Hatfield and McCoy Marathon June 2006
I like to race. I don’t have to be the fastest. I don’t have to even be in what I consider good condition. I just enjoy pushing myself regardless of the outcome. That being said, I race for several reasons. I train for some races specifically to be as fast as possible, some races are gauges to see how training is going, and some (actually most) are just for the fun of doing an event.
I ran the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon just for fun. Kari and I had been making plans for our summer drive across the country when she noticed a write-up for the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon in Runner’s World and pointed it out to me. What the heck, we were going to be in West Virginia – it’s only a couple hundred extra miles – what’s one extra day on our trip? Thus went the reasoning that led us to Williamson WV for what I hoped would be a unique running experience. I wasn’t disappointed.
As we got ready for the dinner at the packet pickup, I took the opportunity to read some placemats titled “Mountain Talk.” A few examples:
I think you get the idea. What I thought was a little light reading turned out to be a good resource for the evening’s entertainment. Two locals dressed respectively as “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Rudolph “Ranel” McCoy came traipsing in carrying guns and shouting bitterly at each other. Their argument turned out to be a pretty entertaining way to tell the story of their feud. At the dinner we also got introduced to author Hajime Nishi, who was there running his 33rd marathon of the year (this was only early June!!), and his plans were to fly to Portland OR for another marathon the next day and then one in France the next week. I asked him about his training. He replied, “I only run weekends.” (He finished in 5:35:07).
Race morning is when the true nature of this event hit me. After riding the shuttle to a grocery store parking lot in nearby Goody KY, I started noticing a lot of people wearing t-shirts from the 50 States Marathon Club. So I got to chatting and it turns out that most of the field (of 201 finishers) were from out of state. They just come here to add West Virginia to their list of races. It turns out that there are very few WV marathons to choose from. I later checked results and only found 6 West Virginians who ran the event! I usually talk to so many first time or novice marathoners at events, but here lines like “I’m only doing 19 this year,” or “I’m taking the summer off so I’ll only get in 11 marathons,” and “She moved to the West coast once she had run a marathon in every state on the East coast,” made me feel like the slacker of the group.
The gun finally went off (the race starter was “Devil Anse” from the night before, and yes it turns out that shotgun he had been holding during the pasta feed was indeed real) and the race proceeded with reasonable weather, beautiful scenery, I kind of liked the swinging bridge, sparse spectators were handing out water, great aid stations, and wonderful running partners (none of whom I know). I do have to mention the guy standing along the road in overalls holding a shotgun against his hip shouting, “run faster.” The group of 6 I was running with all fell silent, and we did indeed run faster. At least until around the next bend when we figured we were out of range…. The silence of footsteps was finally broken by the comment, “I didn’t know whether I should look at him or not. If I made eye contact, would it be considered a sign of aggression?” That finally broke the tension.
One of the fun things about this event is the perpetual plaque. Every year, half of the field is randomly selected as Hatfield, and the other half as McCoy. At the finish line, the side with the overall lowest combined time wins the feud for that year. That being the case, I wore my “Team Hatfield” running cap proudly during the race. It was fun cheering on fellow Hatfields and trash talking “them McCoys.”
The June weather for West Virginia isn’t exactly conducive to marathoning – hot and humid. The organizers did a great job of helping to combat the conditions. They provided a lot of well stocked aid stations, handed out frozen hands (latex gloves filled with water and frozen), and where most marathons now pass out space blankets as you cross the finish line, this race passed out hand towels soaked in ice water (which they would re-soak as often as desired).
I ran this entire marathon and only passed about 10 people and was only passed by about 4. Running a race with so many experienced marathoners is a different sort of experience because everyone knows how to pace themselves. Most marathons involve a lot of people going out too fast and then slowing in the last 10 miles or so.
I crossed the finish line in Williamson, WV in 3hrs and 34 minutes with Kari and the boys cheering me on. This is the first time they have seen me finish a marathon. Harrison gave me my 5 seconds of fame, “Good job daddy, can I play on the bouncy house?” At least I rated above the bouncy house. Kari had to help me remember my age at the finish. The race director was standing at the end of the chute asking me my age… “30 … uh....” Kari finally added in the “6.” The race director wrote down my name and handed me a 3rd place trophy for my age group. How’s that for fast awards? I had my trophy before a bottle of water.
This was a lot of fun and there is a lot more to tell, but I don’t want to take up the entire newsletter. Suffice to say that there are pretty good doin’s down in West Virginia.