A Texas Toughie: the Waco Miracle Match Marathon – January 30, 2011

It calls itself the toughest little marathon in Texas and rightly so. The initial 12 miles are fairly level but the final half of the course is hill after relentless hill. Those hills are steep and they seem to never end. Respite comes around mile 24 as the final two miles of the course wind around the Brazos River – and not a moment too soon.
There are pros and cons to this race. The big draw for me was the promise of fajitas at the finish line. While not the best I have ever eaten, there were indeed fajitas, and they tasted heavenly after a difficult course.
A little background first, however. We left on Friday morning to fly into Austin, one of our favorite cities. We rented a car, spent the night at the Embassy Suites (one of our favorite hotels in Austin), and the next day drove to Waco. Aside from a Dr. Pepper Museum and a Texas Rangers Museum, there is not much to see or do in Waco. The downtown area was pretty deserted. After checking into the Waco Hilton (one of two hotels near the start/finish line), we scouted around for packet pickup. Originally this was to be at the Hilton but it was later changed to a clubhouse in a local park. It was probably within walking distance from the hotel but, since we were not sure of its exact location, we ended up driving. Only a couple of vendors as well as sponsors Scott and White Healthcare and Waco Firefighters had booths so it was a very small affair. Since we had a car, we decided to drive the course and see what it was like. This always feels like a good way to get familiar with what to expect even though I seldom remember everything.
Back to the hotel to get my stuff ready for the next morning – it was then I discovered that our hotel bathroom had ANTS! Not one (is there ever really just one ant?) but whole trails of them winding through the backsplash and around the door. We called the front desk and eventually a maintenance person arrived with some Hot Shot which he sprayed all around the area. He mentioned that this was a common problem at the hotel – that was definitely NOT what we wanted to hear. Not much sleep that night for me!
Race morning dawned warm and humid, about 60 degrees, my kind of race weather. I dressed with just a short-sleeved tee under a long-sleeved tech shirt with a light jacket and my crops and cap. No gloves or hand warmers or heavy vest this time. The first 6 miles are a loop around the Baylor University campus. As we return to the starting line area, the half marathoners break off from us, and those doing the full turn down a relatively flat stretch along the main drag of Austin Avenue. From there the course follows Lake Waco and through a community college campus and then those hills I mentioned earlier.
While the hills were steep and never-ending, compared to the 7500’ hills of Ghost Town a few weeks earlier, they were the proverbial piece of cake. I did not have to stop mid-hill to take a breath but continued on with my usual steady pace. I chatted for a while with a Galloway run-walk fellow who, as usually with the Galloway followers, got ahead of me when he ran and fell behind me when he walked. He joked that, while he alternately sped up and slowed down, I was just like a metronome, with such an even speed, he could use me as his pacer. That’s not the first time I’ve had the term metronome applied to me – LOL. Only problem I had during this race was my shins – road races seem to be especially hard on them. Trail races, on the other hand, are so gentle on the feet and legs that I really prefer them (although tripping over roots and rocks is a hazard of a different kind).
Things to note about this race:
• course is very well-marked, with white chalk marks on the road the entire way. Since getting lost is one of my concerns, this was very much appreciated by me. Orange cones helped to give us some separation from the traffic.
• I finished in just under 6 hours, but the course stayed open for the full 7 hours, even a bit beyond since I noticed that one of the finishers took almost 8 hours. Again, keeping the course open the allotted time is a hallmark of a well-organized race, so that too is much appreciated.
• Aid stations had water, Gatorade, bananas and oranges, and candy (including Snickers bars – yum!) and the aid stations were plentiful, especially at the end (about every mile) when they are sorely needed, especially since it was so hot and humid.
• This is a very small race, with under 200 marathoners. The half had more entrants and there was a relay section for the full, but the marathon is essentially a very small field. I was alone for many sections of the course (not a problem for me as long as I don’t have to worry about losing my way but it may be lonely for folks who like lots of noise and chatter around them).
• There were hardly any spectators, although there were some stalwart people who sat on their porches or rooftops and waved and called out supporting words to us. Again, the lack of spectators was not a problem for me at all, but it may be disconcerting for some racers who rely on spectator support to get them through the hard parts.
• Volunteers at aid stations and police doing traffic control – there were lots of them and they were all terrific!
• Schwag included a short-sleeved cotton tee shirt (good), big finisher’s medal with colorful lanyard (nice), and black windbreaker that was way too big and had a dark emblem that was invisible on the dark jacket (not so good).
Rather than spend another night in Waco as we had originally planned, we decided to drive back to Austin and finish our trip there. Would I do this race again? Probably not. This was my 4th Texas race, and Austin remains my #1 favorite, followed by the Texas Marathon in Kingwood.  I’m certainly glad I had the opportunity to test my abilities on this marathon, but once was enough.

2 thoughts on “A Texas Toughie: the Waco Miracle Match Marathon – January 30, 2011

  1. That’s a great race report. I felt as if I were right beside you on the course. I, too, like the idea of Snickers bars. Thank you for the report and congratulations on completing yet another race.

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