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I ran The Tupelo Marathon in Tupelo, MS. This was my first race that was Heart Rate governed (to keep an even effort).

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I ran Tupelo, MS Marathon on September 2. This was a "redemption run" from the incredibly hot 2012 Boston Marathon. (Boston was so hot that it was difficult to run well, so I needed to "redeem myself" by running well in another marathon.)


BACKDROP: I started running (beyond light exercise levels) in 2008. I’ve now run 7 marathons (Nashville, Drake Well, Tupelo and 4 consecutive Bostons starting in 2009). My PR was 3:26 (Drake Well in Titusville, PA).  I'm 52 now. I've been training by heart rate for all of 2012 (may have started late 2011) but this would be the first race that I would use heart rate as my guide, because at the beginning of Boston 2012, my heart rate belt battery died, so I only have bogus data for that race.  When I say HRR, I'm referring to percent of Heart Rate Reserve. A day or two before, I drank a lot of water, ate a fair amount of pasta and avoided fiber.

USELESS OBSERVATION:  Tupelo has a half... sort of.  The "half" is a 14.2 mile run. I've still not found out why the 14.2. If you find out, enlighten me please. Yes, I asked Google. :) 

DAY BEFORE: On Saturday, after packet pickup, I drove the course, a large loop that you don't quite finish; you turn around and go back the way you came (thus the elevation profile is a basically a mirror image).  None of the hills were too significant, so I could be efficient down hills too.  The water stations were approximately every 2 miles, so I planned to drink a little more at each station than in prior races. Cars were not blocked, but were not a problem either.

USELESS OBSERVATION: Cool idea by the course designers... it was new to me.  We turned around right at mile 13 (and had to run .1 more to cross the pad at 13.1).  Thus, all the mile markers served double duty: mile 12 the same as mile 14 (written on different sides of the same marker).  The finish was just a little back from the start.

PRERACE: I got a good night sleep and the hotel allowed me to return and shower (before 11 on Sunday) so I'd stay there again just for that. Cool.  I left the hotel at 4:15 AM and arrived at the race at 4:30 AM for a 5:00 AM start... it was plenty of time (try that at Boston).  I went down to the meeting area (only 100 feet or so) and could feel the 74-75 degrees with the expected mugginess (97% humidity had been projected).  In training, I can handle it, but this was a race. Oh well... make the best of it.

The starting line was a thin line that we missed. The staff had to back us up and show us.  After a bit, a man at the line gave just a few instructions, then said something like "we're informal here... so.... GO!"

==== THE RACE ====

MILE 0-5: I started just like usual... way too fast, but caught myself very quickly by looking at my watch.  I was doing sub-7 minute pace for about a couple tenths of a mile. It's hard to grow out of that newbie mistake.  I settled in to an average 7:30... That was still too fast, but not too bad.  I should have been doing 7:45 or even slower because it was slightly up hill.  Fortunately, the temperature and humidity did not really affect me much here because many of my training runs are in the exact same conditions. The darkness was not bad. We did have some moonlight in spite of cloud cover. I also likely had it easier because I run at this time frequently.

HR OBSERVATION: I noticed that my heart rate was higher than in training runs even though the conditions and speed were very similar. I was very glad I had read about that happening.  I had hoped to stay under about 75% HRR (160 BPM) for the first half, but allowed higher 160's because of what I had read (many have 10-15 BPM higher in a race: This is the article). I had to let my feel calibrate how I interpreted the watch.

MILES 6-20: By mile 7, I could see some light, by mile 10 it was fairly light.  I finally settled in to what I should have been doing all along... about a 7:46 pace.  I was keeping my heart rate around 80-82% of HRR (168-170) most of the time (this was maybe 14 BPM higher than a similar training run). This felt about right. In retrospect I might have lowered it a couple beats.  Around mile 15 I thought about picking up the effort a little, but decided to reserve more for mile 20 and beyond. Definitely a good call.

Most of this was constantly rolling hills, and I was able to get back on the downhills, most of what I had put into the uphills because nothing was too steep. Here is where my hill training has paid off. Strength… yes, but maybe more is the feel for how much to slow up hill and how much to increase for the downhill. It was evident that I’ve improved in that ability.

MILES 21-23: I picked it up a couple notches, but knew I had to hold back a little as I was becoming fatigued and increasingly hot. I did pick up my heart rate to 84% of HRR (173). This was high effort.

USELESS OBSERVATION: I saw the runner just ahead of me being chased by 2 dogs. Was he unfortunate, or did he have an unfair advantage?  He beat me by about 8 seconds!

Mile 24-25.9: I picked it up another notch, but knew I just could not pick it up any more and endure. My mantra became "just maintain reasonable speed and don't worry about any faster."  I thought I might negative split this one... something I've been wanting to do, but haven't done yet.  I was incredibly hot by this time, and really was wishing they would have provided frequent stations at the end. I needed to poor it over my head, but had to just "bring it on in" as I was.

