It's no secret that the Rock 'N' Roll Nashville Marathon and Half is a challenge. The weather always seems to be some kind of crazy, Nashville is hilly, and the course is packed with people up until the split for the full and half at mile 11. I've survived two halfs and two fulls on this course over the last four years and here's how...
1. Run with friends.
2015 I ran RnR Nashville as my second full marathon. I trained better than I ever had by joining our local Fleet Feet spring marathon training group. This provided me with weekly advice, a training plan, specials to local products, but best of all, run friends. Some of the most important people in my life I met through this crazy, terrible, wonderful sport. Running with friends during a race like Nashville can take your mind off the struggles (*Bonus if you find friends as hilarious as my friend Rebecca running beside me in the picture above). Make a game plan and know if you want to stick together the whole time, or feel comfortable going your own paces when the need arises. It's understandable if you'd rather race alone, but friends have 100% helped me get through the tough race in Nashville.
2. Don't go out too fast.
This advice is often shared for every race everywhere. But Nashville is a huge race with 30,000+ runners. Check out this picture I took of the start line in 2014.
From one side of Broadway to the other, there is no room for deep breaths because every square inch is taken up by runners.
Start out too fast in Nashville, trying to weave in and around runners while enduring the hills and you will for sure take on the various postures of this runner evolution before the end of your race. Give yourself a pre-race pep talk and think about the cadence of your feet to keep you from sprinting the first downtown to Music Row section.
3. Read the signs when you're struggling.
I've always felt that spectators are my best medicine when things get hard. If I can at least get a small chuckle out of reading a funny sign I'm sure to have a mental turn around.
Nashville's course is great in that it maneuvers through many neighborhoods where lots of people can stake out to cheer, spray their garden hoses on runners on hot race days, and remind you that while you're running 13.1 or 26.2 miles, they're drinking all the beer at the finish line. My favorite neighborhood during this race is the 12 South neighborhood. This is where the hills are the most prevalent as you take on multiple in a row, but the crowd is also the best at making you forget it for a minute or two. Shoutout to the folks from Hillcenter Lululemon who cheered us on with a selfie station in 12 South back in 2015.
4. Consider becoming a St. Jude Hero.
Perhaps the greatest thing I ever did with my running was dedicating all of the time and effort to the kids a St. Jude. At St. Jude no parent ever pays a penny for their child's treatment, not for travel, housing, food, or medical expense. And St. Jude has promised to continue to work this way until no child dies from cancer. If you choose to run as a Hero and raise $100 you earn your race singlet, which means that when you hit a hard spot in your race other Heroes will note you are one of them and cheer you on. I remember the first time I heard a fellow Hero shout to me "way to go Hero!" In a moment of struggle I found the strength I needed to fight through it. However, I get really teary-eyed and feel a lump in my throat whenever a spectator thanks me for what I'm doing in helping these kids. It's a balance. :)
5. Enjoy all the moments.
Nashville will challenge you. It will reward you. It will frighten you and it will make you feel like a warrior when you cross that finish line. If you can take on the Nashville Half or Full, I believe you can take on any other race (*Barkley Marathons still under consideration for this statement). Remember to enjoy your surroundings, listen to the music as you run by the stages (who knows, you could be hearing the next Garth Brooks!), thank every volunteer for making the race possible, and wear that shiny medal with pride. Drink plenty of fluids and trust in your training!
With the expected heat tomorrow in Nashville, be wary of your fluids as well as how your body responds. Slow the pace down and know that just finishing this race is a huge feat. By showing up you're already a success story, and bonus points to you if you raised money for the kids at St. Jude in the process. Enjoy Nashville!