Home to the cowboy, land of legends (Dolly and Johnny, need I say more?) and right at the heart of the country music scene. YeeHaa…bring it on!
Tuesday 24th October 2017
After what had been a looooonng wait overnight in the airport, my first flight, a very quick one at that, to Charlotte, North Carolina was just before 5am.
The connecting flight to Nashville wasn’t for another three hours, but its alright, I was getting good at this airport waiting game! A much needed stop at Starbucks and less than two hours in the air later, I touched down in Nashville International. I couldn’t check in at the hostel I was staying in until 3pm…so you guessed it…more killing time in the airport! I figured it was better to sit patiently in the airport with some lunch rather than try to do some sightseeing in a new city with my backpack in tow. So lunch it was, bringing my grand total of the past 18 hours spent in airport lounges, but the time passed quicker than you’d think.
There was a local bus that I could take to downtown for a bargain $1.70 that stopped just a short walk away from the hostel so that worked out pretty well.
By the time I got there it is safe to say I was pretty tired (yes, I know what you’re thinking…all this time off work exploring must be tiring right enough!) but in my defense, I had pretty much been awake for over 24 hours and given that I was spending a week here, I decided to use the rest of the night to catch up on some much needed ‘R & R’ and start fresh and raring to go again in the morning. Upon checking in at the new abode, The Nashville Downtown Hostel, I got a really nice feeling for the place. All of the rooms were named after country musicians and bands and it just so happened I was in the ‘Dolly Parton’ room, an all girly room where I met some lovely friends. Tucked up in bed by around 8pm and in the land of nod probably by 8:01, made for what was probably the least (but necessarily so) exciting day of the trip so far.
Wednesday 25th October 2017
After close to 14 hours of sleep and my roommates possibly thinking I was dead, a lovely lie in (just for a change!) meant I woke up just before lunch time…whoops…there goes a waste of a morning! But, I guess the nice thing about being in the city for a little more than a few days means I actually have the luxury of spreading out the sightseeing rather than cramming in as much as possible to just a few days.
First stop…food! This hostel had a pretty impressive kitchen area (as far hostel standards go) and it was super clean so I planned to take full advantage of being able to make some ‘real food’ over the next few days. There was a cool, little grocery shop on Church Street just a few blocks walk from the hostel so after getting some lunch and having a wee walk to get my bearings a bit, I went there to stock up on some essentials for the week; porridge, pasta…the usual backpacker/ marathoner budget essentials. Most hostels give you a box or some kind of shelf space to store your stuff. The rules here, just write your name on everything along with your check out date and you’re good to go.
I was supposed to train today, Tuesdays meaning efforts, but I’d swapped my sessions around to do tomorrows easy run instead as I knew the lack of sleep from yesterday probably wouldn’t give the best of results. That paired with finding my bearings in a new place to run. But I was still really tired… I know… not physically possible, but somehow I was. So I didn’t run which I did feel quite guilty about. I mean, skipping one easy run isn’t going to make a huge world of difference to the result in NYC next week right?…Wrong! I just don’t like the feeling of thinking I’ve been skiving, failing to prepare and all. Especially as I am realising as I go that consistency in training is one of thee biggest factors in being successful. But tomorrow for sure, back on track, quite literally!
In the evening I sat in the little Common Room area and made some plans and bookings for the rest of the week. It was actually a really cool place to relax (the tea and coffee being a bonus). With its lots of little fairy lights on the ceiling, a piano and people playing their guitars in little corners of the room making for a very mellow and chilled atmosphere and yet another early night. I really am becoming a dinosaur.
Thursday 26th October 2017
Right…Todays the day! Country Music Hall of Fame time!
With the exception of the Opry, everything in Nashville is pretty accessible and close together. A little walk down Broadway, where the signs are bold and the music is loud, past the Bridgestone Arena, home of the Nashville Predators, brought me to 5th Avenue and my venue of choice for today.
The museum houses all sorts of memorabilia from legends of the county music world, past and present, as well as the Hall of Fame (the highest honor a county music pro can receive). Thanks to my parents varied tastes, I suppose I’ve always had a bit of a thing for country music so I recognised and could appreciate a lot of the items on display at the exhibitions; Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline to name but a few. Whether you like it or not, I feel you can’t help but smile or at the very least let your foot tap along to the beat of country tunes, I think it must be the fiddle. I love the way that each song tells a story, some happy, some sad, even though there’s no denying, some of the lyrics in country songs are simply just ridiculous. I couldn’t help but think as I was wondering around how much my Mum would have loved it here.
There he is!…
After a great day of exploring, I made it out for that run I had skipped yesterday. An Easy 40 minutes along the Cumberland, a little hilly, and a little start-stop, with more ‘dead ends‘ than you’d imagine for a route along the River but job done all the same.
And, cue the big announcement….
Tonight I cooked my first meal in over a month!
And not only that…Susan and I quickly became friends as ‘laundry buddies‘ to share a load of washing seeing as the machines were huge industrial style ones. Home made food (if you can really call boiling some pasta cooking?) aaannnnddd clean and dry clothes! It really is the simple things, tonight we were living the dream.
