Monday, April 11, 2016

Race Report: Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon

It is time for man to mark his goal. It is time for man to plant the germ of his highest hope.-- Friedrich Nietzsche

Knoxville, Tennessee is about 4 hours away from Atlanta give or take a cow or two. Once again I had to hit the road and stay at a hotel. This time was different as I had the family in tow. Knoxville isn't a small town by any stretch but the southern feel was more prevalent here than in Atlanta. Knoxville is also a college town where half of the marathon participants wore University of Tennessee orange. It was slightly difficult to find a hotel room in Knoxville. I am not sure if it was because of the marathon or not but rooms were booked. I had no problems finding a room in Hilton Head so I was in no rush for Knoxville. I learned my lesson.

I parked for free maybe 200-250 yards away from the start for free. That my friends, is awesome. The start was very close to the Sun Sphere and it had enough people to feel like a big race but not so many that you had 50 waves and a 6 hour wait before you could start. I actually really loved the start of this race. There were 5 corrals and the speakers blared with "Rocky Top". I am not a southern boy but I know that song means a ton to Tennesseans. It was enough people for that runners camaraderie feel but I was able to hit my pace by the time I hit a quarter mile.

The University of Tennessee campus is beautiful and it offered a decent amount of fans. There seems to be a lot of things to read but I couldn't because I was a bit preoccupied but I remember seeing many historic statues. The down side to the race was the hills. According to my Nike+ App, the elevation was about 300 feet less than Atlanta. I suffered less but it didn't feel like much less climbing.

There were a few long stretches that were less culturally scenic but that was replaced by some amazingly beautiful homes. They were so appealing that I wanted to take some snapshots. I decided against that because I only remember seeing 4 black folks in the entire race (seriously) and I didn't want to be the one black dude photographing some rich white guy's house. The volunteers (no pun intended) and spectators along the route were terrific in these otherwise quiet neighborhoods. It waste of those things where it felt like they were clapping only for me.

Now the part that sucks. Noelton Drive was this big climb. People literally had signs apologizing for the hill. It was a two part climb and it is a spirit crusher. Despite the torturous climb, there were people with cool signs and words of encouragement. At the top of the hill, after we made a right turn, there was the biggest group of people along the course. That was a nice reward after the total annihilation at the hands of Noelton Rd.

Usually Half-Marathons and Full-Marathons have a pretty early split but this one lasted almost until the Half was complete. After the split the race went through World Fair Park and under the Sun Sphere.
That was super cool but then, like most marathons with a split, you hit no man's land. It turns into this sort of single file deal with one runner every 50 yards. It gets lonely out there.

As the race edged closer to the end the course took runners through this great little downtown area with bars and restaurants with people clapping or giving a thumbs up. There was one more uphill and then a turn to 100,000 seat Neyland Stadium. The approach to the stadium was nothing short of epic. My wife and children were sitting in the stands and cheered me into the stadium that finished on the 50 yard line. Aside from the NYC Marathon, this was the best finish ever.

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