Flowerfest Marathon Recap 2023

Flowerfest Marathon, Callaway Gardens, GA (3/18/2023)

The Flowerfest Marathon is part of the TriColumbusGa race series. TriColumbusGa is known for providing high quality, family friendly, and unique experiences for athletes of all levels. I have previously participated in their triathlon races at the sprint and olympic distance.

I was considering three marathons in Georgia: Combos Marathon (formerly Snickers Marathon) in Albany on 3/2/2023, the Flowerfest Marathon in Callaway Gardens on 3/18/2023, or the Chasing Jefferson Davis Marathon on 4/15/2023 in Abbeville. The Combos Marathon was the closest to me, but I chose the Flowerfest Marathon because it was the end of my kids spring break, there were no family scheduling conflicts, and I had read positive reviews about running in Callaway Gardens.

Friday – Travel Day

Having been to the area before, I knew there were few places to eat, so I made sure to pack heavy on snacks and meals. I think I packed enough for five days. I stayed at the Mountain Top Inn Lodge, which had a rustic, mountain cabin feel, with a beautiful view of the valley. The weather was cold, windy, and raining when I arrived. Packet pickup was outside in the windy and cold weather. There was no expo, but a few friendly volunteers that helped me with packet pickup.

Later that evening two friends arrived at the lodge. They had decided to race as well. It had been about 7 years since we had all raced together. I was grateful for their company as it took my mind off the race and my nerves.

Saturday – Race Day

Race Day. Woke up at 3:40am. Wondered if I would be able to fall back asleep. Then, somehow I heard my alarm going off and it was 5:40am. Got up, drank half a cup of coffee, ate a banana and half of a danish. The weather was damp, windy, and 36ᵒF. I opted for more layers thinking that I would be better off as my recent long runs ended with temps close to 80 degrees. I wore cold weather running tights, a thin tank, thin long sleeve, and a super thin jacket. I opted for a beanie to cover my ears and thin running gloves. We arrived at the race location about 7:15am and waited in the car (to stay warm) until 7:23am. Then, it was off to find a bathroom to empty whatever was still in my bladder.

7:30am. Race start. There was a staggered start with the full marathoners starting first and the half marathoners starting later. The race began with prayer and the national anthem. Then, we were off. I opted to start at the very back, behind the pacer with 5:00hr sign, believing I would be running between 5:30-5:50. Of course I started off too fast. I contemplated what to do, I could slow down or try to maintain the pace as long as I could, either way I would probably hit the wall around mile 22 and would end up walking. I ended up keeping a 10:00/mile pace for the first 5 miles and then eased into a slightly slower pace at mile 6. I passed a few people during these miles and believed they would catch me in the later miles. Around mile 5, during an uphill climb, I removed my jacket and beanie, replacing the beanie for a ball cap. It was still rather cold, and I opted to keep my gloves on.

At this point, I settled into a nice pace behind a gentleman in dark shorts and sweatshirt, wearing a neon green Nathan hydration pack, and colorful striped crew socks. It was the socks that I enjoyed the most. We were nearing mile 11 when he saw me. He was about 100 feet ahead of me when a half-marathoner directed him to go the wrong way. He looked back and saw me and I pointed to go the other direction (as if I knew what I was doing) and he followed my directions. Luckily, I saved us both from running the interior loop twice. At the finish of the first loop, my sweet friend was there to cheer me on. It is always wonderful when someone you know is on the course looking for you and cheering for you.

The second lap was much quieter and there were very few marathoners around me. It seemed like it was just me and the gentleman in the colorful socks. It seemed that every half mile I was passing him or he was passing me. At one point we started having a conversation when we caught up to one another. Perhaps it was the physical discomfort of the later miles or the loneliness of the course that kept us chatting a bit. At mile 16, I stopped to pee. I thought I might be able to finish and pee after the race, but every downhill stretch made my bladder feel like it would burst. I imagine giving birth to three babies did not help my situation. At this point, I thought the gentleman in the colorful socks would be sure to put plenty of distance between himself and me.

After emptying my bladder, I had a few more good miles. At mile 19, my pace slowed to an 11:50/mile pace. My legs started to feel heavy and my running bra felt like it was digging into my back (which it was). Then, I caught up to the colorful socks. Our conversation was minimal at this point as we both agreed we were struggling and “feeling it now.” It was also at this point I realized it was possible I would finish with a much better time than I had planned. I did not let my mind go too far down this road as it is often said that the first half of a marathon is the first 20 miles, and the second half is the last 6.2. This meant anything could happen during the last few miles.

At mile 21, I started to feel nauseous. I decided to stick to a few small sips of Gatorade and water. My pace also slowed to a 12:20/mile pace. At this point, I began evaluating how much walking I could start incorporating. I could walk for a minute at each half mile mark, or I could walk uphill stretches, or I could walk all of the last 5k (except the homestretch). In mile 22, I was still passing and being passed by colorful socks. Then, I was passed by two runners. At this point, I thought I was going to hit a wall and be done. I still ran most of mile 21 and 22.

As I started mile 23, I attempted a sip of Gatorade and the nausea hit me hard enough that I had to walk. I told myself with only a 5k left I would have to skip consuming any more nutrition and finish the race. I ended up walking the uphill stretches and completed mile 23 in 12:38 and mile 24 in 12:37. Somewhere in these miles I passed colorful socks for the last time.

In mile 25 my sweet friend joined me on the course to help me bring it home. I cried when I saw her. It was at the moment I realized I was going to have one of my best finish times and she was there to help me celebrate. She was trying to help me pick up the pace bit and even walking small portions I completed mile 25 in 12:18. Thankfully, the last .2 miles was mostly downhill, making the finish so sweet! I finished in 4:48:23 and placed 2nd in my age group.

After the race I enjoyed a small slice of pizza a few potato chips and lots of water.

Good to know:

  • Marathon course is a two-loop course,
  • Course is hilly, if you aren’t running up a hill, you are looking at the next hill you will be running up,
  • Easy and close parking to start line/finish line of race, and
  • Small race.


  • Race has few flat stretches or straightaways,
  • 8-hour cutoff time (walker friendly),
  • Within the two-loop course there are smaller loops through neighborhoods, so you do get a chance to cheer runners ahead of you and behind you,
  • Beautiful finishers medal, and
  • The race was moved from January to March, so the temps are more pleasant, and you do see flowers!


  • Roads not blocked off so people coming in and leaving park were driving on the course during the race, and
  • I wore a worn-out running bra, which cut into my back and chest in the second half of the race (not to be confused with chafing).

After the race, I headed back to the room to devour blackberries, an ice-cold soda, and lots of chips n salsa. I took a shower, being careful to let the water hit my back in small amounts and nearly buckled in pain from the salt stinging the spots on my back that were rubbed raw from my running bra. But ahh… battle scars earned. Post race I have realized I need to get serious about my nutrition and find new running bras. I am incredibly thankful to my wonderful friends that showed up to race. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have gotten any pictures of our adventures.

Congrats to all the finishers in 2023 and good luck to those planning to race this in 2024.

Sign up at: Flowerfest Marathon

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