Book Review- Run Like a Pro (Even If You’re Slow). Elite Tools and Tips for Running at Every Level by Matt Fitzgerald and Ben Rosario

Have you ever been curious about what it’s like to be an elite runner? I personally have never wanted to run for a living but I know many runners who are at least curious about that type of lifestyle. This book claims that elite runners aren’t as different from us mortal runners as we might think.

Matt Fitzgerald has written over 20 books and has been a contributor to many publications like Runner’s World and Outside. He is a runner and while in his late 40’s he had the opportunity to run with the NAZ elite Hoka team in Flagstaff, Arizona for three months. Another of Fitzgerald’s books, Running the Dream: One Summer Living, Training, and Racing with a Team of World-Class Runners Half My Age (which I have not read) is apparently partly about his experience in Arizona and trying to achieve a lofty goal time at the Chicago Marathon. In this book, Run Like a Pro, Fitzgerald also discusses some of the things he learned from that experience in Flagstaff.

Ben Rosario, the co-author, is the head coach of the Northern Arizona (NAZ) Elite team, which he and his wife Jen founded in 2014. The NAZ elite Hoka team is considered one of the best distance running teams in the United States. Rosario’s contributions to the book includes Coach’s Tips at the end of each chapter.

The book is broken down into 14 chapters but the last five chapters are training plans, starting with beginner’s, intermediate, and more advanced levels each for the 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, and ultramarathon distances. Several of the chapters include topics you would expect like nutrition, recovery, and managing mileage but there are also chapters on mindset (Think Like a Pro) and how to learn to pace yourself (Pace Like a Pro). I believe mindset is a huge divider between “middle of the pack” runners and “faster” runners. If you think you aren’t capable of running fast, you likely won’t be. Of course you have to put in the work but if you don’t think you can ever get faster, chances are you won’t.

Some points from the book that I thought I’d highlight here includes one that shouldn’t be surprising but really drives home the difference between faster runners and slower runners. In a 2017 study in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine with 97 marathon runners, they found the faster runners trained much more than the slower runners, and there were incremental increases with a link between training runs and marathon times. In other words, if you run 30 miles a week on average and run a marathon, you’re probably going to be considerably slower than someone who trains 60 miles a week for a marathon, and someone who trains 60 miles a week will likely be slower than someone who trains 80 miles a week. Of course there is a limit and everyone needs to find that sweet spot of enough miles to be challenging but not too many to break down the body.

Another point Fitzgerald emphasizes is we should be measuring our runs by time, not distance. Like he says, on marathon day, someone running 10-minute miles will take longer to finish than someone running 7-minute miles so you need to prepare by spending that time on your feet. He also says to consider your event focus, but not too much. If you’re training for a 5k, your first thought might be that you don’t have to run that long of long runs since a 5k is only 3.1 miles. However, he says elite runners stay in shape for running anything from a 5k all the way up to a marathon, with the mindset that if you’re fit enough to run a marathon, you should be fit enough to run a 5k as well.

One of the most important points in the book and one that I really need to get better at is the 80/20 intensity balance. This means you should run 80% of your training runs at a slow enough pace that you can carry on a conversation and the remaining 20% of your runs should be at a high intensity. He says too many runners fall into the moderate intensity rut, where you don’t slow down for the majority of your runs so that when it’s time to focus on speed work, you don’t have enough left in the tank to run them as fast as you would if you would have slowed down on the other runs. It’s emphasized to sit down and calculate the paces you should be running for each run to make sure you’re meeting the 80/20 balance.

As you might expect, there are pages and pages of what I’ll call body work exercises, like form drills, plyometrics, and strength training exercises. Form drills (like butt kicks) are important for good form, plyometrics (like box jumps) increase running economy, reduce ground contact time, improve running performance, and increase leg stiffness. Form drills are usually done during a warm-up but sometimes during a run and plyometrics should be done on their own a couple of times a week. Strength training moves are also included and should be done once a week to start, building up to twice a week. There are also corrective exercises in the book such as foam rolling, hip flexor stretches, balance exercises, ankle mobilization, and toe yoga.

The book is rounded out with subjects like rest, sleep, stress, and nutrition. One thing to note about rest is that it means sitting around and playing board games or something similar, not running errands for a couple of hours in a day or doing housework. As you’ve probably heard before, most elite runners sleep around 9-10 hours a night with a nap in the middle of the day. I’m not sure about you, but it’s just not feasible for me to just run, eat, nap, do exercises, cross-train, and sleep, with little to no stress or other obligations in my life, like the elite runners are supposed to do. But then again, that’s their job, not mine.

Bottom line, this book has some useful tips for us “ordinary” runners and reminders for stretches and exercises that would be good to do but is it really that simple that if you follow the advice in the book you’ll become as fast as an elite runner? For most of us, of course not. We’ve got jobs, families, housework, and a million other things, while running is just something we do on the side. Is it possible to get faster if you follow the 80/20 balance, incorporate some of the stretches and drills in your running, and do your best to eat healthy, get a good night’s sleep most of the time, and keep your stress level manageable? Absolutely.

Have you read this book? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an elite runner?

Happy running!

Donna

Catching Fireflies 5k- My First Night Race!

First I have to give a little background info. Even though I’ve run somewhere around 60 races in the past 22 years, the Catching Fireflies 5k was only my fourth 5k, and two of those were with my daughter so this was only the second 5k I ran by myself. Of those two 5ks that I ran by myself, they were 22 years apart and this race in 2022 was 2 minutes faster than my first 5k. Granted, the first 5k was the first race I ever ran as an adult but still, I was happy that I haven’t slowed down, despite the fact that I’m now in a much older age group than when I ran that first race. Anyway, on to the race report!

The Catching Fireflies 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina caught my eye when I saw it advertised a few months ago. Start time was slated for 8:25 pm on Friday, May 20. The charity for the race was the Cancer Shucks group, https://www.cancershucksfoundation.org/. Luminaries could be purchased in honor of a loved one who was effected by cancer and their name would be written on the luminary. The race course was lined with what must have been hundreds of luminaries.

Photo from the race Facebook page

Packet pickup was from 5 to 8 pm at Wakefield High School in Raleigh on race day (no option to pick up earlier). We got cotton t-shirts, our bibs, and glow sticks to wear while we were running. It was great to have real bathrooms to use before the race and not have to walk far to get to the race start since we all parked in the school parking lot. My 16-year-old daughter was also running the race so we hung out for a little while inside the school since it was so hot out. The high for the day was a record high for the year- 99 degrees!!!

