Biking, Broken Leg, and a Bribe- How to be a Better Runner by Cycling

I broke my leg when I was 7 years old riding my bicycle.  I was going down a cul-de-sac and when I tried to turn the corner at the bottom of the hill, I turned the handlebars too quickly and the bike fell on top of my legs.  After a few days of denying to my mom that my leg was broken even though I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, she dragged me to the hospital where I was told my leg was indeed broken.

Finally after suffering through months of agony with this heavy thing and walking on crutches, having to hang the cast out the shower curtain and balancing on my good leg while I attempted to take showers (back then, casts weren’t waterproof like they are today), not being able to sleep well, trying to stuff rulers, pencils, and anything else I could find to try to scratch the itches under the abominable cast, finally, it was removed.  Then began the true suffering.

My leg had become so weak, it was excruciating for me to put any weight on it.  Despite going to physical therapy and doing countless exercises, it still hurt too much to try to walk again.  Finally when I was told I may never walk again if I didn’t do it then, I started to think maybe I should listen to the doctor and therapist.  But again, it really, really hurt and I was only 7 years old.  Ultimately it was money that made me walk.

Being a poor 7 year old, I happily agreed to accept the bribe from my grandmother if I would only walk.  I don’t even remember how much money she paid me, but whatever it was, it was priceless.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if she hadn’t stepped in and paid me to try to walk again.  I probably would have eventually walked on my own, but I may have had a limp or worse.  I doubt I would have become the runner I am today.

One thing I did do after I broke my leg on my bicycle is dust myself off and get back on.  I don’t remember being scared to ride again, but maybe I was and it was just so long ago I don’t remember.  What I do remember is riding my bike with my neighborhood friends for hours during the long summer days when I was a kid.  I remember riding for what felt like miles and miles through woods surrounding our neighborhood on our bikes and not even being tired afterwards.  I don’t remember how old I was when I stopped riding my bike with my friends but it must have been sometime before high school.

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Photo credit charlotteonthecheap.com

When I was 25 years old and newly married, I bought a bike along with my then-husband. We would go out for long rides on quiet country roads or just around our neighborhood, and it reminded me of when I would ride bikes with my friends growing up.  However, that marriage ended and when I eventually remarried, I asked my current husband to ride bikes with me, and he would initially, but as the honeymoon stage wore off, so did our bike rides together.

At first, I would just go out by myself, but I missed having someone out there with me.  I found my bike rides getting less and less until it had been years since I had taken my bicycle out. Having a baby and young child to take care of can do that to you.

Finally, when my daughter was in grade school, I decided to take my bike in to get maintenance done on it so I could ride it again.  At first, I was a little nervous and went pretty slowly, but being a runner, my legs were strong; they just weren’t used to pedaling a bicycle.  Soon, I found more and more courage when I was out riding.  I wouldn’t put the brakes on quite so fast when I would go down a hill, and I wouldn’t be quite so nervous when taking sharp turns.

Then something else happened.  I began to love riding my bicycle again.  After so many years of not riding, I had forgotten just how much I love riding my bike.  I love the feeling of going down a hill, with the wind rushing by me, and I even love the feel of pumping my legs going up a hill.  I found myself smiling to myself when I was out riding.  How could I have given up something that gives me such joy?  I had completely forgotten just how much I love cycling but I felt like I had been given a gift by having  the courage to go out and ride again.  Even if it is by myself.

Even more than the joy of riding my bike, though, I found my legs getting stronger.  I was using muscles for powering my bicycle that don’t get used as much for running.  It turns out that cycling and running go rather nicely together. If you read this article, hopefully you will see what I mean: Runner’s World article.

How many of you that are runners are also cyclists?  Or vice versa, how many of you that consider yourself primarily a cyclist are also runners?  If you are a runner and have not discovered the joy of cycling, or maybe you had a bicycle as a kid but haven’t ridden as an adult, borrow one and see if you can rekindle that joy of cycling as I have.

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Photo credit Pixabay
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Allstate New York 13.1 Half Marathon, New York- 30th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. New York was my 30th state.

A funny thing happened to me on my way to the Allstate New York 13.1 Half Marathon. Only it wasn’t really funny but at least now I can look back at it and while I’m not laughing at least I’m not as upset as I was then.

