What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran- Part 2

If you missed part one, you can read it here What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran. TLDR? I went through the half marathons I ran in all 50 states beginning with my first one in North Carolina in 2000. I briefly state what I learned at each race, since after all, life is a learning process. In my first post, I stopped at a half marathon I ran in Mississippi in 2010 so that’s where I’ll start here.

Picking back up where I left, although I was struggling with health issues at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon in November of 2010, my health continued to deteriorate for another reason. By the time of the Arbuckles to Ardmore Half Marathon in Oklahoma in March of 2011, I had full-blown anemia. This was my 21st state (and 23rd half marathon) but my first experience with anemia. I was borderline in need of a transfusion but my doctor chose to prescribe heavy doses of iron pills along with B12 and other vitamins to help with absorption. She also told me not to run. I learned it is indeed possible to run a half marathon if you don’t mind going slowly (but I certainly don’t endorse this).

At the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana I learned to be better prepared for drastic changes in weather at races. Although it was supposed to be mid-50’s at the start of the race, a cold front had moved in the day before the race so it was predicted to drop to the low 40’s that morning. For some people, that’s shorts and short-sleeve weather but not for this southern gal. I went to a running store in search of running pants but the closest they had was capris, in a size smaller than I normally wore. I bought them anyway and while not ideal, at least my legs weren’t freezing.

I learned having elite runners at a race can have its perks for everyone else. When I ran the Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon in Alabama, elite runners Deena Kastor and Johnny Gray were speakers there (they didn’t run the race) and we were treated to one of the best post-race spreads I’ve ever had at a race. At the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I learned it’s possible to have fun and not be overwhelmed at big races as long as they’re well-organized like this one. I learned just how hot it gets in Chicago in June at the Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon.

At the Amica Half Marathon in Newport, Rhode Island, I learned just how much of an underrated state this smallest of the US states is. The Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon showed me just how insanely hilly Knoxville is (one of the hilliest races I’ve ever run). I learned how amazingly scenic the islands off the coast of Washington are when I ran the San Juan Island Half Marathon.

I learned that all-women’s races have a different vibe than coed races do when I ran the All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The New York City 13.1 showed me how many fun half marathons (and other distances) New York State and New York City has and you don’t have to run the bigger, better-known races to have a great race (this was in Queens). When I ran the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine, I learned just how hot and hilly Maine is in July but since it’s so beautiful, it’s worth it.

The Roller Coaster Half Marathon in Branson, Missouri showed me it’s possible for someone who had never even finished in the top three in her age group before to finish first. After I ran the Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon in Maryland and learned the race director was my daughter’s teacher’s niece, I learned what a small world it truly is. The Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota showed me two things: 1) South Dakota is entirely different in many ways than North Dakota and 2) I love races that start at the top of a canyon and you run down it.

In September of 2015, I learned that some race directors were still not using timing chips at the Dixville Half Marathon in Colebrook, New Hampshire. At the McKenzie River Half Marathon in Eugene, Oregon, I learned just how intense runners are in this part of the country. I asked someone at the packet pickup about the hills and was told, “they’re not that bad,” only to find out the only flat portions were the first two miles and the last mile, with none of the hills going down, only up. The Boulder Rez Half Marathon in Colorado showed me what I already suspected, that running at altitude is no joke.

I learned sometimes race directors try to cram too many events into one race at the Silver Strand Half Marathon in California. In addition to the half marathon, there was a 5k, 10 miler, and half marathon for skaters, handcyclers, and wheelchair racers and the course was extremely crowded. I learned it can be so cold in Utah in February that despite wearing gloves, my fingers were still cold at the end of the Dogtown Half Marathon and my feet were numb for the first couple of miles. The Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown, New Jersey showed me how much fun it was to see other people’s costumes at a race (I didn’t dress up).

The Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia showed me how cool it was to run with a football on a football field at the end of a race. The Famous Potato Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho showed me how life often doesn’t turn out how you think it will but that can be a good thing. For years I thought I’d run a half marathon in Coeur d’Alene for my Idaho race but the timing was never right so I signed up for this race in Boise and loved it. I learned it’s possible to have a not-so-unique race even in such a beautiful state as Alaska at the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage. The course was primarily on greenways, with little water views and overall not that scenic in my opinion.

