Thursday, May 2, 2013

LEO Marathon Course review 2012

This the course review I wrote for the 2012 LEO Marathon and Half Marathon. NOTE: The 2013 course for the Half Marathon will be modified from the 2012 course.  The course will not include North Hills street and the start and finish for both courses will be moved inside the softball circle.


OK folks. This isn’t gonna be a walk in the park! Expect hills!  There are a lot of them, but this should be no surprise to anyone here.  I can say there aren’t any 'Kill-a-mans-pace-oh-s,' (BRC's nickname for that hill you curse at when running the Bonita trails...yes, THAT ONE) but I suggest you train on Mt. K so you can prepare.  (If you want a flat marathon course in Meridian, run from one end of B street to the other 7 or 8 times, or run around MHS’s track 105 times! I’ll wait for ya at the finish!)
Let me first explain a little about my hill perspective.  I am a 3-time marathoner and 9-time half marathoner. I’m no expert or anything. I just love the thrill of the run and I’m addicted to the runner’s high!  I love the long run & I enjoy hills.  I look at hills in a race as a challenge within the race.  I approach a hill by looking down at the ground so I can’t see the top (when it’s safe to do so), leaning into it a little and pumping up the arm action.  Hills are fun.  So when I say there are hills, I’m a little excited about it.  My definition of a “bad” hill may be different from some, so I’ll try to be objective.
The race starts right at the entrance to the Northeast Park softball circle. You’ll turn south onto Hwy 39. 39 is known to runners for its long, steady hills.  In my opinion they aren't hard if you are good at controlling your pace.   At mile 4.5, you’ll merge onto Old Hwy 45 and then right on 14th street. There's a fun little incline there.  (It’s a doozy.)  Just over the crest of the hill, you'll turn left on 17th street in front of Rush ER. The pavement is a little rough here, but it flattens out. Then you’ll turn right onto Front Street around the 10K mark. (FLAT!!) Relax a little on Front Street.  Because when you turn right onto 22nd avenue and head up the Anderson Cup Hill, you regret it if you didn’t. This one is a challenge. You’ll turn left back onto 14th and coast down the short steep hill to Walgreens. Turning right, 24th avenue has nice steady inclines. The hill at the point shouldn’t be taken lightly. But once on Poplar Springs Drive (PSD), you have some nice curves through the historic homes to keep you company (or distracted). Yell “GO WILDCATS!” as you pass Meridian High School at mile 8.  PSD isn't hilly in my opinion, but there are some 'bumps.'  At North Hills street, say “Good Luck” to the Halfers as they turn right on North Hills Street and head down (&up) the hills that earned NH its name!  In my opinion, the hills on the last 3 miles of the half course are the worst ones (for either course).  The hill between 15th Place & Country Club drive is a monster! Be prepared for that one!  Trust me.  I suggest a few training runs on these hills. 

The mile 10 mark is right near NH & PSD.  Full marathoners will continue on Hwy. 493, up a sizeable hill and turn right to continue onto Poplar Springs again. Mile 11 swings you around Aldersgate and into a lovely section of PSD. You will enjoy a beautiful stretch of winding curves, lakes, hay bales in open fields, and tall trees providing a nice shade.  The half marathon mark is right before Plant the Earth.  Miles 12-15 are my favorite part of the course. There are lots of nice houses with large trees and beautiful green fields. (They may not be so green in November…we’ll see.)  At mile 15, PSD ends and you jump back on 39 for a short piece, then left on Hillview Drive. (yes, HILLview drive)  The mile 17 marker is in front of Andrew Chapel Methodist Church.  If you’ve ever ridden bikes with Lora Kennedy or Jerry Whitener & friends, you know what’s coming… MR. HILL!  But don’t go demanding your registration money back just yet—you get to run DOWN Mr. Hill! Mr. Hill is a Beast to bike up; running down it should be fun! It’s a good solid mile.  Let gravity pull you along and give those lungs a much needed rest.  BUT be aware of potholes!  There are several you could break an ankle on, along with some uneven/broken/repaired sections of road, so BE CAREFUL!  Once at the bottom of Mr. Hill, thank the marathon gods for not making you go up Mr. Hill, and enjoy a nice relatively flat few miles as you turn right on short and sneaky OllHoft Rd. We almost missed it. (The surface is a little rough here as well.) Mile 19 starts as you turn left back onto Hwy. 39.  You’ll head north a short little piece (still flat) to a turn-around mark, where you’ll enter the home stretch.  I wish I could say its all downhill from here, but I’d be lying. However, you will notice that this section of 39 is pretty flat compared to the rest of it.  The hills return at mile 23, as you (ironically) cross over Ponta Hills Road. This one is long and steady, ease up it and look fresh and relaxed at the top as you cross paths with runners behind you who are exiting PSD. Give them a cheer, but please, don’t say “it’s all downhill from here.” That’s just mean. 
Take a deep breath and push through those last 3 miles.  Remember, all you have left is a 5K! Yes, I know, you’ve ran 23 already! Don’t yell at me, we’re friends.  (And remember, I’m running this race too!) As you pass Forrest Lawn Cemetery and Northpark Church, say a prayer and think about your loved ones who are resting peacefully, and how proud of you they are, because you’re almost there!  One final push at mile 26, then it’s sailing into the park for the finish.   Grab your medal, hug your family and enjoy the fact that you are now part of an elite group! Less than 1% of the world’s population has done what you just did! And guess what, you survived!  The first thing you’ll say to your family is “I’ll never do that again!” But just wait a few days… you might find yourself thinking it.  I did.   Happy Running!
~Evelyn Watkins