As everyone knows, the NYC Marathon ended up being cancelled this year due to Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. I’ve been asked about it a lot….”are you going to blog about your New York experience?” because I had already made the trip when they announced the cancellation. To answer that….nah, not really. There are a lot of emotions and opinions flying around about what happened, and why, and how, and right and wrong….. I’m kinda worn out of talking about it all. I hope to have the opportunity to go back and experience the marathon next year, and I will write about it then instead.
So, this past weekend I ran in the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon. It had been on my calendar as a post NYC fun run style race…I almost bagged the trip because I have been nursing a seriously strained hamstring (yes, again) and the elevation chart for the race didn’t really look like anything logical for a bad hammy.
Fortunately, I have never been accused of being particularly logical when it comes to running, so I decided to go anyway. If you visit the race’s website, you will notice that Monkey Trent, the race organizer, tries to warn you how stupid you are to try to run this race. If you get in, (lottery registration) you will receive multiple emails telling you how unfortunate you are, and that you are an idiot for wanting to do it. While the hills are mean, I now know first hand why people throw themselves back into the gauntlet of the Monkey year after year. First of all, the course is really beautiful. It’s like running a trail race, except you don’t have to tango with the roots and rocks so you can actually look at what is around you instead of down at the ground the whole time. The fall leaves changing and the rolling hills make for a very peaceful and meditative experience….at least until mile 19 or so when the downhill has completely annihilated your legs ….and even then it’s still beautiful. Second, the value for your money is outstanding. In a world of $150+ entry fees that sometimes give you nothing more than a plastic bag full of flyers and an ill fitting shirt, the Monkey, for $80, gives you this…
That would be a regular cotton tee, a (gender specific) personalized (yes, your name you put on your bib is also on your shirt) long sleeve tech tee, a sticker, and a magnet. The medal is made of wood, which is just cool because it is unique. There are drawings during the awards ceremony for door prizes that range from hats to hoodies to chocolate to Monkey Marathon wine (yeah, they have their own wine)…and there have to be 100 prizes or more for a field of….400? I don’t know how many get in each year but there are a lot of prizes. I chose the mittens in the photo with the Monkey logo on them. They are handmade, and quite cuddly. Yes, I am ranting and raving about the race schwag, I can’t help it, it is awesome. Along with the medal, all finishers get a Silipint.
How many of you have a rubber pint glass at home?? It’s okay to be jealous. At noon (Tennessee laws, can’t tap a keg before noon) they open up the Yazoo beer kegs and you can fill your Silipint as many times as you want for free. The only thing that might be more jaw-dropping than the fact that you get all this stuff is that I actually didn’t have any beer…. I know, someone just dropped their drink reading that. I still am not sure how that happened. I just never made it to the beer zone. I hear that it was excellent though. To top off my Monkey experience, the top 3 male and female overall and masters finishers get to select a “crotch monkey”….Crocheted monkeys made specially for the marathon. Mine is in the photo above with the schwag. Here is a pic of the pile o’ monkeys I had to choose from.
The other thing that made the Monkey awesome was the race organization and volunteers. There were 18 water stops on the course, and every one had very high energy. If you’ve been to a race with crappy (or un-manned!) aid stations, you really appreciate the good ones. There was plenty of sarcastic humor.. the course makes loops around the park in a way that you will see the back side of the earlier mile markers late in the race…. and they all said “IDIOT” on them. Just a little reminder of how “unlucky” you were to be selected to run. Also had a lot of signs like this…
strategically placed at the points when you would be cursing yourself for running the Monkey…but not really, because it is awesome. There are some races these days that really only seem to care about making a dollar off the participants. There are some who will tear down the finish early, not provide adequate support on the course, or abandon the finish line before the last runners come in. Then there are races like the Monkey, that make you feel like you have become a part of a big family just for being there, cheer enthusiastically from the first finisher to the last, fill your bellies with beer, and give you so much cool shit I’m not sure they make a penny.
Trent, I’m sorry for exposing you for what you really are….although based on the fact that you have to use a lottery for registration, I guess it’s probably not a secret. While Monkey is one of the most challenging courses I have ever run…..and one of the slowest times I have ever run….I loved it. Everything about the event was top notch. I will definitely be back, if I am unfortunate enough to get in.