I learned it’s possible to have a blazing fast course, plenty of amazing volunteers, boatloads of food before and after the race, huge medals, and quality shirts for finishers at small races like the White River Half Marathon in tiny little Cotter, Arkansas. At the Seashore Classic Half Marathon in Lewes, Delaware, I learned running on crushed gravel is killer on the legs and a frozen strawberry daiquiri really hits the spot after a tough race. I learned it’s possible to PR at high elevation if the race has a downhill start like the Star Valley Half Marathon in Thayne, Wyoming.

The Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon in Omaha, Nebraska taught me to tie my shoelaces better before a race. I had double-knotted them but they still came untied and that 20-something seconds it took me to tie them likely cost me a third place age group finish. At the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Lake City, Minnesota, I learned that “Minnesota nice” is real. Those were some of the friendliest and nicest people I had ever chatted with at a race.

I learned it’s possible to PR at your 51st half marathon at the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon in Iowa. This race also showed me that Des Moines knows how to put on a half marathon right, with so many little touches and big additions as well. The Albuquerque Half Marathon in New Mexico showed me life truly is all about the journey. Although many things went wrong or not exactly ideal before, during, and after this race and it didn’t end on such a high point as I would have liked, I learned running a half marathon in all 50 states isn’t just about state number 50, but the point is every single state along the way that adds up to all 50 states.

So that’s it- 53 half marathons in 21 years and what I learned along the way. Every single race taught me something, sometimes big things, sometimes smaller things but they were all lessons nonetheless.

If you’d like to read more in-depth about any of the half marathons I’ve run, check out my page here: https://runningtotravel.wordpress.com/half-marathons/

What lessons have you learned from half marathons or other races you’ve run?

Happy running!



Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

15 thoughts on “What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran- Part 2”

  1. So many halfs, so many great lessons! Hmmm . . . I was going to look at the Marshall half after our time at Harper’s Ferry. 😊

    Running a downhill race used to be my favorite thing but although my Achilles hasn’t bothered me much late.y I still get random twinges & I’m not sure it would still stand up to that!

    Congrats on your 50 states! That’s an awesome accomplishment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Judy! That would be a long drive from Harper’s Ferry to Huntington (about 6 hours). Well I guess not terrible but still something to consider. I tend to get tired of being in the car quicker than most people though.
      Achilles injuries seem to linger forever. That’s my daughter’s area she has issues with and she has to always keep an eye on that so I can understand.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My issues tend to move around.

        If we went to Huntington it would be from here — an even longer drive! I’m just looking into a variety of things, so that we have options. Unfortunately right now I’m drawn to Cuyahoga Valley National Park — which doesn’t at all help us in our search for where to retire to, but it’s a drivable (again, long drive) distance from here. The Marshall Half will celebrate 20 years in a couple of years . . . sometimes they do special stuff then!

        We don’t enjoy long periods in the car either but sometimes it is what it is.

        What a beautiful state you grew up in — what little we saw of it, anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I looked at a half in or near Cuyahoga Valley a long time ago but ended up running a different race instead that was not a good one. It does look like a really pretty area though.
          Yes, WV is a beautiful state. Another underrated state that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this. I wish I had the time and money to more in more states. I would pick many of the races you mentioned. In fact I don’t think I’ve run any of the same halfs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your mention of elite runners brought this to mind. Have you ever heard of Courtney Dauwalter? Apparently she’s a well-known distance runner. My sister and her husband just finished a motorcycle tour of Italy and her parents were in the tour group with them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I have! That’s so cool for two reasons, one that your sister and her husband did a motorcycle tour of Italy (I don’t even like motorcycles but that sounds really cool) and two that Courtney Dewalter’s parents were also on the tour!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In my last half marathon I learned just because a course is similar to what I train on and prefer it can still be hard as heck especially when going for a PR. That race also taught me that I want to work for a PR, I don’t want to fight for it. Working for it results in a sense of accomplishment and boost in confidence. Fighting for it results in an identity crisis as a runner and feeling awful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I would say working for one is what I normally do, like I do my best to run a race as hard/smart as possible and while it takes effort it doesn’t feel like I destroyed myself in the process. I think with that last half I had to fight because I underestimated the course a bit despite pre-running it. I definitely felt trained enough to break 1:50 and on an easier course I think I would’ve had to work for it, but not fight the way I did on that one.

        Liked by 1 person

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