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Angie and I recently ran the Tupelo Marathon in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Although Elvis was born in Tupelo, this is not a race for pretty boys.
First of all, it’s hot. I’m talking about seventy-six degrees at the starting line at 5:00 in the morning. Humidity was probably 90%. A couple years ago a tropical storm hit during the race. They kept it running.
Second, it’s ugly. I just say that because it looks too much like S.E. Missouri –bugs, brush, and bungalows. I wouldn’t go down there for the scenery but I would for the BBQ.
Third, it’s small. The race draws about three hundred marathoners and does away with race expos, pacing groups, music, the national anthem, spectators, porta-potties (not entirely), and course photographers except at the very end. But it was easy to find parking.
Fourth, you run in the dark for the first hour. I enjoyed it even though I didn’t have a headlamp. As far as I know . . . only the weak got trampled.
Fifth, it’s a hilly course. I can’t remember how many hills there were (it’s all a blur) probably about 26. Since it’s an out and back course you get to experience each hill twice.
Sixth, there is a six hour cut-off. Slow runners be ye warned. The final aid station was already abandoned by the time I rolled through at about the 4 ½ hour mark. What would prompt aid station volunteers to forsake their post? I imagine they simply said, “Screw this 90 degree heat, let’s go get some barbecue!”
Should You Run the Tupelo Marathon?
If this doesn’t convince you to STAY AWAY from the Tupelo Marathon then you might be the right person to sign up. I should have ran it sooner. The beauty of this race is the attitude it exudes. It’s like a cult classic for marathon junkies. I can see why the race is in its thirtieth year.
All things considered, it is well organized. You get a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt and the coolest finishers medal south of the Mason-Dixon line. The post race food is awesome and the people are genuinely nice. My kudos to the race director Mike Lail and the Tupelo Running Club for putting on one heck of a marathon.
Should you run Tupelo? I wouldn’t recommend it for your first marathon experience unless you are super fit. Start with an easier race. If you have ran a couple marathons and are looking for a challenge on Labor Day Weekend, if you think misery creates many happy memories, if you think road kill is a great running theme, then you belong at Tupelo. It’s a load of fun!
Also Mentioned in this Episode
Quick Question: Should I walk through water stops during my first marathon? -Rich from Michigan
I always advise people to practice what they’ll do during the marathon on their long runs. Practice your fueling and hydration strategy. Practice with gear. Practice your pace and whether you’ll take walk breaks for not. With that said, I do encourage people to walk through aid stations during their first half or full marathon. It can be challenging to fuel and hydrate while running and consequently some people can suffer from dehydration if they’re not careful. Find out how often the marathon course will have aid stations—usually one every 1-2 miles. Figure out how long you’ll walk at each aid station. If you just leave it up to how you feel you’ll end up walking more and more toward the later miles. I usually recommend that people walk for 30-60 seconds during each aid station. That’s enough time to take a gel, drink some water, throw your trash away and be on your way. If you plan on walking through an aid station start to move over before getting right up to it. Make sure that you don’t stop abruptly in the path and cause others to knock into you. When you pass out of the table part of the aid station stay to the side to allow runners to continue through the middle.