It's time...Cotton Row time. One week away from the biggest race in Alabama for a non-marathon guy like me. For someone from Huntsville, this race represents a little bit of everything that the running community and even the city itself has to offer. Beyond deadly hills and unholy summer humidity, this race is about community, patriotism, and respect. Respect for the troops, and admiration for everyone taking part. Whether you're in the front, middle, or back of the pack, when you have finished the route you have conquered Mountainwood hill, braved the descent off of Monte Sano, and crushed the endless straightaway down Clinton Avenue to the finish line. And that's the unique part of this event: there is so much community and camaraderie verily oozing from the volunteers and spectators and race veterans that you're reminded that there is something so much bigger awaiting at the finish line than just the end of another race. For me, the race strikes a chord deep inside me. I've watched from the sidelines since I was less than a year old. The walls in our house growing up were home to my parents' old cotton-filled award plaques. I grew up with the understanding that the Cotton Row Run was a rite of passage for every runner in North Alabama. And in one week I get to take my first stab at the course.
Today was my last time running the course before the race. I tried my best to take in the blue arrows on the ground, the hills, the turns, the humidity that felt like a gorilla on my back. And there were dozens of other runners on the course too, sharing in this 6.2 mile journey through Huntsville that has kept some coming back on Memorial Day for the last 34 years. There may be bigger races, better weather, and fancier race shirts, but there is only one race that starts with honoring the sacrifice of our troops, then barreling down Clinton, and flying by cheering people out on their front lawns with the sprinklers spouting to give the runners a reprieve of the heat. So whatever next Monday brings, I'll remember that I'm blessed to be able to race while others are overseas, that we have an incredible community that comes out en masse to run, jog, and walk on the last Monday in May and lastly, that there is only one event that gives you all these pieces in one sweaty, sore package...the Cotton Row Run.
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