finish line just under 6 hours.

A neutered shotgun sent us off at 7:03. The temperature hovered in the low sixties. I ran the first mile in 10:20; walked until 14 minutes; ran to Mile 2; walked to 28 minutes; ran to Mile 3; and repeated the process. Many Maniacs passed me as I slowed down gradually towards my target 14-minute pace. The beautiful scenery distracted me from a variety of aches that reminded me of the insanity of my quest. Along the course, hand-written signs welcomed back repeat runners.

The Weather Channel ranked the Hatfield McCoy Marathon as one of the 15 toughest marathon in the world for its hills. The notorious 8-mile hill reunited me with Maniac Rebecca whom I met at Med City. Rebecca wore a “Maid of Honor” sign on her back, and ran with the Bride-to-be on her first marathon.

The course took us through scenic trails and past historic landmarks of the Hatfield McCoy feud. I reached the half in 2:52, a 13:07 pace. I felt good, but looked bad. I joined a trio of Maniac Divas who chanted and danced their way from mile to mile. The temperature inched up into the seventies.

Off-roading came none too soon, and brought back some welcome shade. The asphalt trail gave way to gravel, then dirt and mud. Water puddles and slippery pea-soup-mud replaced the soft dirt. I passed several Maniacs inching their way with caution, including Titanium Cindy. Then, in the distance, I saw the dreaded foot bridge.

Canadienne Meghan joined me after the bridge, and we ran-walked together the next 4 miles. She bid me adieu at Mile 23, and I trucked along. Marc came out to meet me with half-a-mile to go, and we chatted to a finish in 5:54:31. My second half of 3:02 translated to a pace of 13:54. In addition to a nice medal, finishers received a Hatfield McCoy canning jar.

I crossed the finish line around 1pm, and we were on the road by 1:15pm - destination Virginia. Marc drove the entire way, and we met Natalie for dinner at 8pm. Thus ended an impetuous make-up for the KY failure last December.

Dr Kamal Jabbour squuezed in Kentucky to keep alive his dream of a December 2014 graduation. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour