On June 8, 2013 I got to run a last minute race, the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon. I’d wanted to sign up for the race previously but Trevor didn’t think he could get away from work.
Three days before the marathon he asked if I still wanted to run it and of course I said, “YES.” My appetite for marathons is never satisfied. What followed was a bit of frantic registration, trip planning and packing. Even though I registered so late the cost of the marathon was only $70.00 which is a very reasonable price in my book.
It could be that you’ve never heard of this small marathon before. Well, you’re going to get the inside scoop on a fun and growing marathon.
The Race Expo:
After a long day of driving we made it to the race expo, held at a local high school. It turns out that traveling with a newly toilet trained two year old doesn’t make for a quick trip. Parking was a cinch and I got my race packet and technical shirt easily. We also saw some MTA friends there including Ed from HI, Danielle who we’ve interviewed on the podcast (T-Rex Runner), Amanda who I’d met at the Go! St. Louis Marathon and Mary from OR.
Despite the fact that I was starving we didn’t get to attend the free pasta dinner. We decided to postpone eating until after the 7pm presentation in the auditorium. The first talk of the evening was given by Dean King, author of a book called “The Fued: The Hatfield’s and McCoys: The True Story,” who was shooting a reality show for the History Channel.
Next the race director, David Hatfield, got up and talked about the history of the race and gave some last minute instructions. He also made fun of the fact that he’s a hillbilly and shared his inspiring personal story of becoming a runner. After going from fat to fit he organized the first Tug Valley Road Runners club with 10 initial members (almost all over the age of 40). They now host several 5ks every year as well as the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon which is in its 14th year.
The rest of the evening included a skit about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud, a raffle and film festival. Because we had our kids with us we left after the skit and went to find something to eat. The weekend wasn’t ideal due to the last minute nature of our trip. One hint for those interested in running this marathon is to book your lodging accommodations early. We had to stay an hour away from the race due to everything else being filled up. By the time we got the kids settled down and my stuff ready for the next day it was late.
Race Day Logistics
The Starting Line
We started in the parking lot of a local supermarket in Williams, KY. Parking was plentiful and the lines for the port a pots were fairly short (which gets major points in my book). There weren’t any starting corrals so everyone milled around near the starting line for a few minutes before the race got underway. There was a large population of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics present, many who had returned for their second year. A couple of runners who were clearly blown away by the numbers of Maniacs asked me what it was all about. I was happy to share the significance of the awesome yellow jersey.
Double Half Marathon!
New to this year’s event was a double half marathon. You could run the Blackberry Mountain Half Marathon which started and finished in KY, you could run the River Road Half Marathon which started in Kentucky and ended in West Virginia or you could run both and get two states and two medals. The full marathon could also count toward either Kentucky or West Virginia for those trying to run a marathon in all 50 states.
They also posted personalized signs along the course welcoming repeat runners. You definitely won’t feel like one of the herd in this marathon! This was not a certified course and there was not a time limit. The race director said, “Just try to finish before dark.”
The race director gave a few last minute instructions and led in prayer for a safe and successful race. Then a shot gun blast sounded and the wheel chair racers were off followed by the rest of us runners.
- The first mile wound through the outskirts of Williams, KY and then turned onto paved country roads. The starting temperature was around 60 degrees and the humidity was high. There was a nice breeze and the weather felt perfect.
- The course was also shaded most of the way by cloud cover and tree lined roads and it was very scenic. Although the course weren’t entirely closed for the race there was very little traffic and I never felt unsafe.
- The road was mostly flat and winding until we came to Blackberry Mountain between miles 6 and 7. It started with a gradual uphill and then quickly turned steep. I had already decided that I was running this race for fun without any time goals in mind so I had no shame about walking the entire thing.
- We ran along a creek much of the second half and it was very peaceful. The race incorporated lots of local culture and we passed several historical sites such as the Ran’l McCoy homestead and cemetery. There were also attractions like the world’s smallest horses which probably only came up to my knee.
- There was a 2 mile “off road” section which included plenty of puddles, mud, a golf course, and a swinging bridge with a few wooden slats missing. I ended up walking over the bridge because I don’t do well with heights and am not highly coordinated. The pounding of the runners in front of you reverberated back and added to the swaying motion.
The aid stations were located approximately every mile and were well stocked with fluids and occasionally treats like grapes, bananas and watermelon. The people were friendly and although there weren’t many spectators the ones that were there waved and were encouraging. Each station had a theme -like the semi truck aid station that was all about “Just Keep Truckin!”
The Finishing Area
Hatfield McCoy Reunion
The downtown area had a street festival atmosphere with people in costume because the marathon was on the same weekend as the Hatfield McCoy Reunion. There were also elephant rides being offered nearby. Each finisher received a medal and canning jar with the marathon logo and motto “No Feuding, Just Runnin” on it. In addition, each runner was assigned to either Team Hatfield or Team McCoy. I was a McCoy and it looks like we won “the feud” this year. The post race food included cold drinks, bananas, grapes, and BBQ. There were also cold wet towels which felt wonderful.
The shuttle buses were a short distance from the finish line and I was able to catch a ride back to the starting line to get my car. There was a post-race party complete with a hog roast later in the day that I didn’t get to attend. It would have been fun to stick around longer but I had to get back to the hotel before the family got kicked out. I grabbed a quick shower and then we had the long drive back home to MO (which was by far the most painful part of the weekend).
All in all, this race has a great atmosphere, is personal and well organized and I predict that it will keep growing. Put this one on your marathon list and be sure to book your hotel early.
Here is my 50 State Map
Completed states are in red.