The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful as our plane touched down in sunny Memphis on Friday morning. We were able to check in to our hotel early and went for a memorable 5-mile run along the Mississippi River. On Saturday the temperature climbed up into the lower 70s and we spent the day mostly just enjoying our long weekend in Memphis, basking in the beautiful spring sunshine and anticipating the upcoming race on Sunday morning.
Despite the beautiful weather on Friday and Saturday though, the weather outlook for Sunday wasn’t quite as positive. The same storm that was dumping snow on Oklahoma and Texas was heading our way, with almost no chance that it could miss us. Sure enough, the rain began early Sunday morning and while the temperature starting out at around 50 degrees, by the end of the race it was closer to 40 degrees with the wind howling and the rain coming down in buckets. For a good portion of the first part of the race the wind and rain came from behind, but when we changed directions at about the 7-mile mark in the race, heading back towards the Germantown Athletic Club, the 10- to 20-mile-per-hour wind was magnified by the cold rain meeting us head-on, and I began to question the sanity of runners in general, and me in particular.
But this was a big race for me. It was the Southern Half Marathon Championship for the RoadRunners Clubs of America, but more importantly for me, it was the 8th race in the 9-race Running Journal Grand Prix series. All runners who ran this race and also the Little Rock Half Marathon two weeks ago would receive double points for their best finish. Currently I’m in first place in the 55-59 age division. Our friend Jerry Sofley, also from Gastonia, made the trip with us and is currently in first place in the 60-64 age division. In Memphis we met up with another friend we’ve gotten to know from the Grand Prix, Don Vining, from Georgia, who currently has a commanding lead in the Grand Prix in the 65-69 age group. I’m happy to say that things worked out for all three of us — Don and I both finished 1st in our age group and Jerry finished 2nd, giving us all a big lead going into the last race on Memorial Day Weekend, the Cotton Row Run in Huntsville, Alabama. In addition, my wife Linda finished 1st out of 11 runners in her age group in the 5k, and Don’s girlfriend finished 1st in her age group as well.
I was happy with my final time of 1:35:53. It wasn’t my fastest half marathon ever, but certainly not my slowest either. It definitely provided me with a little more data in figuring out my heart rate training. Since I began monitoring my heart rate during races I had been able to maintain a heart rate of 166 beats per minute throughout all of my races, no matter what distance (5k, 10k, half marathon) except in last month’s Valentine Run in Black Mountain, where I was never able to climb to 166 bpm. It happened again in this race. When I reached about 163 bpm it seemed to be all the gas I had, so instead of pushing it I decided to just stay at the more comfortable slower heart rate. When I checked my Garmin after the race I had averaged 162 throughout the race instead of the usual 166.
From the race logo I had expected Germantown to be in a rural setting with lots of farms and horses, but from what I saw it’s more of a busy suburb of Memphis filled with expensive homes, lots of shopping, and wide streets that are great for running. Jerry and I drove most of the course on Saturday and it was really a beautiful area. On Sunday, of course, with the miserable weather it was hard to appreciate it as much, but maybe we’ll make it back next year for an encore in hopefully better weather.