Fortunately when the sun started to set it began to feel noticeably cooler, but it was still pretty humid. By the time the race started it was around 86 degrees, still hot but at least it wasn’t in the 90’s any longer. We all kept saying how it was just too hot too soon but there was nothing to do about it. Surprisingly, there were around 650 runners and walkers that night, according to the announcer.

Everyone started lining up around 8:10 and the race started promptly at 8:25 after the national anthem was sung. The beginning of the race was a terrible mess with walkers at the front, mixed in with people with strollers and small children scattered everywhere. I expected that might be the case and planned on staying toward the edge but even that wasn’t enough so as soon as I could I jumped onto a sidewalk until I could get around a big group of people.

Also from the race Facebook page

Fairly quickly, the course thinned out and I was finally free of the mob of people. The race was entirely though a neighborhood, Wakefield Plantation, one of those super-nice neighborhoods with a country club and golf course and enormous houses. As I said earlier, the course was lined throughout with luminaries. I wasn’t sure how dark it would get so I brought a clip-on light but didn’t really need it except for one tiny little stretch where there no street lights for a bit.

This neighborhood is also hilly, which I had been told ahead of time. The course began downhill, so of course I knew that meant we would be running uphill on the way back. I tried to take advantage of that fact by running the first mile a bit faster than I normally would, but still being a bit conservative since I wasn’t sure how the heat and humidity would effect me. My first mile was at an 8:20 mile pace.

When I was about halfway through the race, I felt like I should slow down or I wouldn’t have enough left to get me up the hills at the end. My second mile was at an 8:44 mile pace, which is around what I thought I would run the entire race at, prior to the race. There weren’t many spectators on the course and I didn’t see anyone cheering on runners from their front yards or anything like that. Water was on the course but there weren’t any porta johns, at least not that I saw.

I really didn’t have any finish time goal in mind before the race, other than trying to finish in the top three in my age group, whatever that meant. With only a mile to go, I had to really push myself mentally to not walk up the final hills. I saw people walking all around me and it was tempting to walk along with them but I didn’t and told myself even if I was running slow I was still going faster than if I walked. My final mile was at an 8:42 mile pace, with the final sprint to the finish (the 0.1 mile) at a 7:57 mile pace. My finish time was 26:53.

Immediately after the race- I was so hot and sweaty!

There were children handing out medals at the finish and a big container full of warm bottles of water (WARM water after a HOT 5k is just wrong!). Bananas, pretzels, and cereal bars were further down on a table. I did find a table with cups of cold water being dispensed from those big orange Gatorade containers you see at races and cross country meets and I greedily gulped some down.

The awards ceremony was supposed to be at 9:10 but the announcer kept talking about the music being played and other random things. Finally around 9:25 they began the awards ceremony. I thought my daughter might have a chance of cracking the top three in her age group but she was fourth. I was first in my age group and collected a gift card to a restaurant near the race. The day after the race I checked the official finish times and saw that I was only three seconds behind the third place overall masters female. But then I looked again and actually I was three seconds ahead of her. There was a mistake. I should have won third place overall masters. This had never happened to me, finishing in the top three overall masters.

I sent an email to the race director and he replied back within a couple of hours, which surprised me since it was a Sunday. He said they go by gun time for overall awards and chip time for age group awards. I had always thought chip time would be more accurate so awards would always be based on that, but I guess you live and learn.

I’ll admit, I was a little bitter; after all it was only three seconds. I could have easily moved up closer to the front at the start, had I been able to somehow predict this and have known then what I know now. Or if the race director would have put that information in the awards section on the race website. But then it just gave me a bit of fuel for my fire for my next 5k (no, I haven’t signed up for any at the moment). Knowing how little training I did (basically no speed work) before this race, it gave me hope of what I’m capable of if I truly train for a 5k.

I never thought I’d be saying it but I’m actually looking forward to training hard for a 5k now and seeing what I can do. Now I just have to find a race! That’s going to be difficult since we’re also heating up quickly here so races always thin out this time of year.

Would I recommend this race? Yes. It truly is a unique race, in that it’s at night and has luminaries lining the course. It was much hotter than it normally is the end of May so I would hope the weather was just a fluke and next year would be back to normal temperatures. The hills aren’t going to go away, but they really weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I would have rather had something other than a cotton t-shirt, like socks or a hat but it was a cute shirt and I’ll wear it to the gym. The medals were cute too. And like I said earlier, best of all, it’s for a great cause.

https://fsseries.com/event/catching-fireflies-5k/

Have you ever run a night race? If so, care to share your experience?

Happy running!

Donna

How My Motivation for Running Has Changed Over the Years

I started thinking about this some time back when I was listening to a podcast and they were talking about how their motivation for athletic activities they do has changed over the years. For example, one person was talking about their motivation for doing triathlons and the other person was talking about their motivation for running. When I started running what I would call in a more regular way in my late 20’s (I phrase it this way because prior to this point I would just run whenever and wherever with no real plan or intention and no races), my motivation was simply for the sheer joy of running, truthfully.

I didn’t need to lose weight or get healthier nor did a friend talk me into running with them. In fact, my boyfriend at the time was motivated by me to run and we would often run together. He ended up doing a sprint triathlon but shortly after that he ran less and less. His heart just wasn’t in it and it was obvious he was just doing it to spend time with me but he had no real motivation to run.

No longer with a running partner, I ran by myself and eventually trained for and ran my first 5k and gradually built up to a half marathon then eventually I ran a marathon. I enjoyed the solitude of being alone with nature and I liked how I felt after a run- accomplished and satisfied. My motivation to continue to run eventually became seeking out more half marathons. It was about more than just running the race, however; all of those training miles became my new normal and a part of who I was.

One thing that helps with motivating me to run is having beautiful places like this to run

Many years ago after I had run a half marathon in several states and I made the decision to run a half marathon in every state, that became my goal and my motivation. Never once did I doubt if I could make it happen. I knew I would eventually get there, no matter how long it took me.

It was definitely always about the journey for me and just enjoying myself along the way. I always made it a priority to spend at least several days in a state, usually more, preferably after the race and take in as much as I possibly could. With only a couple of rare exceptions did I not care for a place I visited. Some places were just OK, as well, but the majority of places I went to far exceeded any expectations I might have had.

