This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Missouri was my 32nd state.
I’ll admit it. Often I sign up for a half marathon because of things to do in the area after the race. If I was choosing a race simply for the course I probably wouldn’t have chosen the 2014 Roller Coaster Half Marathon in Branson, Missouri. It was 2 1/2 loops and typically I wouldn’t choose a course like that; however, Silver Dollar City is in Branson.
What is Silver Dollar City, you ask? Well, it’s an 1880’s theme park that all started with a cave, Marvel Cave to be exact. Marvel Cave, which has been designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior, was first excavated in the 1860’s and can still be toured today. On the same grounds as Marvel Cave, Silver Dollar City opened May 1, 1960 and drew 18,000 visitors on that opening day. The first year, Silver Dollar City had more than 125,000 people, four times more visitors than the number that toured Marvel Cave.
At Silver Dollar City, there are resident craftsmen who can be seen practicing their craft and exhibiting their work for park visitors. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase from these craftsmen such as blacksmiths, bakers, glass blowers, candy makers, chip carvers, leather craftsmen, glass cutters, and pottery craftsmen. Recurring shows, festivals, and performances at theaters, stages, and other buildings are also in abundance. Last but not least, the real draw for my family was the rides. After riding Powder Keg, a roller coaster, my daughter declared she was moving to Branson when she was an adult so she could ride Powder Keg every day.
A unique aspect to the Roller Coaster Half Marathon was the option for non-runners. You could ride a specified distance on the roller coasters of 5k and win a medal at the race. You got a wristband to track your distance. They also offered a (running) 5k and a kid’s mile. You could even combine either the half marathon or 5k with the “Roller Coaster Ride.”
The shirt I had received at packet pickup was average-looking but the lettering was cheap and already flaking off (I should have requested another but I didn’t). On race morning, the weather was perfect for racing- low 50’s at the start and overcast the entire time; upper 50’s by the finish with a light mist. The race course was relatively flat except for two steep hills that we had to run twice since the course was 2 1/2 loops. It was fairly scenic with water views through what looked like a nice park for much of the course.
Although there were minimal spectators along the course, the volunteers were great and there was plenty of water and Gatorade at the aid stations. I passed several people in the last couple of miles and felt strong at the finish. My finish time was 2:04:34.
Oh, and I got a big surprise at this race. When I finished, my husband told me we should stick around for the awards ceremony. I said, “Really?” because normally we don’t since I typically finish around top quarter for my age group, but never top three. When the announcer got to my age group and announced third place and it wasn’t me, I thought maybe I won second. Then they announced second place and I said to my daughter, “I remember passing her at the end.” My husband said, “So what does that tell you?” Then they announced first place- ME!
I was called up to the tented area in the front where the announcer was and I was handed a pretty first place plaque. I was trying to hold back the tears but I was absolutely thrilled! Never had I even finished in the top three in my age group and now I finished FIRST! I felt like the woman that won second place in my age group was giving me dirty looks, but I was probably just paranoid.
Although Silver Dollar City is no longer a part of the Roller Coaster Race series, there are similar races like the Run and Ride Race and the Six Flags Coaster Challenge with no running, only riding coasters.