Some races you can't forget. The Hillilly Half in Leiper's Fork is exactly that race.
I didn't want to run it in 2015. At that point it had been a little over a month since I had ran even a mile following the Nashville Rock N Roll full marathon and I couldn't imagine running a half marathon without at least a few training miles. I remember laying out at the pool two days before the race was to happen as a group text ran wild promising those of us not yet convinced that it would be a fun time.
The hard thing about being a runner is that while you're running the race you ask yourself why you would put yourself through it. However, once you cross the finish line your memories of pain and sorrow are completely erased and you will foolishly sign up for five more races that day, minimum.
So there I was, poolside, signing up for a race I hadn't prepared for.
At the time the race was called the Franklin Half Marathon and I had heard horror stories of "heart attack hill" and of the heat that a June race in Tennessee promises. In fact, that morning the weather report was 99% humidity with a temperature in the 90s and the fog from the extreme humidity didn't let up until a few miles into the race. But that's not the most important detail.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DETAIL. 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼
The thing no one had warned me about - hillbillies. I run by towards the end of the video, 4:57 or so, and while I look like I'm keeping my cool I'm now realizing I have many miles to go for a race where I may have to outrun some very frightening rednecks.
The heat seemed to beat me down quickly, and I can remember struggling to get over some small rolling hills. I was playing the game of "you can walk until the next fence post but then you have to run the entire next mile." I had a cold rag on my neck that was handed out around mile 8 or so, and I always tried to have a water bag in my hand (a water bag is a water filled plastic bag that you bite, then squeeze to get your fluids, an awesome addition to this race). Soon enough I felt so worn out and my walking became more frequent. I finally was able to pick up cell signal and played my current Spotify playlist which started playing the perfect song.
American Kids - Kenny Chesney
I have said since the first time hearing this song that it would forever be my favorite song and it's still true three years following it's release. I tend to be a pretty big fan of anything Shane McAnally has a hand in, so it made sense that this song would be the one to pull me through.
"Sister's got a boyfriend / Daddy doesn’t like / Now he’s sittin’ out back, 3030 in his lap / In the blue bug zapper light."
The rhythm of this song in the intro to the lines that stress small town living (and perhaps a redneck's preferred style of life?), I felt rejuvenated and ready to finish up a great race that I could feel proud of. You know, and happy to have survived.
For a few months this race was my half marathon PR of 2:15:39, even with heart attack hill that is truly no joke. One of the greatest parts of finishing was the sweetest Georgia peach I have ever had from The Peach Truck. That was my first PeachTruck experience and now every summer I wish the season lasted just a few weeks longer.
All in all, this was a fantastic local race and I ended up running it again in 2016. And it turns out those hillbillies populated a whole heck of a lot since the year before. We'll see if I have the guts to run it again this June...
If you are up for the challenge, I highly suggest running this half marathon at least once. This year the route is going the opposite direction, the way I believe it was originally ran, so if you think you have what it takes you can register here: https://register .chronotrack.com/r/22017