Speaking of expectations, one thing I’ve learned over the years but still have to work on is to have zero expectations. This can be about a place I’m going to, about a race, about a person, or about anything coming up in my life. I’m a realist and optimist by nature so it doesn’t work for me to have really low expectations for a place or person but I’ve found if I go into something with no expectations at all, that usually works out well for me. But back to my original topic.

Now that I’ve finished my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, my motivation has once again changed. After my final race in November 2021, I was asked by many people, “What’s your next big goal? A marathon in all 50 states?” or other similar questions. I always just laughed and said, “No. For now I’m just soaking it all in and trying to enjoy the moment.”

After my half marathon in November 2021, I needed a break from running so I took two weeks off from running completely and only went on walks and hikes. Historically when I was still in the midst of my 50 states quest I would almost always take two weeks off from running after a half marathon to let my body heal completely so that wasn’t unusual for me. What has been unusual is for the first time in a couple of decades, I don’t have a half marathon in sight and I’m perfectly OK with that.

I’ve found myself going back to my roots, if you will, when I ran for the sheer joy of running. There is zero pressure for me to find another race to train for, at least in the near future. I had signed up for a local race in February that would have involved something entirely different for me but it was made into a virtual race with the option to defer to 2023, which I did. I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in Washington, D.C. in April, (Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run) and loved it. For now, I’m just seeing what races seem interesting and going with that.

What’s your motivation to run/cycle/hike/swim/multi-sport/other? Has it changed over the years?

Happy running!

Donna

Upcoming Races- A Surprise and a Disappointment with Donuts and Cherry Blossoms

In a previous post, (Running Resolutions and My Word for 2022) I wrote about an upcoming race I was supposed to run in February, The Krispy Kreme Challenge. You run 2.5 miles to a Krispy Kreme donut store, eat a dozen glazed donuts, and run back to where you started. Many people think this sounds utterly disgusting but I’ve been intrigued by it since I first learned about it several years ago.

The charity this race supports is UNC Children’s Hospital, which recently became personally important to me when my daughter was hospitalized there. I felt I should support this race since it is for such a great cause so I signed up for it back in October of 2021. In fact, it was the same day I ran the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon and I was still in a sort of runner’s high from that phenomenal race.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

A while back I got an email stating they had made the decision to make the Krispy Kreme Challenge a virtual race this year. All registered runners could still pick up their shirts, medals, and a voucher for a dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme. Seriously? I thought. Who’s going to actually run 2.5 miles on their own, eat a dozen donuts, and run another 2.5 miles? Certainly not me. I can understand their reasoning, with rising COVID cases due to the Omicron variant at the time of their decision, but still. Some races just can’t be done virtually, at least in my opinion, like the New York City Marathon, or any of the world majors in fact, or any races in Hawaii. I’m sorry if you disagree but it’s just not the same for me to run in North Carolina as it would be to run in Tokyo, for example.

Then I read the email closer and saw at the very bottom an option to defer to 2023. I quickly clicked on the link that took me to a form to fill out to transfer my registration to 2023. Guess I’m running that race next February instead of this year. I’m disappointed but as I said, I understand their reasoning. If it was just a “normal” race it would be one thing but the added factor of people eating during a race just isn’t a good idea right now.

Around the same time I found out about the Krispy Kreme Challenge being postponed I also got an email with the subject line saying I wasn’t selected for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. Then I got another email shortly after that with the subject line saying I was in fact selected. However, the body of both emails said I was selected. Just to be 100% sure, I checked their website where they had a list of everyone who had registered and sure enough I was selected. Yay!

I immediately went on to find a hotel room near the race and work on logistics like how I was going to get from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. I had four options: drive my car there which would take about 4 1/2 hours if there magically wasn’t any traffic but realistically more like 5 or even 5 1/2 hours (on a good day), fly a direct one-hour flight, take a train that would take about 6 hours, or take a bus that would take about the same time as the train.

Surprisingly, the train was about the same cost as the plane but considering I have a ton of frequent flier miles that I could use for this flight, it would only cost $11 if I used miles and I would get there in about a fourth the time it would otherwise take even with getting to the airport early. I decided to book the flight and save the time, which was especially important since I’m only going for a long weekend and prefer to spend the maximum time in D.C. rather than in a car/train/bus. Plus, if I drove I would have to pay parking fees in the city which are notoriously high. AND traffic is an absolute nightmare in that area. Decision made.

I should mention the Cherry Blossom 10-miler is so popular there is a lottery for registration because it coincides with the peak bloom of cherry blossoms in the area. We have some cherry trees where I live and I absolutely love when they’re in bloom. I’m sure Washington, D.C. is beautiful with all of the cherry trees in bloom and the monuments and water views in the background. There’s also a parade and some other festivities for about a month starting in March and going through part of April but since I’m just going for the weekend of the race I’ll miss most of the other events. You can check out their website if you’re interested: https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.

I’m also registered for a local night race in May, or I should say an evening race since it starts at 8:30 pm. There are luminaries that line the course and runners are given glow sticks to run with. The race supports cancer research so it’s for a good cause and should be fun as well. As for Canadian races, I’m still waiting to see how things go with covid and all of the other issues they’ve been having there. The first race I was looking at in Canada isn’t until June so there’s still time to figure it out. More importantly, my daughter isn’t in good health and will likely have to have some serious procedures done over the summer so I have to see how that goes.

What about you? What races do you have coming up that you’re looking forward to? Have you been to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. or have you run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler?

Happy running!

Donna

Answers to Ask Me Anything

Thank you so much to everyone that asked questions in response to my post Ask Me Anything! It was a success and you all asked some thought-provoking questions. If you missed that post, I thought it would be fun to have people ask me questions related to my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, which I just finished in November 2021.

I’ll type the questions in the order received and put my answers after. Here goes!

Q: When you first set your 50 state goal how long did you think it would take?

