First Light Marathon in Mobile, Alabama – January 8, 2012

There are just some marathons that I really enjoy and this is definitely one of them. It is within easy driving distance of my home (7 hours), it gives me a good excuse to stop part way in Tallahassee to visit my son and his family, and the city of Mobile is welcoming and gracious –southern hospitality writ large. And of course the race itself is well-organized, low-key, and just plain fun, with a varied course and lots of Maniacs and 50 staters in attendance. The only negative (and it is not a big deal at all) is that the race is not chip timed so it’s hard to think about achieving a PR. As a back of the packer, I tend to hang out at the tail end of the runners so it takes me a while to get across the chalk starting line. But since all the money from the race goes to L’Arche Mobile, a charity that helps disabled adults from the community, I certainly prefer that the funds be used wholly for that purpose; chip timing is expensive.

The drive from Tallahassee went smoothly and I arrived in Mobile around 11 central time. I made a stop at one of my favorite bookstores, Bienville Books, where I found a boxed inexpensive set of Jane Austen and a Bill Bryson book I hadn’t read yet. I always like to stop at this neat store and stock up on gently used books for my frequent plane trips. The race expo was held at the nearby City/County Building Atrium starting at noon on Saturday. It’s a relatively small affair but runs very smoothly. Cheryl from the Savage Seven had a booth with her quilts (she makes exquisite quilts from tee shirts) and we chatted for a while. Chuck Savage (who started the Savage Seven) joined us for a while. I then returned to my room to relax and get ready for the race.

Once again I chose to stay at the Holiday Inn downtown, and my room on the 12th floor had a great view. This turned out to be a wonderful place to stay because the GoDaddy football game was scheduled for marathon weekend and a big parade was to take place on Saturday evening right outside my window. I had a bird’s eye view of the entire parade, with its colorful floats and marching bands, all from the comfort of my air-conditioned room. What fun! The hotel was full of people wearing red and black, the colors of the Red Wolves of Arkansas State University, and they were gearing up for an exciting game against Northern Illinois. I heard later that the Red Wolves lost so there must have been some unhappy howling on the ride home for many of the Arkansas folks, but I trust they enjoyed themselves in Mobile nevertheless.

The race began right on time and we were off! This year, instead of the freezing cold temperatures of the last 3 years, the weather was very hot and humid. I was terribly overdressed but managed okay regardless. I ran just a bit for a minute or two every couple of miles but spent most of the time at a comfortable walking pace. I kept passing and then being passed by a racewalker who turned out to be from Minnesota. We struck up a conversation in fits and starts, the way racers do during a long race, and it turned out he was a 50 stater and had just completed the Jackson MS Blues marathon the previous day. He was doing fantastic for someone who had just walked a marathon the day before! The only major problem I had was around mile 19 when I experienced a major hamstring cramp and had to pull off to the side of the road to stretch it out. This took several painful moments and was kind of scary since it had been quite a while since I had to flat out stop because of a bad cramp. I attribute it to the heat and humidity and the fact that I was unprepared for it; I had only brought with me 2 S-caps (both of which I had taken earlier) and nothing salty to munch on. Lesson learned; from now on, pack half a dozen S-caps, whether I think I will need them or not, and bring along some pretzels, crackers, chex mix, or some other foods with salt.

The race has a generous 7 hour time limit, so it is ideal for walkers and slower runners. While there are not significant numbers of people on the course during the later hours, I was never completely alone and did not have to be concerned about which way to go, since chalk arrows on the ground and signs along the road were plentiful. I finished in 5:52:16, under my 6 hour goal, so I was pleased. Since awards go 5 deep in this race, I was able to place fifth in the female senior grand masters once again. Medals are wooden circles decorated with decals and hung on a ribbon lanyard. These are made by the beneficiaries of L’Arche Mobile and there are usually several of them at the finish line who graciously give these to the runners.

The post-race meal is BBQ beef or chicken, with rice and beans, cole slaw, and a bun, and there is plenty for latecomers. I took my meal back to my hotel room, peeled off the 3 layers of clothes I was wearing, showered, ate, and took a nap. Later that evening I had a hankering for a bit more food, so I had a light supper at the Holiday Inn dining room, went to bed early, and had a blessedly uneventful ride home the next day. Once again, Mobile put on a good race!

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