My Birthday Marathon – Covenant Marathon, Knoxville, TN, April 3, 2011

I’ve had a busy 3 weekends so these reviews are out of order. Knoxville really came the first weekend in April, but I had wanted to write everything about my memorable weekend in Boston right away before I forgot anything. The week before Boston, I was in Abilene, KS, to do the Eisehower Marathon. So, here is what happened on the first weekend in April, my birthday weekend.

If I had one word to describe Knoxville, it would be HILLY. I have no idea how many hills were on this course but there were quite a few. Even the University of TN is high upon a huge hill, and I know this because I walked the entire way, going roads up and stairs down. I stayed at the one of the host hotels, the Sheraton Four Points, a clean and pleasant place. Only problem was that my room was not ready when I arrived, so, although I left my suitcase at the hotel, I had to carry my big heavy bag with me as I explored the town. Put me in the center of a strange city and I will invariably select the wrong way to go when looking for where the action is. I found the convention center with no problem – it was close by – and picked up my packet and bib – but when I tried to find the business area with restaurants and shops, I kept choosing the wrong direction. I must have covered 5-6 miles or more before I finally discovered the Market Square area, a great wide street with plenty of places to eat and browse.

Went to bed early and when I got up on Sunday morning at, the temperature was about 47 degrees. Had my coffee and bread and got ready for the 7:30 am race start right near the convention center. We were allowed to use the bathrooms and stay warm inside the center which was very nice. I was still pretty tired from my extended walk the previous day and did not realize until just before I left the hotel that I had used the little decaf packet of coffee instead of the regular. I wondered how that would affect my time and pace – since I am used to that caffeine kick in the morning. Turns out it was not a problem but I was a little concerned early on. The race began with a rousing rendition of the UT theme song, Rocky Top, and that song was played in various venues throughout the race – it’s a catchy tune and I couldn’t get it out of my head for days (this is hard for a Gator to admit).

The course was marked with arrows on the ground which helped with directions although there were plenty of volunteers and police who were placed at every turn. I can’t say enough good things about these folks who helped make this race such a pleasant one (despite all those hills!). Much of the course wound through neighborhoods, along the Tennessee River, through parts of the University, and finished in Neyland Stadium. My favorite section was around the last 2 miles – we passed through the Market Square section of town I had discovered yesterday afternoon; by the time I walked by, lots of people were sitting in the outdoor cafes eating and they all clapped and cheered as I and my fellow ‘back of the packers’ strode by. It was definitely a lot of fun and a great way to finish the race; I moved much faster as I listened to them yell “Go, Florida” (something folks from FL don’t usually hear in TN – LOL – lots of football rivalry there).

After I crossed the finish line and got my medal, I had some trouble finding the building with food and drink – we had to walk for a while in a totally different direction. There was just pizza and water so I grabbed a slice and started to walk back to my hotel. On the way I stopped by the awards table to see if I had placed in my age group. There was a lot of confusion there and no one seemed to know what to do about the older and slower runners/walkers so I finally just gave up – turns out I did get 3rd in my age group but no award – not sure why. But I finished in 5:46:44 so I was pleased. It turned out to be a good birthday race.

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