A: Although I ran my first half marathon in 2000, I didn’t set my goal to run a half marathon in all 50 states until some time after that. I believe it was somewhere around state number 3, when I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run in 2004 when the idea to run a half marathon in all 50 states began forming in my mind. That same year I ran the Kiawah Island Half Marathon in South Carolina and had signed up to run the Valley of the Sun Half Marathon in Arizona when I found out I was pregnant. Since I had been running half marathons for a few years and had no underlying health conditions my doctor said it was fine to run the race in Arizona, plus I was only about two months pregnant then. I didn’t run another half marathon until 13 months later when I ran the Columbus Distance Run in April 2006 but at this point I definitely had the goal to run all 50 states. Knowing I could run 3 or 4 half marathons a year (but most years it was 3), I knew it would take several years for me to finish and I was fine with that. At that point I estimated it would take another 14 years to finish, which would have put me finishing in 2020. Then the pandemic hit and that pushed back all of my races a year so I ran my last race in 2021, 21 years after I ran my first half marathon.

Q: Did you set aside some time to actually see something of all the states? What was your favorite non-running find?

A: From the beginning, I always wanted to incorporate as much time as possible into seeing some of the states I was running a race in. I knew that would mean I wouldn’t be able to run as many states a year but it was important to me to not just check off the boxes. For most states I tried to spend a week in the area, preferably after the race and sometimes I spent more than a week in the state. I was lucky enough to spend an entire three weeks in San Diego when I ran the half marathon there, which is the most I spent in one place when I went there for a race.

My favorite non-running find is a tough one. There were so many little towns I went to that I never would have discovered if not for the races I ran there. I absolutely loved Woodstock and Quechee in Vermont but also Newport, Rhode Island and the nearby little towns, and tiny little Thayne, Wyoming not to mention Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota. I guess I’d have to choose Rhode Island. It’s the smallest of the United States but is filled with such beauty and is an undiscovered gem in my mind, although I hear the summers are filled with New Englanders. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who told me they were going on vacation in Rhode Island unless they had family there, which is a shame given what a cool place it is and so many people have never been there.

One of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island

Q: What resources did you use to pick the races?

A: Over the years I’ve used many websites to pick the races I ran. Ones that I found myself returning to over and over include: Running in the USA https://www.runningintheusa.com/, Halfmarathons.net https://www.halfmarathons.net/race-calendar/, Race Raves https://raceraves.com/, Half Marathon Search https://www.halfmarathonsearch.com/half-marathon-calendar and Bibrave including the Bibrave 100 https://www.bibrave.com/thebibrave100/2020.

I also ran some races after speaking to people I knew who ran them or reading blog posts on them. Those that come to mind are the Shamrock Half in Virginia Beach, Kiawah Island in South Carolina, Missoula Half in Montana, and Bayshore Half Marathon in Michigan. These all lived up to the hype and were indeed great races (plus cool towns which made them perfect racecations).

The huge Poseidon statue near the finish of the Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathon

Q: How did you train for the different conditions (ex: hills, races at altitude, humidity)?

A: Living in central North Carolina gives me some variety when it comes to weather and running conditions. We have hills, heat, humidity, and even ice in January when we inevitably get freezing rain. The only thing we don’t have that was mentioned above is altitude.

One of the first things I would do when deciding on a race was check the course. If there were going to be substantial hills I made sure to incorporate hill repeats in my training. If there were going to be rolling hills I would run my long run where there were rolling hills. I ran several races during summer months where it was hot and humid. Since the heat really kicks in here in May, for those summer races I had been running in the heat for long enough for me to have acclimatized for those races (typically it takes a couple of weeks to acclimatize to the heat). I personally feel like I never really get used to the humidity and the only thing I can do to prepare for that is to make sure I run with fluids and am fully hydrated in the hours before I even step out the door to run.

When I was choosing half marathons in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming or any other state with high mountains one of the first things I looked up was the elevation in the cities where the races were. I purposefully chose races that were in cities with some of the lowest elevations in those states. I also read that it takes most people at least a few days to acclimatize to high elevation so I would fly into those states a few days before the race.

Almost as soon as I landed I started drinking water like my life depended on it since water helps with getting used to high elevation. One of the hardest half marathons I ran was in Boulder, Colorado even though it didn’t even have the highest altitude (around 5400 feet vs. around 6000 feet in Thayne, Wyoming). I think the difference was the course in Boulder was around a reservoir and was relatively flat compared to the course in Wyoming that had a fast downhill start for the first few miles and leveled off after that.

After the finish at the Star Valley Half Marathon in Thayne, Wyoming (right beside Afton, WY)

Q: How did you balance being a mom, working, having a social life, et cetera with a regular training plan over so many years? How did you keep up your motivation to train even when you felt too busy or tired?

A: Ah, the old life/balance question. I’ve always had a full-time job since I graduated from college and I’ve been a mom since my early-30’s so there was only a brief period where I didn’t also have to work and take care of my child in addition to getting my training runs in. Honestly, I don’t think most people can achieve a perfect 50/50 balance if you’re pursuing a huge goal. The best that most people can hope for is to have what I’ve heard referred to by others as “seasons” in life. For most people it means you have periods where you focus on your goal and other periods when you cut back on your goal a bit and focus on family and work. For me this literally meant spring, summer, fall, and winter where I would be training for and then traveling to a race during the spring, summer, and fall months then I would take most or much of winter off to rest, recover, and catch up.

All of this doesn’t mean I just ignored my work and family obligations because I was training for a half marathon but I did make running a priority in my life or it never would have happened. From the start I made it clear to my boyfriend who later became my husband that running wasn’t just something I would do occasionally but it was a huge part of my life. If he would have had a problem with me going for a run, we never would have lasted more than a week.

Likewise with my daughter, she grew up watching Mom go for a run and it was just “normal” life for her. She also traveled to the majority of my races with me, even when she was a baby, so that also became “normal” for her. She thought all moms traveled all over the United States for half marathons and ran for an hour or two on the weekends with other runs throughout the week. I know this because when she was in grade school, she told me all that. She said she had recently realized most moms didn’t do this and most moms she knew weren’t like her mom when it came to running and travel. When she was old enough she began running races too, working up from the 5k to the half marathon.

My daughter and me after the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Lake City, Minnesota

Like I mentioned earlier, by making running and specifically running a half marathon in all 50 states a priority in my life, I always had the motivation to train even when I felt too busy or tired. It helped that I also knew how much running helps my mental state and I’ve always come back from a run feeling better than when I started, even if I was tired when I started. Finally, I’ve always given myself some grace when it comes to running. If I had to miss a 40 minute run because I had to take my daughter to the doctor or I had to work late at work and was exhausted I knew in the grand scheme of things, it would be fine to not run and I wouldn’t suddenly lose all of my fitness. If it would have ever happened where I was consistently missing runs (that never happened), I would have had to take a good look at what was going on in my life and re-evaluate if training for that race was truly a good idea or maybe I should push it back to another time.