Mile 25.9 - 26.2: Knowing how close it was, I opened it up... difficult at this point. Amazing how a hidden finish can make me assume that it might be inches from each visible meter of surface I see. The 305 told me that my pace for the last .35 miles was 6:20 (felt even faster)... I hit 95% HRR (190 BPM).  Most runners sauntered across the finish pad... I was going full-bore and had some in the crowd encouraging me to give it all as I streaked through the gate.  

DIRECTLY AFTER: I never even noticed the people handing out medals located directly after the timing pad. I couldn't stop anyway because my body doesn't handle sudden stops well, so I knew I had to jog for a while, as I always do. I swung by for water, which I immediately pored over my hot body (not that kind of hot) and kept jogging around. Checked my official time, jogged for a while more, then returned to find the medals.

RESULTS: 3:24:03, breaking my old PR by ~2 minutes.  This is a BQ-5:57. I was 12th overall (330 registered), first in my age group (50-55). Unfortunately, I didn't negative split, although I came closer than ever (about +1:17). One day I'll get that mark of a more mature runner. The next day I had some DOMS, but not too bad. By the 2nd day, it was all but gone. 

HOW WAS TUPELO?... it's a great marathon, fun, quirky, and yet at the whim of the weather. Just from the elevation profile, it certainly can be a fast run. It's not breathtaking scenery, but it is beautiful.

Some will love and some will hate the skulls on their art (including the large 3x3 inch medal) and the mantra “trample the weak; hurdle the dead.” They are very well done though. I have an odd attraction to them. What would Freud say about that?  By the way, Tupelo is the birth place of Elvis Presely.  Is that why this guy has a mic??

2012 Tupelo Marathon Medal


  • The half marathon medals are the coolest ever… they are like a torn-in-half full.  Love it. (Sorry for the blurry picture)
    Tupelo Half Marathon medal
  • The shirt given is a long sleeve shirt, but is not technical… it’s made of cotton. If you run this race, set your expectations accordingly. I expected technical, so was disappointed.
  • The weather here seems to vary a lot, but sadly, the average is not as cool as one might like, and the humidity is not as low as one might like.
  • My Average HR was 170... (my max is 199) and for the 2nd half was 172. I hit 190 at the end.

(% is of HRR - 198 max as of a couple years ago... resting 44 in 11/2011)

Time      Mile       Pace        EleChg      Avg. HR                 Max. HR
0:07:26  1.00        7:27        -8            155 (72%)            166 (79%)
0:14:57  2.00        7:31        +13         166 (79%)            170 (82%)
0:22:29  3.00        7:32        +12         168 (80%)            171 (82%)
0:30:11  4.00        7:42        +45         170 (81%)            172 (83%)
0:37:45  5.00        7:34        -33          170 (82%)            174 (85%)
0:45:37  6.00        7:52        +27         170 (82%)            174 (85%)
0:53:22  7.00        7:46        -16          170 (82%)            175 (85%)
1:01:15  8.00        7:52        +8           168 (80%)            170 (82%)
1:08:58  9.00        7:43        -26          168 (80%)            173 (84%)
1:16:50  10.00     7:53        +7           168 (80%)            175 (85%)
1:24:36  11.00     7:45        -13          169 (81%)            171 (83%)
1:32:21  12.00     7:45        -7            167 (80%)            169 (81%)
1:39:58  13.00     7:38        +7           170 (82%)            174 (84%)
1:47:39  14.00     7:41        +3           172 (83%)            177 (86%)
1:55:15  15.00     7:36        -10          171 (83%)            174 (85%)
2:03:09  16.00     7:54        +22         172 (83%)            174 (84%)
2:11:15  17.00     8:06        +14         171 (82%)            175 (85%)
2:19:11  18.00     7:56        -3            170 (82%)            173 (84%)
2:27:06  19.00     7:55        -7            170 (82%)            172 (83%)
2:35:22  20.00     8:17        +22         169 (81%)            173 (84%)
2:42:53  21.00     7:31        -34          173 (84%)            177 (86%)
2:50:58  22.00     8:05        +26         173 (84%)            178 (87%)
2:58:22  23.00     7:23        -26          173 (84%)            176 (86%)
3:06:02  24.00     7:40        -15          174 (84%)            177 (87%)
3:13:54  25.00     7:52        -14          175 (85%)            177 (86%)
3:21:57  26.00     8:03        -1            174 (85%)            179 (88%)
3:24:10  26.35     6:20        -8            182 (90%)            190 (95%)

Graph of elevation and HRR (using the way cool Sporttracks... and the way cool add-in Elevation Correction).
Chart showing HR

A photographer caught me in my push at the finish.

Mark At The Finish




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