Up to this point I had run sub-3 six times, and just around 3 hrs in a handful of others:
Portland, ME: 3:07
Sugarloaf, ME: 2:58*
Hartford, CT: 3:08; 2:55*; 3:03
Bay State, MA: 3:09
NYC, NY: 3:20
Boston, MA: 3:02; 2:49*; 2:58*
San Francisco, CA: 3:00
Marine Corp, DC: 2:49*
Steamtown, PA: 2:50*
Monster Mash, DE: 2:58*
I always fall back on my experience over this distance to help put things into perspective.
At Sugarloaf, my first sub-3, I had to stop at mile 14 to "Mile 14". San Francisco was a tough, tough course, and two weeks after I got hit by a car while riding my bike. Boston 2:58 was 85+ degrees. Sinus infection and a broken Garmin at MCM. Delaware, the most recent sub-3, had been my 3rd marathon over a 13 day stretch.
These were the marathon experiences that I was using to get me mentally through Mississippi.
I hadn't felt this strong and balanced in a long time, so if I could do sub-3 feeling sub-par at those other marathons, then there was no reason I couldn't do it here under near perfect conditions.
Two things about the course had me thinking about how painful this run was going to be: the course itself and the conditions of the roads.
The course profile showed what looked like a hilly course with some good climbs throughout. The one positive that I took note of on the profile was that every up had an equivalent down.
The condition of the roads in Jackson were a thing of beauty. In fact, Jackson itself is an enigma in city planning.
First, parts of the course had absolutely some of the worst roads I've ever run on. I would have to say that the state capital last paved these roads about never ago. Potholes ate up the shoddy streets, and they were especially pronounced on some of the turns on the course. And there were plenty of turns on this course. The terrain was even worst around the train crossings. You seriously had to pay attention or you'd find yourself doing a face plant.
WARNING: RANDOM RANT
I'm sorry to say, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more depressed looking state capital anywhere else in the US. Random buildings are scattered throughout the city with no care for placement. Big swaths of land remained empty in the heart of the city. Basically, Jackson looked like it was built by someone playing Sim City for the first time. They should also really learn how to use the terra-forming tool to flatten out some of those nasty hills.
END OF RANT
I always break my marathons into 5K's, and I knew that 20 minute 5K's would get me 2:50. So, for Mississippi I adjusted my times accordingly, and wanted to hit about 21 mins for my 5K splits in order to give myself a little room for error.
Splits through the first 20K:
I kept an eye on my pace and made sure I didn't see too many miles above 6:45 early on. I was comfortably averaging low 6:40's by the time I got to the half in 1:27. Pretty much exactly what I was hoping for.
I have never once negative split a marathon, with my best split being +2, so I was hoping for just +6 or less. When I put the halves into those terms, it makes the whole distance a lot more manageable. At one point, I even considered going for an even split and shoot for sub 2:55, but that would have been pushing my luck today.
I now just had to run a 1:33 or better second half to go back home with another sub-3 state. It would take something catastrophic for me to blow this one.
And right on cue, it happened.