Q: What made you choose the half marathon distance vs any other distance?

A: I’ve always felt like the half marathon is the perfect distance for me. It’s just long enough that it’s a challenge and keeps me in good shape but not so long that I am utterly destroyed afterwards like with the marathon. Plus training for a half marathon is much more manageable than for a marathon. I’m also not a big fan of 5k races because if I’m going to truly race them, they’re HARD! I do like the 10 mile distance even though I’ve only run one 10-miler but I am signed up for another 10-miler this spring.

Q: Did you do specific training when you planned for races in western states with higher elevation?

A: No. As far as I could tell when I looked around online about this there really is no way to prepare yourself for running at higher elevation unless you can spring for a hyperbaric tent to sleep in beforehand. I would arrive at the races a few days before the race and drink tons of water, like I mentioned above. I also should have mentioned I lowered my expectations of any finish times for those races and was pleasantly surprised when I finished much faster than I would have predicted at some of them.

Q: Did you ever miss a flight?

A: Yes, but since I always worked in at least one extra day before a race it always worked out. I remember when I flew to one race (I forget which but it was a western state), there were severe thunderstorms that caused major airline delays and cancellations. I was supposed to have a layover in Denver and arrive at my destination that evening but all flights out of Denver were cancelled that evening so I had to stay in a hotel and fly out the next morning. Because of my buffer, I still made it to the packet pickup on time and everything was fine, other than missing some time in my destination.

Q: Does your work have an unlimited vacation time policy?

A: Not unlimited but it is generous. I’ve been at my job for 21 years and I now get 5 weeks of vacation. After I hit 15 years I got bumped up from 4 weeks to 5 so I’ve always had plenty of vacation days. Plus I get 11 days off for holidays that I can use as flex time. On top of all of that, I can roll over something like 30 days of unused vacation time by the end of December to the next year. With all of that being said, I’ve always eventually used every single day of my vacation time and not lost it at the end of the year even during the beginning of the pandemic when I wasn’t traveling, thanks to being able to roll over time to the next year.

That’s all of the questions I received. Thanks again to everyone who submitted questions. That was interesting for me and hopefully to you all as well!

Did anyone forget to ask a question you’d like to ask now or did you miss my first post? Feel free to ask here.

Happy running and travels!

Donna

Ask Me Anything

I realize this could go one of two ways, either fun and interesting or poorly, so I’m depending on all of you who read this (no pressure) for it to go the former way. My idea is this: everyone who regularly follows my blog knows I just finished my quest of running a half marathon in all 50 states, with my last race in Albuquerque, New Mexico in November of 2021. If anyone is new to my blog, now you know too. Many of you regulars, especially the long-timers (and a HUGE thank you if that’s you) probably already know or think you know many other things about my quest. However, I’m guessing there are still some unanswered questions out there that you may be curious about.

This is your chance to ask me absolutely anything and everything you ever wondered about what it was like for me to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Really, nothing is off-limits, too nosy, too trivial, or too silly. If you’re wondering something, someone else may also be wondering the same thing, and even if you’re the only person in the world with the question, it’s still a valid question.

What I would like is for everyone to ask some questions below and if all goes well, I’ll write up a post to answer the questions, rather than just answer them below; that way I can expand on anything that might need more than just a sentence or two to answer. If someone else has already asked your question but yours has a slightly different spin on it, ask it again in your words. That will also clue me in on the more popular questions that need more explanation than others.

Your questions can be broad such as running-related or more specific like half marathon-related, or they can be travel-related, logistics questions, race bling questions, traveling with kids or family, state-related, specific race-related, etc. These are just some examples but certainly not meant to limit you just to these. Questions like favorite/best/worst/most scenic are all fine as well. Creative questions are highly encouraged.

OK. Let’s see how this goes! Thank you to everyone who asks questions! If you never see a follow-up post with the answers, well, we all know what that means, but I’m confident that won’t happen.

Happy running!

Donna

Running Resolutions and My Word for 2022

Although I always write up some running resolutions for the new year, I usually don’t do a word for the year. This year one word in particular seemed to call out to me, a word that I certainly could use more of in my life and I’d venture to say most people would say the same. After I go through my running resolutions, I’ll explain why I chose my word for the year.

First, let me see how I did with my running resolutions for 2021. In my post, Running Resolutions for 2021, I only had two running resolutions and those were: to be more spontaneous when it comes to races and to incorporate more walking into this year. So how did I do? Pretty good with the walking. I definitely walked more than I did in previous years and made it a fairly regular habit to walk for an hour on one of my days off from running. On my other day off from running I would also go for a long walk but it wasn’t always for an hour.

During a walk in Minnesota

Looking back at the question if I was more spontaneous when it came to races, I would say for me, I did a pretty good job at that as well. You have to consider the source for this one, meaning for so many years I would only run half marathons in states where I had never run before so I could work on my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. For me that meant running four half marathons a year in the beginning years and three half marathons a year in the latter years. It was rare if I even ran a 5k on top of those three or four half marathons, although I did run one with my daughter when she ran her first 5k and I ran a color run with her a few years ago.

It was entirely spontaneous when I entered both my daughter and myself into the lottery entry for the Peachtree Road Race, a 10k in Atlanta in July. Much to my surprise, we both got in and that race was one of my most memorable and fun races for the year. I also signed up for another race completely out of my wheelhouse the same day that I ran the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon in Iowa, the Krispy Kreme Challenge. If you go to the website, it says it all on the front page: 12 doughnuts, 5 miles, 1 hour. You run 2.5 miles, eat a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and run 2.5 miles back to the start. There is a no-doughnut option but what’s the fun in that? I may throw up and I may feel absolutely terrible after running this one, but I won’t know until I do it in February. Stay tuned for how this turns out.

After running Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta

Now on to my running resolutions for 2022. I would like to incorporate more hiking into my off days. Although I’ve always loved to go hiking, this was probably pushed to the forefront when I went backpacking in Yosemite in August of 2021. Unfortunately I don’t live anywhere near Yosemite so I can’t hike in mountains like that but I’ll just have to work with what I have. There are some state parks within a day’s drive from where I live that I’ve never been to and I’d like to try them out and see how the hiking is. I also have a great state park close-by that I can certainly explore more than I have.

