How do I top last year? Can I top last year? What if I don’t top last year? Those were the thoughts entering my mind as I prepared to race Strolling Jim this year. They are questions I’m sure a lot of people think about before a big race.
Strolling Jim is a 41-mile road race by Lazarus Lake (yes, the Barkley guy) on backcountry roads outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where there are a few “aid stations,” course markings are painted along the way and there are three “hills” totaling 3,000 feet of climbing. If you go out too hard on those climbs, and you’ll definitely pay for it on the back stretch. Other features of the race include stray dogs, relentless heat (you are in the South in May, after all) and words of encouragement spray painted along the way.
After hearing about Zack Beavin’s record-setting performance in 2021, as well as a nice prize purse for setting the women’s course record, my husband, Ben, decided to sign me up for the race in 2022 (how romantic). In preparation for the race, I hired Janice Anderson, who has set several Strolling Jim records of her own, to coach me. I also did as much research as I could to feel prepared for the race. As a result, I finished with a time of 4 hours, 56 minutes and 32 seconds, the third-fastest female time in the race’s 44-year history. Unfortunately for me, it was the second-fastest female time of the day as World Record-holder Camille Herron won the race outright with a record-breaking time of 4 hours, 44 minutes and 1 second. However, it was still exciting to make history, as prior to 2022, there was only one female who had gone under 5 hours in the race.
Fast forward to 2023, and Ben and I had decided to do the race together after he was inspired by my performance. However, due to injury, he had to withdraw but still wanted to crew me. After a disappointing race in Chicago in October, I questioned whether I had the speed and mental fortitude to repeat what I did in 2022. With the help of friends and family, I went in with the mentality that I would run it for me. Why put unnecessary pressure on myself?
Even when the sun was out in full force (last year it was overcast and 20 degrees cooler) I remained calm and kept focusing on getting in electrolytes and gels. Having a rockstar crew also helped motivate me and kept me going strong. When I looked at my splits at the marathon and 50k, I realized I was moving faster than last year. I was shocked as I didn’t think I had a chance with the weather and felt like my training wasn’t as strong. Once I got to the last 2 miles, I realized I was going to get under 5 hours. I even passed two other guys in the race in the last 2 miles. Crossing the finish line, I was grinning ear-to-ear, and finding out I was second overall and the first woman to receive two gold shirts (finishes under 5 hours) was the icing on the cake.
Ultimately, I hope that my performance inspires other women to tackle this difficult course and know that even when you doubt yourself, still give it a go because anything can happen on race day.
Results | 40 Miles