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An Occurrence ​​at the Greenville Bridge: 2018 Annual Race Report

Author and Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce (June 24, 1842-circa 1914) wrote stories which did not require a predictable or even a happy ending. My favorite Bierce short story is An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, written in 1890. This story opens with a man named Peyton about to meet his demise on a bridge at the hands of Yankee soldiers. Peyton recounts escaping and returning home to his wife and children when, suddenly, he experiences a sharp pain and a blinding flash of light. At this point the shocking and surprising end of the story becomes clear.

Taking my cue from Bierce, I now feel free to write what really happened in my 2018 annual race report. What follows is an unexpurgated account of both the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful. The race times have not been edited to make this author look better or faster. If bad tactical decisions and slow race times make you squeamish then, dear reader, please skip ahead.

I will only briefly address two of the races, the Marine Corp Marathon (Washington, DC) and the St. Jude Marathon (Memphis, TN), as I will cover them in a separate post.

The pictures are my own. The stories are true. The pain is real.

January 2018

Race: Mike Cooley 10k Trail Run

Place: Overton Park, Memphis, TN

Pain makes me smile. ?

Race day was cold and gray, but at least it was raining. This race felt more like a true trail run as opposed to many races that promote themselves as trail runs but really it just means you run on older, crumbly pavement. The fifteen pounds I added over Christmas and the New Year were not a help here.

The race started uphill on a golf course, went along Poplar Avenue, and then turned into the woods. The trails were narrow and single-file at times, but with a smaller race crowd, it was not much of a problem. I enjoyed the muddy sections of the course the best because it felt a little more technical. Who knows, maybe I’m faster running in the mud!

Pace: 11:12/mile (2017 pace 12:03/mile)

Time: 1:09:27 (2017 time 1:14:45)

February 2018

Race: 6th Annual Mississippi River Marathon

Place: Lake Village, Arkansas to Greenville, Mississippi

“Run a marathon over the Mississippi River,” they said. “On the Greenville Bridge built in 2010,” they said. “What can go wrong?” I said. NOTE: The race was well organized with plenty of support. EXTRA NOTE: The monsoon-like conditions were miserable. Rain. Rain. Rain.

On race day, I woke up to a deluge. I have often run the wooded trails in heavy rain for up to 3 hours, so I was not too concerned. I had a light rain jacket and in addition to the rain the air was warm and humid. While loading up with the other runners on the school buses for the trip to the starting line, I felt the first surge of concern. Why was everyone wearing trash bags on their feet? I overheard discussions of keeping your feet dry as long as possible, but it was too late for me.

They took us to a bean field outside of Lake Village, Arkansas and deposited us in a place that soon turned into a muddy morass. I was caught there with nowhere to go to stay dry. The rain jacket kept the rain out but it would soon hold the heat (and sweat) in. I was going to be wet either way.

The bean field where the race started.

The rain began to slacken so, perhaps, things would not be so bad. We ran through downtown Lake Village (pop. 2,575), a town formed by a bend in the Mississippi River that was later cut off (look up “oxbow lake” ). While running through the town I could not help but notice the Charles Lindbergh statue! Apparently, Lucky Lindy crash-landed here one time and left a statue of himself behind. Or maybe, I was just dreaming.

My soaking wet feet and I eventually came to the Greenville Bridge over the Mississippi River. I should have noticed how many runners stopped to walk on the ramp leading up to the bridge. The bridge must have been a mile up to the peak, and we were 13 miles into the race. When I made it to the top of ther bridge with my waterlogged shoes, I was gassed.

It was at the top of the bridge that the occurrence happened. A car cut over the running lane and stopped by the side of the highway. A young couple jumped out and asked me if I would take their picture looking over the River. The young lady looked down and saw my racing bib and then she asked me the question, “Oh, are you running in a race now?  Do you have time to take our picture?” I thought to myself, “You had to ask me if I was running a race? Didn’t I look like I was running?” So, of course, I took their picture because at this point time was the least of my worries. Was this even real?

Running on the downhill side of the bridge my feet began to tingle, and I knew I was in trouble. Maceration of the feet: breakdown of the skin caused by being too wet for too long. I had read a book by John Vonhof called Fixing Your Feet: Injury Prevention and Treatments for Athletes so I knew what was happening, but, in the rain, I had few options. I was halfway through the race and my wet feet were only going to break down more the longer I ran.

Coming off the bridge, in addition to my other troubles, I was hot and thirsty. I approached the next water table with some sense of joy and relief only to find it was manned by the local Mormon community. Even in pain, I could find some humor in the thought that as a Baptist, should I accept water from a group that believes in water baptism for the dead? Well, it was a hot, muggy day after all. I’ll save that discussion for another day.

I finished the race at a walking pace, but even walking hurt . . . badly. I had a dream that I finished the race with no problems, but then a searing white light of pain awakened me. I realized that I had indeed run myself out of the soles of my feet. Here is a picture of the medal. I will spare you the feet pictures.