So first the drama that happened on the way to the race and then the specifics.  My husband, daughter, and I took a taxi to the race start and when I got in I told the driver we were going to the National Tennis Center (our hotel was nearby also in Queens so I knew it should only be short ride).  He nodded his head and we took off.  After about 10 minutes I realized he was circling around Corona Park, where the National Tennis Center is, but it was obvious he didn’t know exactly where to go.  I looked at my watch and it was 10 minutes before the race start.  I started to panic as I watched the minutes ticking away and we still weren’t there.  Finally I told my husband I just wanted to get out, so I told the driver to just pull over right where he was and let us out.  I just blindly ran in the direction I thought the race start should be (based on the race website) and made it to the start with a couple of minutes to spare.  I was furious that I was almost late to the race start because the taxi driver didn’t look up the directions and pretended to know where he was going, but I tried to channel that into positive energy and ended up running a good race and enjoying myself.

The state of New York has no shortage of marathons or half marathons.  There are at least two half marathons in every single month of the year and a marathon in every month except four.  This may make it difficult to decide which one to do if you’re only going to run one in each state, like me.  However, I always knew my half marathon in New York would be in New York City.  I had been to New York City before and typically I like to run races in new cities, but honestly, I was just looking for an excuse to go back because I had so much fun the previous times I had been there.

It did occur to me that the weather can be temperamental in New York City in March but I thought I would take a chance and hope for the best.  Fortunately the weather for the race was a bit chilly and windy but at least it didn’t rain so overall it was pretty good.  Later in the afternoon the day of the race, a storm blew in and it was freezing and raining, so things could have been much worse.

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Typically I tend to choose races that are off the beaten path at least a bit and since this race was entirely through Queens and no other boroughs, it gave me a glimpse into another part of New York City I had not experienced previously.  Like most first and even second time visitors to the great city, I had stuck to Manhattan and had not ventured out much beyond that.  This gave me and my family an opportunity to see things such as Flushing Meadows Corona Park, New York Hall of Science, Queens Museum, and Queens Botanical Garden. There’s even a small zoo in Queens although we didn’t go there.

This was my daughter’s first visit to the Big Apple so of course we also went to the Empire State Building, American Girl Doll Store, Metropolitan Museum of Art , Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Public Library, the iconic American Museum of Natural History (one of my favorites), and the Guggenheim Museum. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a tour to see the Statue of Liberty (I didn’t make reservations far enough in advance) and of course there were other things we missed as well, but we squeezed in as much as we could in a few days after the half marathon- no way I was doing all of that walking before the race.

From my post-race notes:

“Ran through Corona Park in Queens, which is relatively scenic and has a glimpse of Manhattan at one point.  Course had two double loops, was very flat with only “hills” being bridges.  Very good volunteer support along course.  Was very windy and overcast with temps in the low 30’s at start and mid 30’s at finish.  Had been dealing with a strained hamstring which caused back of knee pain in the 2 weeks prior to race, but thanks to a massage 3 days before the race was able to run at good pace with no pain.  Finished in 2:02, my goal time.  HUGE medal, technical shirt, and plenty of post-race snacks and beverages.”

The race for 2016 was cancelled and it’s not clear whether it will be brought back for 2017. However, like I mentioned earlier, there are many others to choose from with more than 10 just in New York City alone throughout the year.

Here is the link to the race series: 13.1 series

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All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon, Massachusetts- 29th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Massachusetts was my 29th state.

By now, I had ran a few half marathons in the New England states VermontConnecticut, Rhode Island, and I had thoroughly enjoyed visiting each state, even if the races were some of my tougher ones.  I chose the All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon for my Massachusetts race.  As you can tell from the name, this was a race for women, with one “lucky” guy being chosen from a lottery to run in the race.  I had never ran in an all-women race before and I was curious to see what it was like.

The All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon was formerly known as the Maine Coast Half Marathon which took place in York, Maine.  The new course wound through the streets of Newburyport on the North Shore of Massachusetts.  The race organizers said they changed the location of the race because the one in Massachusetts was flatter than the one in Maine, and the race in Massachusetts offered things to do before and after the race and the town had the necessary hotels and inns, restaurants, and retail shops that are vital for a successful race of this size.

The course was an out-and-back that started and finished at Newburyport High School, with country roads winding along Newburyport and West Newburyport, passing two reservoirs along the way.  The race typically included more than 800 runners and walkers, so it was on the small side but not so small that you would feel completely secluded along the course. Most of the course’s hills were in the first half of the race, with the exception of a gradual uphill near the finish.

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The autumn leaves were beautiful.

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The start was surrounded by beautifully colored trees.

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The finish!

Newburyport is just under an hour driving time to Boston Logan International Airport, which makes it incredibly easy to get to from other parts of the country.  We spent the evening before the race in Newburyport and checked out some of the unique shops, but for the rest of our time before and after the race, we were in Boston, which is full of fun things to do.  This was my first time to Boston, so my family and I walked the Freedom Trail and took in all of the history.  We visited the Samuel Adams Brewery which turned out to be even more fun than we had expected (they make their own root beer for the younger crowd or non-drinkers). There are multiple running tours, food tours, and brewery tours in Boston, in addition to historical tours.  If you’re a baseball fan, a must-do is to check out a game at Fenway Park. If you’re a runner, a must-do is to get your photo taken by the Boston Marathon logo that is permanently painted on Charles Street.

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I may never run the Boston Marathon but at least I can dream

If you’re wondering what it was like to run an all-women’s race, there was definitely a different kind of vibe before, during, and after the race.  I’m not sure I can even explain it other than there was maybe more of a camaraderie kind of feel.  We were all friends just out for a beautiful run that just happened to be a half marathon.  Not to say that women aren’t competitive and this race was definitely a competitive race, but that’s the best way I can explain it.

From my post-race notes:

“Beautiful course along country roads; passed several farms and went by water for much of the course.  Lots of short but steep hills throughout, however.  Was pretty chilly- 40 at start around 42 at finish.  Medal and short-sleeve technical shirt were both nice.  No race packet so nothing else.  Was soup and bread at finish along with usual bananas, water, yogurt.  Race was all women and one guy so that was different.  Finished in 2:04.”

Unfortunately it appears that 2014 was the last year for this race.  Too bad!  It was a fun one!  There are tons of half and full marathons in Massachusetts, so choosing one should be no problem.  There is a half marathon in Newburyport in October, so that would be a good choice and you would get to enjoy the colorful autumn leaves and ideal running temperatures.

Newburyport half marathon

 

 

San Juan Island Half Marathon, Washington- 28th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Washington was my 28th state.

Around 20,000 runners typically compete in the Seattle Rock-n-Roll Marathon and Half Marathon in a given year. By comparison, there are typically 200 total runners (or less) in the San Juan Island Marathon/Half Marathon/10K.  Being a person who likes to take the road less-traveled, I chose the San Juan Island Half Marathon for my half marathon in Washington. In 2011, San Juan Island was ranked #3 in their 10 Best Summer Trips list.  San Juan Island, along with other adjacent islands Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw are accessible by a ferry from Seattle.  This ferry ride just may be the most scenic ferry you’ve ever been on, and don’t be surprised if you see porpoises along the way!

The race director says this about the course on the Facebook page:  “You are about to be treated to what has to be among the most scenic courses in the country if not the world. If you’ve run enough of these, you’ll know scenic=hills and there are plenty! Foxes, deer, eagles, seals, hawks, owls, Orca whales, hump back whales are some of the wildlife available on this course.” He is right about the hills.  There were very few stretches of flat course but he is also right about it being a scenic course.  This race ranks up there in my top 10 most scenic half marathons, for sure.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a small race so don’t expect a lot of extras here.  There also aren’t many spectators along the course, but there are plenty of cool things to look at along the way such as alpacas, meadows, and ocean views.  When I finished, I couldn’t  find any food at all- no bananas or water even, but it’s possible it was there and I just wasn’t looking in the right spot.

For things to see and do in San Juan Island, there’s whale-watching, hiking in Lime Kiln Point State Park, kayaking so you can see the porpoises up-close, or you can visit a lavender farm. There are loads of cabins available to rent which will give you a more authentic feel for the island.  I remember watching deer eat in the fields behind our cabin every morning and every evening at dusk.  It’s also nice to have your own kitchen especially the morning of a race so you can eat what you want, when you want and only have to walk a few feet to get it.

From my post-race notes, “Even more hilly than Knoxville course Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon, Tennessee- 27th state.  Was extremely scenic, however.  Ran along meadows, back country roads, past an alpaca farm, and along roads with views of the ocean.  Not many spectators on the course.  Medal and shirt were both OK but nothing special.  Didn’t see any post-race beverages or food at all but maybe I just couldn’t find it.  Hardly anyone stayed after the race.  Aid stations were average but nothing special.  Weather was perfect.  Very low-key small race.  Finished in 2:07.”

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San Juan Island Marathon

 

Top 5 Things to Do in Charleston, SC with Kids without Spending a Ton of Money

Charleston, South Carolina seemingly has something to offer everyone.  If you want a romantic escape, there are plenty of bed & breakfasts to stay at and cobblestoned streets to take a horse-drawn carriage ride with your significant other.  If you want a fun girls weekend getaway, there are plenty of options for that with cool bars and unique shops.  For the golfer, there are 19 championship courses in the area.  For the history buff, this city is steeped in history and there are historical tours and museums all over.  Finally, if you’re just looking for a fun place to visit with your family, there are loads of options for families.  Options for families is what I will delve into here.

