Another year down, another Cotton Row in the books! This marks my 3rd Cotton Row, and it just gets better and better every year 🙂
(All photos taken by Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville)
Early on Monday morning we arrived at the race venue. It was already hot and humid outside. Other than the big hill at the halfway point, this race is known for being HOT. What else can you expect from summer in Alabama? Luckily we had fair amount of cloud cover, so the sun wasn’t beating down on us as we waited in the corral as the starting ceremony took place. Soon enough, it was time to run! Mom and I set off at a steady pace, carefully running the tangents. We have run this course so many times that we could probably do it with our eyes closed at this point!
We followed the course through down town and picturesque neighborhoods. Right at the start of the race, we were passed by TONS of folks who took the gunshot as a sign to sprint. This race is a big family event and people who don’t otherwise run participate in it as well. It’s a great thing, because I imagine running the 10k inspires many people to start running regularly, but can also be frustrating as there are always a large amount of people who don’t seem to understand basic race etiquette. We dodged the people who sprinted ahead at the start and then stopped to walk right in front of us a half mile later and continued on our way.
I tried to soak in the atmosphere as much as possible– I didn’t really have a time goal and was just out there to enjoy it. The first few miles are gradually uphill, and the BIG hill is just at the start of mile 3, up a road called Mountainwood. I chuckled to myself when I heard several people ask “Was that the hill?” after climbing some of the smaller rolling hills. I finally called out, “We aren’t there yet, you’ll know it when you see it!”
Just before mile 3 I heard the music– Gonna Fly Now, best known as Rocky’s theme song. I briefly considered attempting to run the hill, after all, I had run all the ones before it, but then decided that I didn’t hate myself enough to subject myself to that. I put both of my hands on my hips and power-walked myself up it, smiling the whole way at the overexaggerated moans and groans of Mountainwood virgins.
(You see how the pavement is grated just so cars can get up it?? THAT’S how steep this hill is…)
After the dreaded hill, it’s home free! A long descent follows for two miles, and then it’s gently downhill for the rest of the way. Most people take the steep downhill section as an opportunity to really push the pace and make up time lost on the hills. I was doing the same, and nearing the bottom of the biggest downhill section. Pounding down the hill I felt strong and fast, and I passed several other runners. As I ran, I remembered how I had seen someone receiving medical attention in this area each year I’ve done this race. A moment later, I saw what is probably one of my worst nightmares: Scott was sitting on the side of the race course and a paramedic was standing over him. My body suddenly felt a shock of cold, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, and adrenaline coursed through my veins. I sprinted to where he was, and realized there was another man on the ground. Turns out, the man was running just ahead of Scott when he had passed out. Scott, being a former Boy Scout (always prepared), took control of the situation and stopped to help the man out. So Scott was perfectly fine, just being a good Samaritan, but I had a hard time getting the feeling of panic to go away. I walked for a while, trying to get my heart rate to settle down. The thing that got me running again was hearing the distant calls of a former drill sergeant. He was standing on the side lines yelling at runners in true drill sergeant fashion, “DO NOT WALK DOWN THIS HILL RUNNERS!” I laughed and picked up the pace, ready to finish strong.
Around mile 5.5, Scott ran up beside me, “I ran hard to catch up with you!” he said, and I replied, “Don’t leave me!!” Of course he wouldn’t dream of it, and we ran side by side for the rest of the race. In the final stretch, photos of military men and women who had lost their lives serving our country were displayed on both sides of the road. “Never Forgotten” was the text above the photos, and their family members stood beside the photos holding American flags. It’s almost impossible to run by without tearing up, and hearing their cheers really motivates you to push it hard to the finish, if only to make them proud!
Scotty and I crossed together, with a time of 1:11:32. Not a PR for me (and certainly not for Scott), but I’m happy with the time– I enjoyed the race and had the pleasure of finishing side by side with my love, something we rarely get to do! Cotton Row is a five star event put on by some amazing race directors and volunteers, and I’m SO thrilled to have been a part of it for the past three years. Here’s to many more Cotton Rows in the future!