In summary: Best spectators. Unforgiving hills.
I read about Nashville being a hilly course well after I registered. Would that have changed my mind? Maybe not? On the one hand, I already knew I could at least come under 03:30 on a hilly course (see: Kentucky). On the other hand, ugh, hills. I lived in Nashville for several years, and I could not recall it being hilly. That said, when I did run in Tennessee, I preferred Edwin Warner Park, so my only frame of reference for Nashville hills was as they related to driving.
I tried to work in some hills during my runs. This primarily meant running up and walking down the same hills a few times before continuing. They weren’t steep hills, but if nothing else, my body was getting used to it (ish).
My mom and my aunt came with me; my aunt had never been to Nashville! The parking situation was really great even though we didn’t have a reserve pass. The free parking lot at the Nissan Stadium was about a mile from the start line. It was a really good warm-up walk, especially because there were a few hills to climb. Good indication of things to come, ha! It was a bit of a hassle to find the gear check area, and we eventually had to cross the corrals to get to them as there wasn’t a clear path (from what I could tell). As per usual, my corral was toward the end, and as per usual, the last corrals ended up starting at the same time.
Taking into account my lack of memory regarding Nashville hills and my casual hill training, I figured they would be no big deal.
Uh, sure, Jan.
I was using 60-30 intervals as much as I could and then walking up the hills. Miles one through three were a doozy as I recall, because I had greatly underestimated the hills. Also, miles one through three are often the worst miles for me. It’s a sign I need to have a better warm-up, but I often forget to do that.
Miles four and five are typically where I feel the most confident. The race starts through downtown and then goes through neighborhoods. Mile five was probably my favorite mile. It goes through a neighborhood where everyone was out and literally having a party. They had a stage set up where a “band” was lip-syncing as runners went by. Signs were posted on poles and mailboxes about the Mile Five Party. I loved it. They were so great and fun!
Honestly, these were the best spectators. Savannah was great, but Nashville was on top of their game. Churches were making their restrooms available. So many people were handing out protein bars and orange slices and water bottles. The signs were so good! I would happily do Nashville again because the people were so great. It made me wistful for the time I lived there even though I rarely made it downtown.
Miles six through ten I end up walking excessively. At the same time, I started thinking, I better run up some freaking hills. I literally practiced this. So I changed my plan to run up hills as much as I could and walk downhill. What a difference that made! I also did the thing they tell you to never do: Never do anything new on race day. But spectators were handing out orange slices, and they were the greatest orange slices I’ve ever had in my life. Around mile seven, one of the medical tent people was handing out a Coca-Cola! I 100% snagged the can and drank some down. I’m a Pepsi woman, but this Coke was sofa king satisfying. I brought along some Gatorade chews although I’ve never used them during training. They were fine and fortunately didn’t upset my stomach.
So yeah. I was breaking the number one rule all day long. Why? It was a mental thing. I felt fine, but I also didn’t think I was doing a good job because of the hills. I had zero expectations for this race, so I went in treating it more casually than I should have.
Usually after mile ten, I can rally enough stamina to have an okay finish. In this race, I struggled through mile ten and decided to walk all of mile eleven. I had at least been making an effort to run some even if it was just a few seconds, but by mile eleven I assumed I wasn’t going to PR anyway or do better than DC, so I kind of gave up. I really regret this. When finishing, I realized how close I had actually been to a PR. I’m still beating myself up about not running at all during mile eleven and not pushing myself a little more in the beginning up the hills.
Again, my biggest takeaway was not trying harder. I just psyched myself out. The thing about running is that no matter what, it’s all you on the road. If there’s a mental block, you’re the one who has to push through it. It’s a good lesson to learn because as I continue my marathon training and get closer to the day, I know the biggest obstacle is going to be me.
I absolutely recommend Nashville. Train for the hills, but don’t be embarrassed about needing to walk them. The spectators are so supportive at this race. Just amazing!