A couple of weekends ago, I took a quick trip to Music City to run the Country Music Half Marathon (aka Rock n Roll Nashville). It was my first time down there, and I loved it — such a fun city.
The forecast called for a rainy race day, and I heard from locals and other participants that the course was super hilly. But I was pleasantly surprised on both accounts — the rain held off and it actually turned out to be great running weather, and while the course was indeed hilly, most of the hills were manageable. It was fun time!
I woke up at 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning to catch a 5 a.m. flight to Nashville. (Sometimes you have to fly at undesirable times to save a little money on airfare.) But, the upside of a super early flight? Early arrival time in the destination city. I was in Nashville around 10 a.m. It was great to have a full day to explore.
My hotel was nice of enough to let me check in early. After that, I headed downtown to the expo at the Music City Center to pick up my race packet. It was a typical Rock n Roll expo — very lively, a lot of vendors, and a lot of people. There were long lines for everything — from purchasing race apparel and souvenirs, to getting shuttle tickets and beer bracelets. (I skipped out on the beer bracelets. That line was just insane.) Overall, it was a fun expo.
After I picked up my packet, I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the city. My co-worker, Erin, used to live in Nashville and sent me off with a list of things to do (I’ll post her list later). I barely made a dent in the list, but hopefully I’ll visit again soon.
First stop was Lower Broadway—the entertainment district for country music. There were restaurants, bars, shops – many with music pouring loudly out of them. I ended up at bar called Legends Corner. It was 1 p.m. when I arrived, and they were checking IDs at the door (no cover charge though!). Legends offers live cover music in a gritty hole-in-the-wall type of atmosphere. It was fun — I ended up staying for about two hours, drinking the local Yazoo brews and watching fun drunks spin around on the dance floor.
After that, I walked around town a bit more, checked out the Hatch Print Show and some shops, and then headed back to the hotel for an early dinner. I would have loved to explore a little longer, but I was tired and ready for bed (waking up at 2:30 a.m. will do that to you).
I probably could have gone somewhere a little nicer and with much better food for dinner, but the convenience of the hotel bar won me over. I was the first person of evening to arrive, and then about five minutes later, a bachelor party joined me. Fun groups of guys – I had a couple of beers with them, and after much persuasion, ended up taking a shot of patron with them, too. I didn’t stay around too long though. After my pre-race meal (burger and fries), I headed back up to my room and was in bed by 7:30 p.m. For real. That’s how tired I was.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. feeling pretty well-rested, and spent the next hour prepping for the race—had some coffee and breakfast and stretched.
The first shuttle to the start line arrived at our hotel around 5:30. I hopped on the 6 a.m. shuttle, and made it to the race area with plenty of time to spare before the 7 a.m. start time.
The Country Music Marathon (and Half) is a pretty big race, with around 25,000-30,000 participants each year. I enjoy large races—I love the excitement and energy, and all of the spectators.
However, because there were so many people and a lot corrals, I didn’t actually cross the start line until close to 7:30. This is normal in bigger races, but sometimes you get antsy and just want to get going.
We eventually started to move, and for most of the first half, I was running with a pack of people—also normal for bigger races. Sometimes this makes it hard to move, and you’re constantly zigzagging around other runners. This didn’t bother me too much though. In fact, my splits for the first few miles were surprisingly faster than usual.
While the course is hilly pretty much from the beginning, I didn’t start to feel the burn until around mile 5. That’s when I slowed down a bit and tried to shift my attention to the scenery and people around me.
The course began in downtown Nashville near the historic Ryman Auditorium and the Johnny Cash Museum. From there, we went around the city and through some residential neighborhoods. Somewhere around mile 8, I saw a guy with a sign on his back that said, “blind runner.” There were running guides on both sides and behind him. I saw him a few more times during race, and all three times, he was just ahead of me. What an inspiration he was.
The last portion of the race seemed to drag a bit, but I had a strong finish (i.e., I didn’t feel sick or overly tired). Once I crossed the finish line and got my medal, I made my way to the shuttle buses. There was no time to enjoy any of the post-race festivities because I only had a couple of hours before I was scheduled to check out of my hotel.
Despite the hilliness, it was a fun race, and my finish time turned out to be faster than expected!
After cleaning myself up, I went to the Opryland Hotel for lunch. A hotel for lunch? Yep. The Opryland Hotel is apparently the largest non-casino hotel in the continental U.S. outside of Las Vegas. It’s a gorgeous hotel with a beautiful atrium, indoor waterfalls, several restaurants, and a resort and spa. I had the BBQ beef brisket sandwich at Jack Daniel’s Saloon. Honestly, I wasn’t really impressed. It was too dry and didn’t have much taste. But it’s ok. You win some, you lose some.
After lunch, I spent about an hour reading in the atrium before catching a cab to the airport. I could have spent all afternoon in that atrium. It was a nice end to the short weekend.
Name: Country Music Half Marathon
Date: April 25, 2015
Cost: Part of Rock n Roll Tour Pass ($199/3) = $66.33
Race day weather: Cloudy, low-50s
Race start time: 7 a.m. CT
Course description: Rolling hills through the city and surrounding neighborhoods
Race organization: Organized for the most part
Finish time: 2:26:41
Food and drinks: About $45
Total = $638.53