What was I thinking?

Pace: 14:07/mile

Time: 6:09:59 (BUT I FINISHED!!)

May 2018

Race: 35th Annual Bluff City 10k

Place: Cooper-Young District, Memphis, TN

This was my first dry race of 2018, so I was pretty excited. Daughter Laura ran this one with me which made it even better. I love the Cooper-Young section of Memphis where the race was held and other than some residual foot pain from the marathon, it was a great day to run.

Pace: 10:40/mile (2017 pace 10:16/mile)

Time: 1:06:12 (2017 time 1:03:40)

Race: Great American River Run Half Marathon

Place: Downtown Memphis along the Mississippi River

This was a delightful half marathon run along the banks of the Mississippi River. The day was very hot and humid, so I wore my large capacity Camelbak for the first time in a race. I train with it all the time, so the extra weight was not a problem. I loved having lots of extra water for the run.

Please keep your shirt on
Someone who didn’t keep their shirt on

Pace: 12:11/mile

Time: 2:39:39

Race: Zoom Through the Zoo (4 miler)

Place: Memphis Zoo

The M Town race series takes you to some cool parts of the city. The first race in the series is a night run through the Memphis Zoo. Since my running style resembles that of the water buffalo, this is only fitting.

Pace: 10:33/mile (2017 pace 10:14/mile)

Time: 42:12:31 (2017 time 40:56:50)

June 2018

Race: Harbortown 5k

Place: Harbortown (Memphis), TN

Hot and humid but still fun to feel that breeze off of the Mississippi River. Oh wait, that’s not a breeze, those are mosquitoes.

Pace: 9:46/mile (2017 pace 9:14/mile)

Time: 29:18:43 (2017 time 28:41:32)

Blinded by sweat and mosquitoes

Race: Navy Nautical 10 Miler (11.5078 Real Miles)

Place: Naval Support Activity Mid-South, Millington, TN

This race is measured in Navy miles which are apparently different than Army miles. Very hot and humid but always a great race. However, due to the extra distance, I will be rooting for Army in this year’s Army-Navy Football game.

P.S. About the best race medal anywhere!

Pace: 11:52/mile (2017 pace 11:33/mile)

Time: 2:16:35 (2017 time 2:14:15)

Race: Orion 5k

Place: The hottest part of Memphis, TN

Laura Spradlin ran this one with me, so I said, “Hey, can we take a pic and I’ll post it on all my social media?” Here was her reaction.

Race: Global Hunger 5k

Place: Downtown Dallas, Texas

Yep, Downtown southern Summer running is a thing. It’s called crazy. But I got my picture made with some awesome missionaries I knew from the Philippines. So, there’s that. And it’s for a great cause!

Pace: 10:17

Time: 32:39

July 2018

Race: Memphis Stars and Stripes 5k

Place: Memphis Botanic Gardens

I once heard my grandmother say that it was, “hotter than blue blazes,” whatever that means. Well, I guess it means that grandma had run an earlier version of this 5k because it sure was hot. Daughter Laura was here as well. She loves sports and music and she has sung the National Anthem several times at basketball games. Here she is thinking, “I could totally sing the National Anthem, and then still beat all y’all in the race.”

During this race I’m thinking, “Is this light-headed feeling a good thing or a bad thing?”


Pace: 10:16/mile (2017 pace 9:53)

Time: 33:10 (2017 time 30:44)

September 2018

Race: Chick-fil-A 5k

Place: Downtown Memphis near Redbirds stadium

It’s the American South and Chick-fil-A. ‘Nuff said. And we made some new friends! Here we are with a cow and Rocky the Rockin’ Redbird. (Note to self: when you are very sweaty, hugging a furry mascot can be a good thing).

Rocky the Rockin’ Redbird

Pace: 9:51/mile (2017 9:28/mile)

Time: 30:33 (2017 time 29:25)

October 2018

Marine Corp Marathon–see a future blog post on this fantastic event!

November 2018

Race: Run the Park 10 Miler

Place: Shelby Farms Park, Memphis, TN

I thought this was a trail run by the race description, but the race map said otherwise. I am glad I wore my street racing shoes. It was in the 20s and windy, but the sun was out.  This was two weeks after a marathon (and one week after I donated blood–I’m a lifetime 6-gallon donor, mostly to Lifeblood/Vitalant), so I was not focusing on time, or even reality, or common sense. I mostly wanted to see how my marathon recovery was progressing, especially since I have another marathon in two weeks. All went great.

December 2018

Race: St. Jude Marathon

Place: Downtown Memphis, TN



Thanks for reading my 2018 running report. I hope I don’t wake up and find that it was all a dream. I hope I don’t wake up and find I have to run all these races again! It was a great year and who knows what 2019 has in store?