The Mississippi River Half Marathon Race Report

The Mississippi River Half Marathon Race Report

“Against the wind
I’m still runnin’ against the wind
I’m older now but still runnin’ against the wind.” 
~Bob Seger

If you are hoping to read a race report about a perfectly executed race in which I nailed my pacing strategy this is not the one.  (That might better describe my 15K last week.)  The half marathon I ran yesterday was a fight from start to finish and it was rough.  I’ve never fought against nature in a race like I did yesterday.  The weather is one of those factors you have no control over and most of the time it is very manageable but yesterday it got the better of me.

Several months ago I heard about a new race coming to Mississippi.  I kept seeing it advertised as one of the “flattest and fastest courses in North America.” Of course, that got my attention.  Who doesn’t love a flat fast course?!  Plus, the race was only about 3 hours away.  I really wanted to do a winter/ spring half marathon and this one fit perfectly into my racing calendar.  However, I was a little tempted to do the full for two reasons:  First of all, if I did the full it would be free.  My time from the St. Jude marathon in December qualified me with an elite entry since I had a recent marathon time under 3:10.  Also, there was prize money ($500 for 1st place, $300 for 2nd, and $200 for 3rd place).  But, I had already registered for the Little Rock Marathon in March and the Boston Marathon in April.  I thought three marathon three months in a row might be pushing it for me-especially if I was trying to PR.  I also wanted to run a fast half time and this would be my only real shot until the fall. Plus, what if I ran the full but didn’t even place in the top three?  So….. after A LONG time deliberating what to do I went ahead dropped $70 to register for the half.  (This race only offered elite entry in to the full not the half.) 

I rode in Friday night with a few of my running friends who were also racing Saturday.  We were all doing the half except for my friend Tish who was doing the full.  I was focused and ready to run a great half.   Then we read some updated weather reports and discovered it was going to be colder and A LOT windier than we had expected. Normally in any half or full wind is not a constant issue because you change direction throughout the course.  Unfortunately for us, this was a point to point race and we were headed northeast the entire time against the wind.

I was determined not to let the wind get the best of me.  I was planning on hitting a sub 6:30 pace so I could break 1:25.  There were not corrals but the race director announced projected race paces to line up together.  There were roughly 700 or so doing the half and when he called for all sub 7 minute pace runners I was the only female to line up at the front.  Ok. I’ve never been in this position before…

The race begins at the base of the Mississippi river bridge in Arkansas.  It is a two mile long bridge over the Mississippi river.  When you cross the bridge you head into Mississippi. 

The only incline of the race is on the first mile when you are headed up the bridge and the only decline of the race is during mile 2 when you are headed down.  Miles 3-13 are FLAT.   (Cool random race fact- If you are wanting to run a marathon in every state you can officially you count this race towards Arkansas OR Mississippi.) 

The race
Mile 1- 6:44.  Not good.  Already 15 seconds off pace because of the incline over the bridge and the unexpected pounding of the wind against my body.  I realized quickly I was going to have to kick it up a notch.  Surely I could run a 6:16 at some point to counter this one so maybe it’s not so bad…

Mile 2- 6:29.  Better.  Made it down the bridge and the rest would be flat.

Mile 3- 6:26.  Felt ok.  Wishing this pace felt easier than it did.  I also wished there was someone I could draft off of but there just weren’t enough runners.  The closest guys were way in front of me.

5K- 20:22

Mile 4- 6:29. Starting to realize that maintaining a sub 6:30 was going to be harder than I planned.  It was like the wind was sucking away my energy.  There were no buildings or people to draft from.  I was running on a rural highway by myself.  Focus.  Stay on pace.  You can do this.

Mile 5- 6:28.  Shot blok and some water.

Mile 6- 6:41. What just happened? I did not want to see a 6:30- something , let alone a 6:40-something.

10K- 40:40

Mile 7- 6:37. I was counting down miles until I could stop fighting the wind and at least now I was more than halfway done.

Mile 8- 6:33.  Better.  Stay with it!

Mile 9- 6:37.

15K- 1:01:00

Mile 10- 6:40.  Just one more 5K to go!  I knew breaking 1:25 or even running a 1:25-something was out but I knew I could make a 1:26:xx if I held on to my pace. 

Mile 11- 6:39.

Mile 12- 6:39. Hold on!