Then later in the evening, a really fun night out with Susan and Mary. We hit Honkey Tonk on Broadway for a couple of drinks, some live country music and a little bit of a dance. Oh and ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia‘…live – tick!
Friday 27th October 2017
Although we had been a little later back in the wee hours, I still managed to get myself up quite early, bearing in mind, my now ‘traveling early’, where clocks don’t really exist and your early might be two totally different things.
Porridge made (I know, two meals in as many days!) then today I was spending the afternoon with ‘The Man in Black‘ at the Johnny Cash Museum, home to a collection of memorabilia from his life, acting and singing careers. Most people forget he was a successful actor as well as singer but some of the clips shown took me right back to 6pm on a Sunday night watching Dr Quinn Medicine Woman before early bed for school on a Monday.
The tour around the museum ended with a very moving video of Cash’s last ever single, ‘Hurt‘. The video featuring images from his life from the early years right up to the present day and echoes again the stark reality again of just how short life is (yip, even Johnny was going on about it!) as it shows the sad battle he faced with Parkinson’s Disease in the latter years of his life. Quite sad to think even the best and talented of performers can be struck down with something so cruel and dibilitating.
In the evening, Mary had tickets to go and see a performance of two singer/song writers just a little further out in a venue called ‘The Basement’ and asked if I’d like to join her. She has visited Nashville quite a few times and knows all the cool spots to go so this seemed like a good chance to do something a little bit more authentic. I didn’t realise the two performers, Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby, were actually quite a big deal in the country music world and have written singles for the likes of Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban and Shania Twain.
We had a little time to kill before the show started so visited Grimey’s Record store which was just upstairs. The show itself was short, but a lot of fun. And it turned out Mirada Lambert (again quite a big deal in the county world to say the least!) was in the audience too. Another fun night in Nashville.
Saturday 28th October 2017
Training today was a short threshold session, so I decided to go and explore Centennial Park, which was around 2 miles west of downtown. It was a nice walk out there and back, in a big straight line so no getting lost today. The park was beautiful, with its own iconic representation of the Pantheon, lovely gardens and a one mile lap marked out for walkers/ runners, perfect for some more laps!
The session itself was great, one of those brilliant days where everything feels super easy (even the efforts) and you feel like you could run forever. 40 minutes including 3×5 minute blocks at threshold effort with 90s jog recovery in between. 4.2 miles banked in a gorgeous setting. A little walk back to the hostel in time for something to eat before getting ready for tonight.
THE GRAND OLE OPRY….
The show that made country famous.
Because what else could you possibly be doing on a Saturday night in Nashville?!
Of all the things I wanted to do and see whilst I was here, this was the one I was most looking forward to. Mary wanted to come along tonight too, making it lovely to have some company and we decided we would spoil ourselves to dinner out tonight…I know, wild.
The Opry (where it is now at Opryland) is a little far out from downtown so we had to take an Uber there. We collected our tickets at the box office for the 9.30pm show, stopped for some photos and had a very yummy Mexican dinner. It was so lush to eat something that wasn’t pasta!
The show itself was just brilliant. Set on country’s most famous stage, the show is still broadcast live as a radio show, which made for some hilariously entertaining advertising links from the compare in-between acts. The evening works a bit like a showcase with four sections, each with its own main country star and then their few guests so you are close to seeing around 10-12 performers by the end of the show. I took a few videos but unfortunately seeing as I am not on the ‘premium’ subscription to WordPress, it won’t allow me to upload them.
The very best part of the show was when the final performer of the night, Don Schlitz made his debut Opry performance. The man responsible for writing “The Gambler” for Kenny Rogers, the first song he ever wrote at just 23 years old. As he played the first chord on the guitar, I recognised it instantly…what were the chances?! The only time he has ever performed ‘that’ song at the Opry and I was there!
Needless to say I loved my night there.
Sunday 29th October 2017
Today, attention was on all things running. Firstly a very easy 70 minute jog. My plan said it should be super easy pace, nothing fancy now other than ticking over towards the big one next weekend. It was really hard to keep the pace slow. Easy felt very easy today so another good session but I did try to stay strict and not get carried away with the pace. Back to the hostel, stretches galore and a lovely session with ‘The Stick” to try and get rid of any little knots that might be lurking. Another pasta dinner and time to do my homework for NYC. There was quite a wee list of admin things needing sorted out for all of the activities for the following weekend so I wanted to make sure I had everything all set before the off so I didn’t need to waste any time once I got there.
So cups of tea in the common room it was after what had been a busy few days.
Monday 30th October 2017
Rest day today, so no need to run, just some extra stretches and yoga made for a good start to the morning. A visit to the Ryman Auditorium was the final sightseeing thing on the list. The Ryman was the original home to the Opry and it has seen many greats of past and present times play, and not just county stars at that. And a welcome cheeky discount code by showing my Opry ticket was also a bonus.
Afterwards, a little stop off to see the Capitol and Government buildings. My time in Nashville has almost come to an end.
Final pasta dinner coming right up!
Tuesday 31st October 2017
An early start at 6am for an early check out and transfer to the airport. I have had so much fun in Nashville, and made lots of special memories but now it is time to focus on that all important World Marathon Major number 4! Cue the Music Frankie…
“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today“…
Next stop…New York, New York!