Four years ago, I signed up to run the St. Jude half-marathon in Memphis. The event ended up being canceled due to adverse weather. I’ve been wanting to run it ever since, but never actually signed up until this year. Today was the race.
I set a new personal record of 2:12:52, breaking my old record of 2:13:34 set in Nashville in 2014.
I could not be happier.
I love the Memphis course. Absolutely love it. It makes me hate the Nashville course now. I’m already signed up to run Nashville next April, and I have every intention of running that half-marathon, but I’m hooked on the Memphis race now. I may do two a year for the time being.
The Memphis course has several advantages over Memphis. It’s much flatter. It’s far more scenic. You get to run through the St. Jude campus, where they remind you what you’re running for. (I might be a fundraiser next year, Lord willing.) The water stops are more frequent. The exit process after crossing the finish line (at AutoZone Park) is far less convoluted. There are fewer turns. The final 3+ miles are a virtual straightaway. The only advantage the Nashville course has is the starting point. Broadway Avenue is much wider than the starting point in Memphis, which is on 2nd Avenue. In Memphis, you’re literally packed together like sardines starting off.
The weather was perfect. It was in the upper 40’s when I arrived just before sunrise, and in the 60’s when I got back into my car after finishing. It was sunny with no wind.
The irony is that I felt really fatigued during miles 7-9, and started to wonder if I’d be able to run the entire distance. That’s always my primary goal, to be able to run the entire 13.1 miles without having to walk. I was a little concerned, because I wore down a little more than midway through.
And then something happened that I cannot explain. The course turns west for that final straightaway right before the 10-mile marker. I checked my time at that point. I was at 1:42, and figured I was about a minute slower than I needed to be for a personal record. Could I speed up enough to shave off a minute? I was going to try. At that moment, everything seemed to click perfectly. I suddenly felt wonderful & confident. I was tired, of course, but no longer so fatigued. I sped up for the final three miles. I was passing other runners. I never speed up at mile 10. This has never happened to me. That’s the point where I typically start to fade, with my pace decreasing with each successive mile. My 11th mile today was my 4th-fastest of the race, and, oddity of all oddities, miles 12 & 13, at 9:11 each, were my two fastest miles.
And so I broke my personal record. I’ve never felt better after a half-marathon. I wish I could save my best for last every time. But I don’t really know how I was able to accomplish this.
Today’s run was made even sweeter by the fact that the Nashville race back in April was such a dud. It was hot that day — in the 80’s for most of the race — and my time was by far my worst ever. It was confidence-shattering, and I really was hoping to redeem myself in Memphis. And so, at 48, I broke the personal record I set at 44.
Also, my sore right knee & right quad that have plagued me the last 2+ weeks were not a factor. I arrived downtown almost 2 hours prior to the start of the race, and had time to stretch out ad nauseum. And that’s exactly what I did. Believe me, it made all the difference.