Mile 13- 6:34.  I saw the finish line WAY far ahead in the distance.  Immediately I knew that I was going to be running longer than expected.  It was one of those kind of races.  A 1:26:XX was going to have to wait. 

Mile 13.3- 1:48 (6:13 avg.).

Total time: 1:27:30 (6:35 avg.) unofficial.  My official average is 6:40.  That extra distance makes a big difference in average pace.  I talked with the first place male finisher and his watch had 13.3 as well.  So did two of my friends.

I was happy to be done and happy to have finished first female.   I later found out the second female finished around 1:40 so that answered my question I had been wondering all race about how much of a lead I had.  I think it helped me not knowing because I imagined there was one right behind me so I wouldn’t let up.

When I finished I borrowed someone’s phone to call John and then I stopped by gear check just to get out my gloves and a long sleeve shirt.  I had planned on getting in my final long run for Little Rock so that meant I needed 7-8 more miles.  I ran to the 23 mile marker of the marathon.  I had told my friend Tish that I would meet her there so I could run the last part in with her.  The 23 mile marker had a great volunteer support crew.  They had a huge tent that helped block the wind.  They let me borrow one of their chairs and and a big blanket.  They had gatorade, water and donuts.  It was the perfect waiting place.

Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Around 3 hours after the half and full started I was still waiting for the first female to pass by.  A few men had already passed (the winning male finished in 2:30) but no sign of any women.  That’s when I started getting a sick feeling like I had made the wrong decision.  I should have signed up for the full.  It turns out the winning female marathon time was 3:24.  Instant regret.  I should have run the full.  I could have made $500 which would have totally helped my family.  Had I known I would have won, of course I would have run the full.  I assumed other elites would be all over it going for that kind of cash.  Yes, hindsight is 20/20. 

Anyway, back to the race, after a while I saw my friend.  She was right on target to possibly PR if she kept the pace.  I ran right next to her on her final stretch.  She was trying to run around an 8:15 pace and she was staying positive.  She crossed the line at 3:38:16 with a 30 second PR!

I have some crazy hair going on!
Our group

A plaque is much better than $500, right?!

I am happy with my new half PR.  I worked hard for it.  I just know I am capable of more right now and I wished it would have been reflected in my finish time.  Besides the crazy wind and extra long course, I learned a lot from this race experience.  Next year I am not going to let my fear of not placing in the top three keep me from taking a chance on going for what I want.  I am going to sign up for the full.  Bring on all the elites- it’s fine with me.  Because even if I come in 4th and don’t win any prize money at least I will know I tried and have no regrets. 

I was happy to come home last night back to life.  I missed this bunch.

random couch picture

So what is next?

Well, believe it or not the Little Rock Marathon is 3 weeks from today.  So the “taper” process has begun.  I was able to get in my 21 miles yesterday so my last long run is complete.  Time to get focused on my next big goal.

I will keep aiming for a sub 1:25 half.  I plan to run a few HM’s this fall and I will get it right.  But for now, it’s time to switch gears.  It’s marathon mode time.

29 thoughts on “The Mississippi River Half Marathon Race Report

  1. I don’t think you should regret your decision – your goal races are the other two and running an extra one would have impacted on your results there. It was a great time regardless of your goal. A PR is a PR when all’s said and done.

  2. Great work out there! Yes, that wind was crazy! My distance for the full on my Garmin was 26.59. With very few turns, that was just annoying that it was that off. Especially since I missed my BQ goal by 12 seconds. Bummer. I talked to the race officials about the distance. They all just told me that the course is certified with a shrug. Not sure if that means they don’t accept feedback on that kind of thing.

    1. I am SO sorry about your 12 seconds. Ughhhh. I emailed RD about distance but haven’t heard back. I would like to do full there next year but hoping they shorten the course a little to get it a bit closer to 26.2. You did great out there Saturday. My friend Tish thinks she ran near you.

  3. congrats on an AWESOME race. You will for sure nail that sub 1:25 half and beyond this fall. My last half PR, before this past fall, was on an insanely hilly course with headwinds that were moving me while I was running. terrible. But it makes you stronger. In less than 2 weeks I am running the same race again and am so nervous! anyway, every race has a purpose, and you are strong. You are going to rock it at little rock…sub 3 is yours this year:)

    1. It’s hard to imagine you having a hard race but I’ll take your word on it. 🙂 I think I started reading your blog right before you turned into an elite running super star! Thanks for your sweet comment about going sub 1:25.

