"It's a nice flat course..."
"It's a nice flat course..."
The Stonewall Jackson 20 Mile Ambulance Run is an annual event that takes place in beautiful Spotsylvania, Virginia. I had only recently heard about this race as a good friend of mine had run it the last couple of years and mentioned it in a conversation. Later, looking at my race calendar I decided maybe this would be a good one to run. 20 Miles is a different kind of distance race. I have trained with 20 milers, but never raced one. I thought, this might not be so bad... Half Marathon distances of 13.1 are fairly challenging and somewhat easy in the off season. Full Marathons are always challenging at 26.2 miles, so 20 should be right there in the middle. Challenging, but over about the time I am ready for a Marathon to be over... right about mile 19 or 20!
Thomas Jonathon "Stonewall" Jackson was a Confederate General during the Civil War and was one of the best-known Commanders after General Robert E. Lee.
The night before the race I asked my friend, who was also running, if the course was flat or if I could expect any hills.... "It's a nice flat course.." he responded and I was happy as I had given myself an 8 minute per mile average for the race. I want to pull off a 3:30 at my next marathon and this would be a good training run to see if I could do it, or at least see how close I could come to the number.
The race was about an hour an away so we left in, what we thought would be ample time to get there and have some time to stretch, let go of the jitters and get rid of some extra weight, if you know what I mean. Well. a couple things went wrong, for instance, me inputting the wrong address into the GPS which ended up putting us at the parking lot ten minutes later than expected. When we finally arrived, we geared up and made our way to the start line... about a half mile away. Well, getting there would be a good warm up, right! As I approached the crowd at the start line, there was 20 seconds left until the start. Not much time to do anything, let alone spend a few minute in the port-o-john! Oh well!
It was the at the Battle of First Bull Run that Jackson rose to prominence and earned his famous nickname "Stonewall". As the Union moved in on one of the other Southern Brigades, Jackson and his own brigade were slow to their relief and it was said by another Commander "Look at Jackson standing their like a Stone Wall!" Nobody knows what Jackson was thinking at the time but he ended up moving in and successfully stopping the Union, and suffered more casualties that day than any other brigade. After that battle Stonewall was promoted to Major General.
The gun popped and off we went! The crowd moved slower than most races I have entered. Since I was "late" to the race I was in the back when the gun went off but I was able to make my way to the front of the pack pretty quickly.
As I rounded the bend of the road there was a hill, then at the bottom of that hill.. another incline.. I thought.. flat course, huh? I would later find out that my buddies wife, forgetting about all the hills in the race, told him it was flat and that's where his answer to my question came from.
The first 5 miles I wanted to keep the pace upbeat, a little faster than goal pace but not too much, of course, I had no idea about all the hills I would soon be climbing. When I reached mile 6, I decided to bring it down to an 8 minute pace and was still feeling really good. I did that for mile 6, then came a very big hill... and my pace dropped to an 8:24, and from there, with the exception a couple miles it was hard to get back up to that 8 minute goal pace. But I was fine, still feeling good despite the hills and not so worried about keeping that pace.. the hills were slowing me and that was to be understood.
The course was beautiful and reminded me of upstate New York in the fall. As I ran, leaves of changing and various colors fell to the ground in front of me. Tall trees lined the roads and historic monuments of the battles that once filled this land dotted the area. Men and women dressed in Colonial Garb handed out water and Gatorade at aid stations.
Ultimately, I finished at 2 hours and 53 minutes, an 8 Minute and 35 second pace. I was fine with this. It would not have been a PR marathon pace and I would have most likely slowed even more under the pressure of all the hills.
Confederate Military accidentally shot Stonewall Jackson on May 2nd, 1863 but he survived with the loss of his arm to an amputation, but then 8 days later, he died from pneumonia. Jackson's death was a severe set back not only for the confederate army but also affected the moral of the general public.
And even though I was told the course was flat and to the contrary was not... my moral was just fine! I came in 3rd in my age group and 27th overall. I will run this one again!