Hatfield & McCoy Marathon Recap A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 1; 23rd Edition 602.6 miles run 759.8 miles to go Race: Hatfield & McCoy Trail Marathon Place: Williamson, WV Miles from home: 447.2 Course Difficulty: 6 out of 10 Course Enjoyability: 6 out of 10 Weather: Warm temperature (high 60s); sunshine, no wind. To begin, there was a great deal of traveling this weekend. Williamson, WV was not close enough to any airport to make flying a reality but it was just far enough away driving-wise (approx. 7 hours) to make it formidable indeed (especially after a marathon). Unfortunately, I booked lodging late for this marathon and the closest place I could find a "hotel" was a three-bedroom hunting/ATV lodge 12 miles away from the starting line in beautiful Matewan, WV. An interesting little town with an enormous Berlin Wall like structure surrounding it (we later found out Matewan has almost been washed away by the flooding of a nearby river on a few occasions), I found out that the marathon ran down and then back out of the only two "streets" in Matewan right around the halfway point. The owner of the lodge also owned the Matewan Bed & Breakfast and promised to be outside cheering when I ran by. Back to the lodge. Have you ever seen the movie My Cousin Vinny? Well, then you will understand how my night of sleep before the race went. For those who havenÃï¿½t seen this cinematic masterpieces ("Did you say 'yoots'?"), about 100 feet from my bedroom window were train tracks which allowed a VERY active train to make close encounter passes about 5 or 6 times during the middle of the night. The most hilarious of all these being when we woke up at 5:30am to begin getting ready and about 5:31 AM a blast went off from the train cruising by which I am pretty sure would have woken the dead. In fact, I am 100 percent sure this was an alarm clock for the locals to begin...well...whatever the heck it is they do. (When we mentioned this train to the owner the next day his response was: "Well, trains are a way of life here in Matewan". Great. Add another note to self in my checklist of marathons in the weeks to come: make self aware of the close proximity of loud mass transporting mechanisms to my lodging). First Half Marathon: 1:33:30 I am not really sure why this is considered a West Virginia Marathon as 99f it is run in Kentucky but I am not one to argue with rifle- toting men dressed in authentic pioneer garb (at least I think it was Ãï¿½garbÃï¿½ and not Ãï¿½the clothes I put on todayÃï¿½). With the lodge being at the halfway point, we had to drive to Williamson for the packet pick-up which allowed me to see what the first 13 miles had in store for me first-hand. Our trip to Williamson actually was made by crossing into Kentucky right out of Matewan, driving through Kentucky, then crossing back into WV into Williamson for one block. However, this drive passed the starting point in Goody, Kentucky just outside of South Williamson, which was just (wait for it) south of Williamson, WV but located in Kentucky. Follow that? Good. As confusing as that was this trek prepared me for a relatively flat to slightly uphill first 6 miles followed by a back-breaking mile long hill that crested slightly after mile 7. Otherwise, I doubt I would have known the difficulty of this hill and the unknown is one of the worst things you can deal with in a marathon. But before we get to that, allow me to set the stage. In Goody the morning of the race, I ran into Jeff Bishton (in what I think was our 4th marathon together this year) who is always distinguished by his SunDevil cowboy hat. He introduced me to a young fella (21 or so) who has run hundreds of marathons (apparently he has wealth I have yet to acquire). Following these pleasantries in the Food City parking lot, we lined up for a quick prayer, and started the race with a shotgun start (natch). Right before this however, we found we were in the largest starting field in Hatfield & McCoy Marathon history. There were 8 of us. (I am kidding). But with over 300 full marathoners toeing the line, my honorary Hatfield heart swelled. Like I mentioned, the first 6 miles were all just build-up to the aforementioned monster hill. And as slowly as we ascended this hill on the front side, we found we were going to descend it twice as quickly on the other side because of the steep grade. It was like someone took the entire course of Deadwood, smushed it together and placed it all directly on this one hill. However, after going up and back down Mt. QuadKill, it was smooth-sailing for the rest of the first half as a shaded, flat, stretch kept the intermittent sun off our shoulders. As warm as it could have been in the hills of Kentucky in June, we were all pleased that some deep woods fog kept the direct sunlight from permeating through the first 13.1 miles and sapping our energy. In addition, I had the company of two gentlemen for a few miles (Dave and Shawn) who I would see many times during the day (well, at least Shawn, as Dave ended up toasting us both in the end). But even better than the two- legged variety of companionship was the little brown dog who followed me for over 3 miles. Step for step, I could not believe that this dog was keeping pace with me (where I was running slightly