Charleston is definitely not an inexpensive city, at least on the surface.  The accommodations are expensive, the restaurants are also on the pricey side, and you feel like you’ve won some kind of prize if you’re lucky enough to find a free parking spot or a meter with some time left on it. However, there are ways to visit Charleston and not blow a ton of money (Charming Charleston- How to visit without breaking the bank). If you’re visiting with kids, there are numerous free or inexpensive ways to have fun and keep everyone happy and entertained.

1. The beaches near Charleston, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are completely free and open to the public.  Another option for a beach near Charleston is Folly Beach.  Although I did not visit Folly Beach when I was in Charleston in August so I can’t speak of that beach personally, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are both clean and well-maintained. Lifeguards are on duty mostly during the peak summer months of May through part of September.  Check out more info at Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission.  A word of warning about the waves, as they can be quite rough.  We found the water to be considerably calmer at an inlet we were able to walk to at Sullivan’s Island going through neighborhoods to the far end of the beach.  One of my daughter’s favorite things to do at beaches is to “jump the waves” with her father, so the waves were not a problem for us but I know they might be for younger children.

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Jumping waves
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The beach is a great place to fly a kite!

2. Another completely free thing that most kids love to do is play in the fountains.  There are two fountains by Waterfront Park that are great for kids to splash in and have fun.  This is especially great on a hot day.  Palm trees surround the area so parents can sit and watch their kids playing.  After toweling off the kids there are several ice cream shops within walking distance of the fountains, if you so desire.  That could also be an option for a post-dinner treat.

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What kid doesn’t love to play in a huge fountain like this one?

3. If your kids are budding history buffs, there are plenty of museums to choose from.  One option is the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon.  My daughter enjoyed being able to handle replicas of historical money thanks to a volunteer on site who gave us a bit of information about each piece.  She also got to sign a replica of The Declaration of Independence. We all thoroughly enjoyed our guided tour of the dungeon and learned quite a bit about the area.  If you have younger kids (around 4-6), the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry might be a better fit for your family.

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Signing the Declaration of Independence
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Learning about historical currency

4. Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are great options for families as well.  Although Fort Sumter does not charge a fee for entrance to the national monument, it is only accessible by boat and there is a fee for that.  Fort Moultrie is accessible by car at 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island and you can buy a family pass that covers up to 4 adults for $5, with free admission for children 15 and younger.  See more information here National Parks Service.

5. While it might seem more like a splurge for many families, the South Carolina Aquarium is a nice way to spend a day or several hours. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $17.95 for children 3-12. The aquarium is open daily from 9 am- 4 pm (building closes at 5:00) and you could easily spend all day here, which makes it a bit more affordable considering it’s a day’s worth of entertainment. With more than 5,000 animals and exhibits like the touch tank (my daughter’s favorite) and the two-story 385,000 gallon Great Ocean tank there is plenty to see and do.  The Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery is set to open May 2017 and promises to  be an exciting new addition.  SC Aquarium

If your family is anything like mine, we find our beach vacations a time to unwind, relax, and just enjoy each other’s company.  We don’t plan a ton of activities like we do for other vacations.  Charleston, South Carolina is a perfect place for families to relax and reconnect while taking in the beautiful scenery.

 

 

 

Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon, Tennessee- 27th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Tennessee was my 27th state.

Who knew Knoxville, Tennessee was so hilly?  Certainly not me when I signed up for the Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon.  Typically I tend to steer away from a course that’s full of hills, although some hills are fine.  I just feel that running a half marathon is hard enough without having to climb up and down hills as well.  It’s kind of funny I even ran this race at all.  For years I always thought I would run the St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis for my Tennessee race.  Somehow that wasn’t happening; the timing was never right, and I really needed a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break in April, and this Knoxville race fit the bill.

The marathon and half marathon courses both go through World’s Fair Park and finish at University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium but in-between are many, many hills.  Here’s a question take from the race website FAQ page about hills that I find interesting.  Pay attention to that last part of the last sentence- “there are not very many miles that are just flat.”

Q. Is the course very hilly?
A. The course has some hills, particularly in the first half of the marathon.  It is not terribly hilly though. You can see a course profile in the race information page. The total elevation change is not dramatic, but there are not very many miles that are just flat.