For my second running resolution, I’d like to run different distances than the half marathon and just see what I’m capable of at this point in my life. I’m already eyeing a 5k in May and have entered the lottery for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in April. I may run a 4-mile race in March, depending on the timing of it. Before anyone asks, no, I’m not considering running a marathon any time soon. I never say never but I have no plans to run a marathon this year.

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped running half marathons, however. My final running resolution is to start running half marathons in the Canadian provinces. Because of COVID, this one may prove to be difficult this year since I would have to travel internationally. They’re kind of on the wait-and-see list for now but I have a couple of races in Canada I’d like to run this year if possible.

Finally, to my word for the year: FUN! I want more than anything to just have fun when I’m running, whether I’m on a training run, spending time with my running group, running a race, or none of the above but am just on a run, I simply want to have fun! I’ve always enjoyed running and I’ve always said if I ever reach a point where running isn’t fun any longer, I’m not going to run anymore. I did go through a couple of points in my life where I was in running ruts but I figured out how to mix things up to make running enjoyable again. Fortunately I’ve never dreaded going on a run, partly because I know how great I’ll feel afterwards.

Part of the reason why I chose the Krispy Kreme Challenge and some of the other races I’d like to do this year go along with my word, fun. I’m trying to choose races that sound fun to me, or at least have the potential to be fun if nothing else with a fun post-race party. I know not everyone’s idea of fun is stuffing down a dozen doughnuts after running and then running again after that, but it sounds like it could be pretty entertaining to me. That race is also for a great cause, the UNC Children’s Hospital, where I have a personal connection, so what could be more fun than supporting a great cause and making a fool of yourself while running?

Do you make resolutions (running or otherwise) for the year? Do you choose a word for the year? Care to share yours?

Happy running!

Donna

Running Highs and Lows of 2021

What a year for running 2021 was for me! I won’t ruin the surprise if you don’t know by now, although unless you’re brand new to my blog, I’m sure you already know what I’m referring to. Anyway, I always like to recap my races and running in general for the year and include any high points as well as low points I experienced so here goes!

At the beginning of 2021 with the pandemic still raging strong and most people other than healthcare workers and other essential workers not vaccinated, races were still kind of in the unknown territory for 2021. After most races were cancelled in 2020, I’m sure race directors wanted to at least attempt to put on their races in 2021 but there were still so many factors that seemed to keep changing all the time, like state and local mandates. Many areas of the US were only approving small races in the early months of the year.

I had three remaining states to finish my quest of running a half marathon in all 50 states: Minnesota, Iowa, and New Mexico. My registration for the Albuquerque Half Marathon had originally been for April 2020, which got pushed back to November 2020 and again to November 2021 so I knew I was going to run that race as long as it didn’t get postponed again. That left Iowa and Minnesota. I saw the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon was being held in October and after I read a statement from the race director promising open regular communication leading up to the race and a generous cancellation policy, I signed up for that race, leaving only Minnesota.

Originally I had wanted to run a half marathon in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area; however, I couldn’t find any half marathons for the months I wanted to run there, basically mid-June through August. The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth had a waiting list and I wasn’t willing to gamble on that. Finally, I found a tiny half marathon in Lake City and after confirming with the race director that it would take place in person in June, I signed up for that race. That meant I would be running half marathons in June, October, and November. The last two races were only three weeks apart, not ideal, but doable.

Since my first half marathon of the year wasn’t until June, I had plenty of time until I needed to start training. Looking back on my Strava training calendar for 2021, I ran a surprisingly decent number of miles in January and February, which was good for building a baseline when I started training roughly 12 weeks before my race.

My boss passed away in April after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer and I decided to honor him by running miles in his name and asking for donations from co-workers of ours and friends of his. The idea was to run as much as I could the month of May and see how much money I could raise. He had been an avid runner and we had often talked about running and my races so I thought it was appropriate that I ran to honor him. I ended up running 194 miles in May, which was 50 more than I ran in April. Although losing him was a low point in my life, being able to honor him and donate all of the money I did to the cancer center where he was treated meant a lot to me and it helped me deal with the grief, as did running all of those extra miles.

With my daughter before the half marathon in Lake City

With my body stronger than ever and with me in the best pre-race shape I had likely ever been in before the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Lake City, Minnesota, I felt more ready than ever. When I drove the course the day before the race and saw how difficult it was going to be, I knew there was no way I could even come close to a PR but I knew I could at least finish it with a decent time. As I wrote about in my post on the Circle of Life Half Marathon, Lake City, Minnesota- 48th state, between the loose gravel road and hills, this was one of the most difficult races I had run. There were definite lows during the race and I had to dig deep to push through but I managed to finish around 2 hours and it was a high having my daughter run it with me (although she wasn’t literally running by my side, as she was dealing with some Achilles issues and was slower than me).

The following month in July, I had the privilege of running the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Georgia, the largest 10k in the world. It’s so popular there’s a lottery to get in and somehow both my daughter and I got in. I can’t say enough good things about this race. Even though it’s held every year on July 4th, which is always hot in Atlanta, if you manage to run it in the morning, like my daughter and I did, it actually wasn’t that hot. However, there is a rolling start that’s based on qualifying times you submit when you learn you get in the race.

I hadn’t run a 10k in almost 20 years but I had run a 5k recently, although it was only recorded by me on Strava. I’m sure because of all of the recent cancelled races they were more lenient than usually in accepting qualifying race times, but my time was obviously accepted because I was put in “C” group, the third group, since they start with “A” and go down the alphabet, with A group starting first and B group starting 10 minutes later. My daughter had cross country races that I submitted and she was put in B group so we pretty much started together.

Some Atlanta police “mounties” behind me after the Peachtree Roach Race

As I wrote in my post: Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta- My First 10k in 19 Years!, I loved this race so much! It was one of the highest of running highs of the year for me. Even with the hills I felt like I was flying on the course and the miles just ticked by so quickly.