over 7:20 miles). At one point, when the course winded into Matewan, I had to reluctantly leave my little companion behind. But true to his word, Dr. Garland (the B&B proprietor and owner of said lodge) was standing right before the half to yell words of encouragement for me: "Hey! Go...um...You!" Second Half: 1:43(ish) After a 4 block run in West Virginia, we passed through the floodwall surrounding Matewan and headed back into Kentucky. This, my dear readers, is where the spectators became very sparse, the course turned into a trail, the trees and scenery became rather pretty and I am pretty darn sure I heard Dueling Banjos. Chances are that Shawn and I ran the next 7 miles within sight of each other: 1. Just so we knew that we were running in the right direction and; 2. So we could tell the sheriff where we had last seen the other's body (I mean, he was a nice guy and all but there was a race to be run) At mile 19, I saw my travel companion for the weekend and worldÃï¿½s greatest publicist for the first time. Let's just say the course had not been very car/spectator friendly until this point (and while not the same type of pretty as Deadwood, held its very own scenic deep woods viewing) and the Gatorade she had waiting for me was very welcome indeed. By now the sun had burnt off the early morning fog and it was beginning to get hot. For the next few miles, Anne would drive ahead, and come back to tell me what the course was like. This was greatly appreciated for many reason, one being that there were a couple of places before I first saw her where there had been some slight trepidation as to which fork in the road I would be taking. In addition, I had heard there was another widowmaker of a hill at mile 23 or so and one of her trips ahead confirmed this. Again, knowing ahead of time that you are not going to be having that much fun makes that hard parts that much easier. I relayed this information to Shawn and his retort was simple: "If there is another hill like what we saw at mile 6, I will be walking it". While not as bad, the hill we came to definitely could put a little hitch in your giddyup. Somehow, however, I gained some strength from somewhere, tackled it hard knowing the last few miles were straight, and strode those last few miles with relative ease. Anne had raced ahead and again I heard the hearty cheer from a crowd who had been informed by all who would listen that this was my 23rd marathon of the year. I crossed the finish line in 3:16:23 which was good enough for 6th place overall and second in my age group (I REALLY hate being 30. For those who donÃï¿½t know, since the 1st three positions donÃï¿½t count for age group awards, that means of the other two people ahead of me, one of them was in my age group. Of course he was). I received a huge trophy and got to talk with David Hatfield (the race director) for a few minutes before Shawn came striding in to more cheers. Normally I end here but with my friend Mauriella on the course, Anne and I decided to go back and encourage her on to the finish. It is rare I get to be a cheerer and a spectator so I jumped at the chance. A few miles back we found her and later she told us that us appearing and giving her a drink right where we did had really spurred her on. That sort of knowledge really makes me happy. She finished very strong for a hard course and a warm day and continued her quest to run a marathon a month this year. But the star of the show was neither the winner of the race, me or any other human. ThatÃï¿½s right, near the finish line, the little brown dog from mile 8 (and probably even earlier) had been following one person or another for mile upon mile. As we bid Mauriella adieu to rush back to the end of the race, I quickly found the race director and let him know that this dog had been running the entire course. Many people mentioned they had encountered him at one place or another. Collarless and looking rather fresh he had ran probably just as far if not further than any of us as he apparently would double back and wait for the next runner. With very little convincing, I was able to get Mr. Hatfield that this little fella not only needed, but deserved a medal. Sure as could be, my four-legged friend appeared down the stretch, trotting alone. He had apparently either picked up a scent or had been directed this way by someone but regardless was moving towards the finish. While he seemed a little skittish around the crowd, he kept moving forward. At one point he stopped running, so I ran forward, grabbed a plate of food (some sort of "vittles" I am sure) and coaxed him across the finish line. Flashbulbs went off and before we knew it, the little guy was wearing a finisher's medal. McCoy (we named him) seemed barely winded and happily took a glass of water before sitting down at our feet and calmly watching the rest of the festivities. An apparent stray, we made sure that McCoy got the attention he needed before we packed up our stuff and headed back to WV for some well-deserved showers. Before long I was back on the road and 7 hours later fell into the worldÃï¿½s most comfortable bed for a night of blissful sleep. But alas, there is no rest for the weary as next weekend I once again travel to high elevation in Estes Park, Colorado to go for number 24.