Hotter Than Hades – A Race Review
Saturday I ran the Hotter than Hades Tribbett Half Marathon, in Leland Mississippi. (I love typing out the full m.i.s.s.i.s.s.i.p.p.i – isn’t it hard to say that word without sing-spelling?) This is part of my challenge to myself to run 20 13.1’s this year and try to run them in states I have not yet visited. This was #8.
Hotter than Hades is a teeny-tiny race, 213 runners registered, mostly locals and people from nearby cities like Memphis or Jackson. I found it on the half marathons race calendar website, where I search for races in the states I need to get to on the weekends I can get there. Without the magic of the web, there is no way I’d have heard about this event. And I am so glad I found it!
I arrived in Leland around 7 pm on Friday, later than planned due to travel delays. [i] Thankfully, packet pick up was open until 8 pm. The process was a dream for a weary traveller. Packet pick up is at St. John’s Episcopal Church, in the sanctuary. That’s a first for me, picking up my number at the altar. I took it as a good omen. The race shirt is stellar! One of the best and I was pretty surprised given the modest $65 race fee.
I asked about nearby food, and lucky me, their was a pre-race dinner in the church kitchen for $20 (all proceeds from the race benefit special session at Camp Bratton Green). The incredible spread was all hand prepared by church volunteers, four different kinds of yummy pastas, salads, bread, sweet-tea, and white chocolate bread pudding that broke my heart to leave. I ate dinner in the church and people came over to eat with me. The result was new friends, great stories about race and the community, race tips and a meal that I could never have gotten in any restaurant. First piece of advice = pay the $20 bucks and enjoy the pre-race dinner.
I stayed in nearby Greenville, and stayed at the yickiest Days Inn on the planet.[ii]. There is nothing at all to see in either Greenville or Leland. So be ready to relax. If you want to run around and see things, drive up to Memphis or down to Vicksburg.
The race course is unique. It’s a one-way straight shot. You park your car at the Budweiser distributor in the middle of nowhere, they bus you to a big farm in the middle of nowhere and you run back. The start was my favorite. I have this vision in my head of a half-dozen townies walking down the dirt path in the middle of the corn… “Hey Bob, this here looks like a good place to start…” The start “line” (there was no line, just a big tractor) is in a cornfield. The race started with a prayer (something like God bless you for the money you paid to run this, it helps special needs campers, God bless your health.) and a pistol shot. Advice #3 if you are running to win[iii]: start at the “front” – there is no chip time and while it is small, if you are at the back you lose the little bit of difference between you at those at the front.
The race itself lives up to its name. It is very hot and very humid. The aid stations along the course are small but mighty. I think there were 10 water stations, GU at the half way mark, a few porto-potties, some Gatorade towards the end. Volunteers who vie for runner votes in a contest for best aid station man the stops. There are water station themes, my favorite was “Leaving 7th Heaven,” and people are fun. I saw the church ladies from the dinner at the 7th Heaven station, it was nice to recognize people along the way. Other than that, no crowd support and nothing to see but 13 miles of pure, beautiful farm fields. No houses, no animals, no cross streets, no turns, no-thing. I loved it. I’ve never run a course like that. You don’t have to think about anything! Good course for tunes if you run with music.
You end back at the distributor, and the finish banner is held up by, you guessed it, two tractors. You run straight into the chute along a dirt road with nothing on either side but land.
The finisher’s medal is hand made by the children at the campers at Camp Bratton Green, along with a Mardi Gras style beads adorned with little devils. They had massages at the finish, water, chocolate milk, bananas, pizza, chips, pop and yes, lots of Budweiser that you help yourself to right from the tap. I hung out for a long while, chatting with lots of super nice, fun people. I was so glad to see a young woman, Emmylou, that I met on the bus finish her first half. (And I kinda want to fly her to Chicago for Shamrock so she can see what the big city brings).
My time was not great in this race. I don’t care. It was HOT. But I had fun. I’m glad I ran it. I might be up for running it again if you want to go.
Check out their great Facebook page for more pics and information.
[i] I did not think I would make it, and emailed the race contact a few hours before to see if I could get my packet on race day. Jamie, the race organizer emailed me right away to say she’d hold it for me at the start if I did not make it. This is why I LOVE small races!!
[ii] Second piece of advice: do not stay at the Greenville Days Inn and do not ask me to explain why – I don’t want to think about it again.
[iii] You could win. Really. It’s a small race.