I took a short break from training mode after the Peachtree Road Race until I started back again the end of July, when I started training for the half marathon in Iowa. Little did I know that the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon would be so outstanding. Running this race was most definitely a high for me. I loved everything about this race from beginning to end. Like during the Peachtree Road Race, the miles just flew by and I ended up finishing with a PR and my fastest time ever for a half marathon. IMT Des Moines Half Marathon, Des Moines, Iowa- 49th state. My split times were consistent and solid throughout the course, no doubt due to my consistency with training in the months before and the baseline level I had before training. How I Managed to Finish My 52nd Half Marathon with a Personal Record (PR)

After the Des Moines Half Marathon

As I mentioned earlier, I had just three weeks after the half marathon in Des Moines until my half marathon in Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Half Marathon was to be state number 50 for me and I was so excited not only to run the race and finish my 50 states quest but to go to New Mexico for the first time. However, this race just had too many problems and issues and was so poorly organized that it never could have fulfilled any expectations I might have had.

I try to keep an open mind before going somewhere new, running a new race, or basically going into anything new and just see how things go. Ideally, I like to have zero expectations. With this race, yes of course I was excited but I really had no idea how things would go. I did know I would be by myself since my daughter couldn’t go with me and a friend who mentioned possibly meeting me there said she couldn’t go after all, but I was fine with that.

Honestly, I was a bit let-down to see how poorly the race was organized, and I think that was amplified because it was my 50th state. You can read my full race report here: The Albuquerque Half Marathon, Albuquerque, New Mexico-50th state if you missed it. In the end, I had to remind myself that this was always all about the journey and not just one race. So what if this race wasn’t fun and filled with all kinds of extras like at the half marathon in Des Moines. I had the pleasure and privilege to run in Albuquerque and more importantly in the remaining 49 states of the United States as well and for that I’m truly fortunate and thankful.

At the finish line of the Albuquerque Half Marathon

All in all, I had a pretty fantastic year of running in 2021. There were more highs than lows overall. I’ve never taken the ability to run for granted and this year I felt especially grateful to be able to run and to travel to races. Most of all, I made memories that I will forever cherish.

How was your year in running? Any particular highs or lows you’d like to share?

Happy running!

Donna

How I Managed to Finish My 52nd Half Marathon with a Personal Record (PR)

I ran my first half marathon in November 2000 in Wilmington, North Carolina and ran my 52nd half marathon in October 2021 in Des Moines, Iowa. Both courses were relatively flat and both had similar temperatures. Of course I was 21 years older when I ran the race in Iowa, well into my 40’s at that point. However, I finished the race in Iowa with my fastest time to date for a half marathon. How is this possible?

I’ve read from different sources that most people reach their peak for running about ten years after they start running. I don’t believe this applies to people like me who ran on my grade school track team; otherwise I would have peaked in my early 20’s. However, I didn’t start training for and running half marathons until 2000. Still, if the 10-year rule applied to me, I would have peaked around 2010.

Looking back at my race times from 2008 through 2010, those were some of my slowest times for a half marathon. I was struggling with anemia for the first time around this point in my life and it went undiagnosed for a long period. When I was finally diagnosed with anemia and started taking iron supplements it took my body over a year to fully recover.

The Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Mississippi in 2010 was one of my slowest half marathons

In fact, even though I had run a half marathon before where I finished under 2 hours, I wasn’t able to do that again because of anemia until the Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon in May 2015. I set a PR of 1:55:28 with the next race I ran, Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in July 2015. Finishing out the year with the Dixville Half Marathon in New Hampshire and another sub-2 hour finish, 2015 was obviously a good year for racing for me.

Beginning in 2016, I had a string of difficult races including one at a relatively high elevation in Colorado, so I didn’t manage another sub-2 hour finish until May 2018 when I ran the Famous Potato Half Marathon in Idaho. Just when I was feeling like I was getting my legs back again, anemia struck once again. A few months before the White River Half Marathon in Arkansas in November 2018 I learned why I had been struggling with my training runs- I was severely anemic so I started taking iron pills immediately. Despite being anemic, I still finished under 2 hours and was fourth in my age group, which makes me wonder just what I could have done had I not been anemic.

Fortunately I was able to get my iron levels back up to normal fairly quickly and by the time of the Seashore Classic Half Marathon in Delaware 2019, I was able to finish second in my age group with a sub-2 hour finish. This was a deceptively tough course too, so I was happy with my performance. At my next race, the Star Valley Half Marathon in Wyoming I finished with another PR, at 1:53. Finishing off the year with the Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon in Nebraska, I was happy with a 1:54 finish, especially given I had to stop and tie my shoe during this race.

After the Star Valley Half Marathon in Wyoming, one of my favorite races of all time

After COVID hit and races everywhere were cancelled indefinitely in 2020 instead of running the three half marathons I was supposed to run in New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa, I ran a virtual half marathon as part of a fundraiser for the Australia wildfires. It felt like just another 13.1 miles on the greenways I always run on and I wanted more. I signed up for a virtual 5k and decided to try to really push myself, thinking at the time there were going to be awards given, so I at least had some motivation. That 5k was my fastest by far and it showed me a glimpse into what I was capable of (I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count?).

I began to push myself harder and I ran more in 2020 than I ever had before. This was during the early months of the pandemic, when many businesses including my work place were shut down indefinitely, and I had much more time on my hands. Instead of sitting around watching the depressing news updates or Netflix and gaining the COVID-15, I decided to get outside and do something healthy. I also started going on walks on days when I didn’t run and doing some core work every night. My body felt stronger than it ever had.

When I ran the Circle of Life Half Marathon, Lake City, Minnesota- 48th state I felt ready but the course turned out to be one of the toughest I’ve run because of the gravel road and hills. It was one of those races I was happy to be done and it didn’t really matter what my time was (2 hours even). I have no doubt if I hadn’t been in as good of shape as I was it would have easily taken me another 15 or 20 minutes to finish. This race further emphasizes how much the difficulty of a race course makes on your finish time as well.

We definitely earned these medals at the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Minnesota

I was able to keep up my fitness from the time of the half marathon in Minnesota until my race in Iowa in October. I continued nailing my training workouts. If I was supposed to run 6 miles with a 1 mile warmup followed by 4 miles at tempo pace then a 1 mile cooldown, that’s what I did, no more, no less. If my long run called for 13-14 miles, I ran 14. I also continued doing strength training at the gym twice a week and core work every night. More than anything, I was consistent. I think the bottom line here and key to everything is consistency.

When race day came for the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon, Des Moines, Iowa- 49th state, my plan was to shoot for 8:45 minute miles but ultimately go by feel. Since I was able to go faster than that and still felt great, I went with it and because of my level of fitness I was able to continue at that faster-than-ever-before pace. A lot of times you hear people say you should start slower and gradually speed up or speed up for the last few miles. For me, consistency was once again the key and it worked better for me to have my mile splits be more consistent throughout the race. If I would have started slower my finish time would have been slower because there’s no way I could have run my last few miles faster than what I did even if I would have started out a bit slower.