Translation:  there’s not more than 25 feet of flat land on this course, so just realize pretty much the entire course is on rolling hills.  Yes, of course it’s hilly.

Both the marathon and half marathon start at 7:30 am which helps to get you off the course before it gets too hot.  Knoxville typically has great weather in early April so heat shouldn’t be a factor at this race, however.

Knoxville is the third largest city in Tennessee and is full of things to do including Market Square with restaurants and shops, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Knoxville Museum of Art, World’s Fair Site, and much more.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a little over an hour away and is one of the few national parks with no admission fee.  Oak Ridge is a unique area close by with its claim to fame being part of the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb.  You can tour the American Museum of Science and Energy to learn all about this and more.  One could easily spend 3-4 days in Knoxville and extend that time further if you went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Nashville International Airport is the closest major airport to Knoxville, at roughly a 2 1/2 hour drive.  Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is about 3 1/2 hours away by car, as is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia.  You definitely want to get a rental car for Knoxville unless you don’t plan on spending any time before or after the race or checking out the area.

Would I recommend this race?  Probably not.  It was insanely hilly and just not scenic enough to justify all of those hills.

From my post-race notes:  “One of if not the hilliest course I’ve ever ran.  Was scenic-ran through nice neighborhoods with huge houses and nice lawns, ran past the water some, ran along a greenway, finished on the 50 yard line of the University of Tennessee Volunteers football field at Neyland Stadium, which was fun.  Nice medals and tech short sleeve shirt.  I skipped the post-race party because I was too tired but it looked like fun.  There were some bands playing along the course.  Aid stations were good.  Finished in 2:07, which was good considering the hills.  Great weather helped!”

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Knoxville Marathon

Newport Marathon, Rhode Island- 26th State

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Rhode Island was my 26th state.

After I went to Vermont and fell in love with the New England states, I was very much looking forward to going to Rhode Island for the Newport Half Marathon.  I had heard that fall is the best time to visit the New England states because of the foliage and the race is held in October so I thought the timing would be perfect.  Along with Vermont, Rhode Island is one of the top 10 least-visited states in the United States, yet these were two of my favorite states I’ve visited (of the roughly 40 states I’ve been to so far).  I guess the word isn’t out yet.

I knew almost nothing about Rhode Island before planning my vacation there but I was not disappointed upon arrival.  There’s so much to do in this tiny state just in the Newport area alone, from visiting mansions, walking along Cliff Walk, visiting Fort Adams, relaxing at the beaches, and shopping in the unique little towns outside Newport.  There are loads of great restaurants as well.

The course of the half marathon is along historic downtown Newport, Fort Adams, Ocean Drive (for nice water views), and past the huge Bellevue Avenue mansions with a finish at Easton Beach.  While not a very flat course, there are some hills throughout the course, which is only made worse if there are strong winds during the race, as was the case when I ran it (and is not unusual for this race).  The race now starts at 7:30 am and has a wave start in three waves starting minutes apart based on predicted pace and finish times.  This definitely helps the course not get so congested especially in the first few miles like often happens at races with a lot of runners.  If you check my post-race notes below, that was one thing I said they should have had is a wave start.  I guess others complained and the race director listened and made changes.

At packet pickup you get a short-sleeve shirt of technical fabric available in unisex and women’s sizes, which is nice.  Another nice bonus is you get a link after the race to high resolution photos taken by Gameface Media on-course that you can download for free.

Logistics of getting here:  Boston Logan International Airport is pretty much your option for flying into Rhode Island unless you have your own airplane (and if any of you do, I’d love to hear about it!).  From Logan it is about a 2 hour drive to Newport.  If you will be spending some time in Boston, I don’t advise renting a car until you are leaving the area.  Parking is at a steep premium in Boston and it is a very walkable city with decent options for public transportation.  My family and I walked to everything we did in Boston and picked up the rental car just as we were leaving.  Another piece of advice is to pick up the rental from a site outside of the airport since you can save a lot of money by avoiding the extra fees charged by the airport.

Would I recommend this race?  Absolutely and you must stay for at least a couple of nights after the race as well to check out the area.

From my post-race notes:  “Beautiful course along parks and mansions and ocean views. Several hills scattered throughout course.  A storm blew in the morning of the race and it rained some at the beginning but the worst was the winds- up to 25 mph.  Good aid stations and volunteers.  Got a nice technical shirt and nice medal.  Was very crowded along most of the course; should have had wave starts.  Finished at 2:03.  Wanted to finish in 2:02, so was happy with finish time considering the winds and hills.”

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Finish at Easton’s Beach was nice

Newport Marathon