I woke up like a shot at 4:30am. I wanted to be up and ready when I got the call from Jeff for coffee and the ride to the start line with Aude. It was going to be a great day, I could feel it! We had coffee and a very light breakfast at the hotel.
My good friend Rosana got the opportunity to meet with Jeff and relay her aspirations of practicing his method as well as her story of being a breast cancer survivor and the confidence running has given her. Rosana, after all, had run this race as her first half marathon two years ago and experienced the emotion I was just getting a healthy dose of. She is the one who told me I needed to do the race but not because of the race. She was right!
The race itself featured a challenging course, plenty of volunteers (seemed like the entire town), themed water stations (thanks H2Joe!) and those flags! The race started with 161 seconds of silence and the release of a balloon for each victim. What a powerful image watching the balloons float to the heavens.
The hills startled me as I wasn’t prepared for them. I had planned an aggressive run walk run ratio of 3/:30 to attempt a PR run. It wasn’t meant to be and I knew it from mile 3. I altered my ratio at about mile 8 to 2/:30 to accommodate for the hills and my fatigue.
There was a gel station AND a Nuun station. I had never used Nuun and I definitely never saw it distributed before on the course so kudos to whoever instituted it, it was GREAT!
Typically, I abandon my strategy at the end of a race to maximize time. This time I chose to maintain all the way to the end so that I could appreciate those flags one last time. I’m sure if a PR depended on it, my decision would have been different, but it didn’t. I thanked each volunteer and spectator for having me in their town and thoroughly soaked in the last few hundred yards. I finished in 1:56:45 and enjoyed every second. The finisher medal was modest but impressive, which was fitting because I could describe Joplin with the same words.
Rosana told me she was sad she didn’t have anyone with her 2 years ago to enjoy what she thought was an awesome after party. She was not wrong in that observation. It was awesome! The music was great, the beer was cold. There was Cidre offered for non-beer drinkers (Rosana THANKS YOU!). The food spread was great. Cooked to order personal sized pizza and ready-made subs with turkey or ham.
I had the opportunity to meet with other runners, many from Joplin. It was refreshing to spend the day with such positive minded people. That was the lasting take away of the race…Positivity.
As I sat at lunch with Jeff celebrating everything the weekend offered, we had the opportunity to decompress and appreciate not only the accomplishments but each other. I have long admired Jeff for his ability to reach and motivate others. For him to take note of my passion and feel comfortable with the message he is expecting me to deliver is an honor.
As for the Joplin Memorial Marathon, it was more than a race for me. It was an eye opening experience to the resolve of a community and the hope that the story of Joplin’s recovery and healing should provide in any sign of adversity. I plan to return for this race every year. I also plan to take a weekend and bring my family down to show them what Midwestern values are. Good people being good people. Thank you Joplin, for your hospitality. You have a new fan on the other side of the state…
Thanks for reading…