Really there’s no magic formula when it comes to achieving a PR in a race but there are some things that make a huge difference. One is the course conditions. It’s one thing for a course to be flat and quite another to be flat but have strong winds (Kiawah Island Half Marathon, I’m looking at you). Also, some people don’t do well on flat courses and their bodies actually respond better to some rolling hills. Choose your course wisely.

Perfect weather and course conditions plus consistent training helped me achieve a PR in Iowa

The second and most important factor in running a PR is to choose a training plan that will work for you, giving you just enough of a challenge but not so difficult that you can’t run the prescribed runs. You don’t want to feel overtrained but you also want to reach your potential by pushing yourself just the right amount. You also need to be consistent with the training plan and not skip workouts or cut them short.

There is a final factor that may sound a bit woo-woo but I absolutely believe in it and that’s the power of the mind. If you don’t truly believe you can run a PR or even run a “good” race (whatever that means to you) then you won’t. However, if you go into it with an open mind and just say, I’m well-trained and I’m just going to do my best and see what happens you might just see some magic happen.

What has worked for you in the past when you ran a PR at a race?

Happy running!

Donna

IMT Des Moines Half Marathon, Des Moines, Iowa- 49th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Iowa was my 49th state.

Before COVID and the pandemic, I was supposed to run a half marathon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in September 2020. At that point I would have already run a half marathon in New Mexico in April of that year, followed by Minnesota in June, and the race in Cedar Rapids would have been my 50th state. All three of those races got shifted or cancelled completely so now in 2021, I still have not run a half marathon in New Mexico but I ran Circle of Life Half Marathon, Lake City, Minnesota for my 48th state in June of this year. Confused? Blame it on COVID.

When I saw the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon was scheduled for an in-person race October 17, 2021 and the race director promised regular communication leading up to the race plus he would do everything in his power to make sure the race took place in person, I signed up immediately. True to his word, the race director sent out weekly emails with information about the race. Unfortunately since the race was in October, that meant my teenage daughter would not be running with me since she didn’t want to miss school. No one else would be going with me either, which means this was my first real solo vacation and first time traveling to a race by myself (no sherpa but that was OK; there was a gear check).

Packet pickup was at the Iowa Events Center both Friday and Saturday and included something I hadn’t seen in a while, an actual in-person expo with several vendors and booths set up. You could buy shirts, shoes, gels and other running-related supplies or talk to people about products and local running events. There were also speakers like Jeff Galloway, the famous Olympian who has since coached millions on the run/walk method. I picked up my goodie bag and race bib and was surprised to see a long-sleeve quarter-zip shirt personalized with the race name on the front and 13.1 on the back included in the bag.

Social distancing? Nope. Masks? Nah. Good thing I’m vaccinated.

A cold front had moved into Des Moines bringing with it a frigid wind in the days preceding the race. I went on a 30 minute shakeout run on Friday morning and it was 50 degrees, which was fine to run in what I had brought for the race (short-sleeve top and running skirt). However, the temperature was supposed to drop to 40 degrees at night starting Friday and by 8 am on Sunday, race morning, it was only supposed to be 41 degrees. On top of that, it was supposed to increase by 10 degrees in just a couple of hours. I was not happy with the weather prediction for race morning. Welcome to the Midwest, right?

After obsessively checking the weather like a crazy person and also obsessing about what I was going to wear for the race, I decided to stick with my original plan of my short-sleeve shirt, running skirt, knee-high compression socks, beanie, Buff on my neck, and my beloved Turtle mittens. I wore a fleece jacket to the start then threw it in the gear check bag and made my way to the start. It turns out it was a few degrees warmer than they had predicted the night before so at 8 am at race start it was 44 degrees and sunny.

There were around 5000 people running the marathon and half marathon, which both started together and we were crammed-in together tightly (and no one was wearing a mask). It would not have been a good scene for anyone worried about COVID, but that’s not me since I’m vaccinated and don’t have any health complications so it didn’t bother me. My plan was to run around 8:45 minute miles which would mean my finish time would be around 1:54.

The race start was right in the heart of downtown Des Moines and the half marathoners split off from the marathoners around mile 3. The course went by Water Works Park and Grays Lake Park, past the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and ran along the Des Moines River for the last part. It was scenic and pancake flat with the exception of one very minor hill around mile 11. There were bands, first aid stations, and Gatorade/water at multiple points along the course. At one point there were even volunteers holding out tissue boxes with tissues for runners. I’ve never seen that before but thought it was a great idea because it’s common to get a runny nose from cold air when running. Spectators were also out in full force, many with funny posters; one of my favorites was: “On a scale of 1-10, you’re a 13.1.”

I went back later to take some photos of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park

I felt so good right from the beginning that I ended up going faster than I expected. My split times were 8:26, 8:24, 8:21, 8:18, 8:28, 8:21, 8:17, 8:20, 8:23, 8:24, 8:28, 8:33, 8:29, and 8:20 for the final 0.25 miles. Strava had me at 13.25 miles with a finish of 1:50 at 13.1 miles but my official time was 1:51:20, which was a PR for me! I’m still astounded that I PR’d for my 51st half marathon! I finished 12th in my age group out of 110 women. This is a FAST course!

At the finish, we got our medals along with snack boxes filled with pretzels, peanuts, sunflower seeds, an oatmeal bar, fruit snacks, and animal crackers; there was also water and Gatorade plus a chocolate Gatorade protein recovery drink that tasted like chocolate milk. AND there were BBQ sandwiches, oranges, bananas, cookies, and Truly hard seltzer. There was an area set up in a big field with really talented bands playing and cornhole boards and bleachers to sit on. Finally, there were big posters with the race logo for photo ops.

I truly loved this race. Who would have thought my race in Des Moines, Iowa, state number 49 would be so outstanding? The race director and the volunteers did an excellent job putting on this race and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a well-organized, flat (unless you’re running the marathon; believe it or not, Iowa actually has some hills and the marathon is hilly, I’ve been told), and most of all FUN race.

Have any of you run this race or know anyone who has? Anyone interested in taking a trip to Iowa to check it out?

Happy running!

Donna

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