  4. I personally think you paced this race really well. It would have been silly to go out @ 6:25 pace, or not to adjust due to the conditions. 6:35 average for 13.1 is what your 15K predicted, so this is perfect, and you did this with crazy headwind! This pace puts you at just about 3 hours for the marathon, but I think you could break 3 hours if you get better conditions. So excited for you! I know the HM PR is bittersweet, but you’ve got to account for the weather here! again, super job!

    1. Thanks Ana Maria! Good point. It’s hard adjusted race goals mid race but you are right. Thanks for your great advice. You are like my comment coach! 🙂

  5. Congrats, Tina!! I saw something on FB about the race and meant to come to your site today to read about it! Such an awesome awesome time! Don’t get down about the full – it’s definitely a lot of $ – just know that you are going to rock it next year!! =)
    Congrats on an amazing race and time – despite the course and conditions =)

  6. Hi Tia! New to your blog! You are SO FAST! I know you ran in college, but seriously – how are you so fast today – after 4 kids?? We’re you told once that you just are naturally fast? Or is it years and years of running, even through pregnancies? Do you strength train as well?


    1. Thanks! I appreciate it! I did run in college but 5K’s or shorter. I ran in between babies but was never ran consistently throughout a pregnancy until my 4th (after I had re-caught the running bug). As far as strength training- I do not do nearly what I should but I do spend about 15 minutes every night doing a combination of push-ups and ab exercises. It doesn’t take long but it’s a simple routine I can do after the kids go to bed.

  7. Congrats to you Tia!! You had a great race in hard conditions. And PR’d. You will have that sub 1:25 soon..and to think not that long ago you were after a sub 1:30! :))

    I am coming back for another read…only had a chance to skim this. Saw the 500 $ prize money for the full and totally dropped my jaw. Next year, lady!!! Love that you were thinking about that. It would be a nice reward 🙂

    1. Thanks Raina. It was definitely a learning experience. Trying to win $$ from racing is something I am relatively new to which is a whole new ballgame. Hopefully next year things will workout out better in this department but for now I am going to be content with where I am. Thanks for your comment- as always!

  8. I live/train right on the east coast and have run against some terrible winds/Nor’ Easters. The fact that you did as well as you did is a testament that you are SO well trained. There are times the wind has made me just stop and cry during a race. Your attitude is admirable!!!

    1. Thanks Emily. I kept reminding myself that everyone else had to run in that awful headwind too. I think wind is my least favorite weather element. Anyway, I appreciate your comment!!

  9. Congrats on winning and getting another PR! You are on such a roll!!! I love reading how you push through every mile…the good and the bad. Be proud of your effort!

  10. Congrats on getting a PR, especially in not optimal weather conditions. I think that you chose the right race (even with the prize money for the full)… 3 marathons that close together can take a toll on the body. I have learned over the past year not to risk my health and one of my New Years resolutions is to “minimize injuries.” I am so excited to read about your taper and marathon in 3 weeks! Keep up the great work!!

    1. Thanks! Minimizing injuries is a great goal! After my stress fracture in 2011 I have a totally new outlook on training and listening to my body.

      Thanks for your comment Erin!

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  12. I hear ya, Tia. I PRd in my last race, but I know I had more in me. Unfortunately, in my case, it was a combo of being overtrained, the elements (rainy and a little windy on my race day too), and being “alone.” The nearest racer in front of me was about 1-1/2 minutes ahead. Nothing I could do!

    At any rate, a PR is a PR, and I’m sure you’ll crush this PR soon enough. Well done!

  13. Hey Tia! I can totally relate to the coulda woulda shoulda thing but I agree with the other posters. There was good advice about the whole 3 marathons and about trying next year. And others wrote about how great the PR was. Congrats on that!

  14. Extraordinary work out there! Indeed, that breeze was insane! My distance for the all out my Garmin was 26.59. With not very many turns, that was simply irritating that it was just off. Particularly since I missed my BQ objective by 12 seconds. Bummer. I conversed with the race authorities about the distance. They everything just let me know that the course is confirmed with a shrug. Not certain in the event that that implies they don’t acknowledge criticism on something like that.
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