The Cowtown Marathon – February 26, 2012

Well, it’s not Austin, but Fort Worth has a rough and ready charm all its own. This race appealed to me because it has a generous 7 ½ hour time limit and includes an ultra as well as a half marathon (and a 5k and 10k as well, but those are both run on the Saturday before the longer races). I seriously considered signing up for the ultra (a 50k) but then decided it would be much less stressful and a lot more fun to just do the marathon.

My husband accompanied me on this trip; since he is a native Texan, he usually welcomes any foray back to his home state. We set off early on Saturday to drive to Jacksonville where we caught an early flight to Atlanta and then on to Dallas-Fort Worth. On both legs of the journey, we were fortunate to be upgraded (thank you, Delta!) and arrived at the airport tired but relaxed (that extra leg room makes a big difference). I had arranged for a Super Shuttle to take us to the host hotel, the Sheraton Downtown. While this hotel was attractive and clean, it was not geographically close to any restaurants (except for the one at the hotel) or to the expo at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. However, it was a pleasant day, so we walked the 2 miles to the expo. We picked up my packet with bib, D-chip, and short sleeve tee shirt (white with a colorful design on the front). There were more vendors than I expected so Darcy and I walked around checking out all the booths and then stayed for a course overview where I had a chance to see slides of the race and ask some questions about the course.

Since it was supposed to be 39 degrees on race morning, one of my questions was whether we would be allowed to stay inside the Center to keep warm. The answer, thankfully, was YES. That was a great relief to me, since I planned to be on the first shuttle which left my hotel at 5:15, and I really did not want to be standing outside in the cold until the races began at 7 am. I also asked about how the course was marked and was reassured that there were arrows marked on the street, signs on the corners, and course martials at every turn. This was true and I was immensely grateful for the accurate and helpful markings.

After we left the expo, we headed downtown to look for a place to eat. We found a Mexican restaurant and had some decent (but not terrific) fajitas. Since my travels are as much a culinary excursion as a race trip, especially when my husband is along (he is really the food fanatic), we try to find especially good food typical of the locality. Unfortunately, we were still on our Tex-Mex kick after Austin, and so we concentrated on finding fajitas, but the 2 restaurants we dined at were just so-so. In hindsight, I would have preferred a good steak or barbeque, and if we ever return to Ft. Worth at some point we will take on that challenge.

It was still early afternoon and my husband wanted to do some genealogical research at the Ft. Worth Public Library, so we wandered over to the library. I spent the rest of the day browsing through the stacks of this very impressive and attractive building and thoroughly enjoying myself. Soon enough it was time to go back to the hotel and get ready for the race.

My alarm was set for 3:30 am and I woke up just minutes before it sounded. I ate my usual breakfast, bread and coffee, dressed, and then proceeded to go through my usual stages of panic. It really doesn’t matter how many marathons I’ve completed, I still get stressed out before every race. I begin to get nervous the evening before. I study the course map very carefully to get an idea of sorts in my head as to how the course is arranged, what turns I need to be careful of, what landmarks I need to watch for, and when I can relax a bit during a straight leg portion or perhaps towards the end. But nervous as I am the night before, nothing approaches the anxiety I feel on race morning. That’s when I have to ease my fears that I will get lost or stumble or cramp by using lots of positive self-talk and deep breathing techniques. My concerns do not lessen until the race finally begins and I am on my way. What a sense of relief, once I am actually moving towards that finish line!

Downstairs in the hotel, other early runners were waiting patiently for the buses to appear. I hopped on the first bus and sat down. As soon as we were full, the bus took off for the Will Rogers Center. It was warm and pleasant inside with a bonus of real restrooms. I stood around the perimeter of the warm-up room and chatted with other people until around 6:45 I decided to get into my corral, #5 (out of 6 total). It took me about 15 minutes to cross the start line, but once across, everyone spread out and it was easy for me to get into a regular rhythm of walking (mostly) and running (downhill).

As noted above, the course was very well-marked, and with plenty of runners ahead of and behind me, I could finally relax and ease into a very positive mind set. The most unpleasant thing about this otherwise great race was the WIND! It seemed to blow directly at us no matter which direction we were heading into and was so strong that I ended up taking off my Marathon Maniacs cap and pinning it to my jacket so it wouldn’t blow off my head. My husband later told me that Dallas/Ft. Worth is always very windy in February. I can believe it.

I crossed the finish line in 5:42:21, received my attractgive Cowtown medal on a bright yellow lanyard and entered the Will Rogers Center to get my finisher’s shirt (a long-sleeved blue tech shirt) and some bananas, yogurt, and other food items. My husband found me and we made our way to the shuttle bus for the ride back to the hotel. After a shower and nap, we had another undistinguished fajita meal (next time in Ft. Worth – steak for me), and readied ourselves for the trip back to Florida. All in all, a good trip, a worthwhile race, and fun memories of Ft. Worth.

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