Beautiful Dilemma

My first half marathon was the Memphis (half) Marathon in 2002.  Oh how I loved this race.  I really wasn’t sure what I was doing.  I had trained but now knowing what I know, I had not trained properly.  I didn’t know who the race benefitted and I didn’t care.  I didn’t know the route ahead of time and I didn’t care.  I had no idea what kind of times were “good” or “bad” and I didn’t care.  I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do this 13.1 miles.

I signed up for the race after running the Cooper Young 4 Miler with some girlfriends.  We didn’t know much about it but we decided during the middle of our post-race glory that we would do it.  There were only a few thousand people in the whole race.  There were no waves. There wasn’t much in the way of spectators.  We didn’t run through St. Jude campus. None of this mattered to me.  The energy from my fellow runners was enough.  I got the bug.  I got the bug so much that I became a certified running coach a few years later 😉

I talked Keith into training and running with me the following year.  It was a little larger with a few more spectators.  We trained throughout the fall and we ran.  Keith got the bug.

We started traveling to other cities to run their races.  It’s always fun to go to another city to run a race, whether big or small.  Because of this, there were a few years we didn’t run the Memphis Marathon but you can guarantee that regardless of the weather, we were standing at Stonewall and North Parkway cheering for the runners. We would set our alarm and be there to see the first runner pass by and would wait until every single person had passed before leaving.  Strangers have pictures of Georgia in her pink puffer jacket cheering on the runners.  This became a yearly tradition for us, if we weren’t running ourselves.

In 2009 I trained my first group for the Cooper Young 4 Miler.  I fully expected it to end there but out of the 25 or so trainees, about 20 decided they were curious about seeing if they could go further.  Perfect! What better way for me to combine my passion for helping people become better runners and this hometown race that I loved and had been a part of for 7 years.  That September / October, we all signed up.  These 20 people, they got the bug.

I started spotlighting the Memphis Marathon as our Fall race each year and it became a great long term goal to tag on to the back end of our 4 Miler training.  You see, Star Runners began with a training group for the Cooper Young 4 Miler so I will always consider this our “anchor race”.  One of the things I love about this race, in regards to my groups, is the timing.  I can bring a non-runner into our training program in July and teach them to run and get them ready for the Cooper Young 4 Miler, no problem.  That’s easy.  I know before they know that they can do it.  The even more amazing thing though is that I am able to instill a confidence in these new runners that allows them to then wonder if they can do more.  They’re typically terrified but once we’ve trained for and completed the CY 4 Miler, it’s perfect timing to continue our training and run a Half Marathon a few months later. For 5 years we’ve trained runners specifically for the Memphis (half) Marathon.

About 3 or 4 years ago, the registration started opening up earlier in the year.  It was September for a long time but due to the growing demand, the race organizers found that they could open it up sooner, allow more runners, and hopefully sell out.  This is a wonderful problem to have…if you’re the race directors.

Unfortunately, this early sell out started to wean out a lot of these “late bloomers”, the people who didn’t know in July that they could run 60 seconds much less have the confidence, strength, and knowledge to run 13.1 miles.  Fortunately though, the race directors allowed me to buy a certain number of spots upfront.  They understood my dilemma and I believed they saw what I was trying to do for our city.  I truly care about my city of 40 years.  I truly believe people can find happiness in running.  I truly believe the accomplishment of crossing the finish line in a race is sometimes a life altering moment for people.  It was never easy for me to pay thousands of dollars in April or May for race spots but I did it anyway.  This is how confident I am in the “late bloomers”.  I know that if I am given a couple of months with someone, I can get them to a distance they never thought imaginable.

This year I’m faced with a beautiful dilemma.  I wasn’t given the option this year to buy bulk spots upfront in order to guarantee my non-runners, late bloomers, and less confident runners a spot in the Memphis Half Marathon.  It is incredible for this local institution that this race is in such demand that they can sell out more than 6 months before race day but as a local running coach who believes whole heartedly in “the bug”, I wish we had more time.  Since we don’t need 6 months to train for a Half Marathon, I find that there are a lot of people out there that don’t even have the twinkle in their eye yet….but they will!  They will after they’ve run through the summer and completed the Cy 4 Miler.  The problem then will come that there isn’t a local Half Marathon to sign up for because this one has been sold out for 6 months.

I’m excited that there are other “local” Half Marathons nearby that we can spotlight this year so everyone has a chance to cross a finish line and for our runners who got into the Memphis Marathon, we can’t wait to stake out our old perch and cheer you on.

Training for Fall Full Marathons (ranging from Chicago on Oct 12 to White River (spotlight race) to St. Jude Memphis Marathon on Dec 6th) begins tomorrow and training for Fall Half Marathons (ranging from Wynne to White River to St. Jude) begins in August as an overlap to our 4 Miler training.

Our 4 Miler training begins June 21st and is for everyone!  If you can’t run 60 seconds or if you want to work on speed to prepare for Half marathon training, it’s for you.


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