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

 

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Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon, Illinois- 25th State

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Illinois was my 25th state.  Half-way there!!!

Looking at half marathons for my one in Illinois, I was drawn to those in Chicago.  I had been there once when I was in high school and had been wanting to go back, so I signed up for the 2012 Allstate Life Insurance Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon.  It was in June and as one might predict, it was hot.  Extremely hot.  So hot that they put out warning flags at mile 2.  I knew early on that I wouldn’t be getting a PR (personal record) at this race.  Although it was a large race with a lot of runners, it was well-organized and had corrals so we weren’t on top of each other.

In 2015, the Chicago Spring Half Marathon and Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1 Marathon merged to become the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, currently part of the Michelob Ultra 13.1 Series which includes races in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Chicago.  The Chicago Spring Half Marathon is in May, which I think would greatly help with the extreme heat that I experienced in June, so I think that was a good move on the director’s part.  The race starts along Lakeshore Trail near North Lakeshore Drive and only has a rise in elevation of 25 feet, so it’s about as flat as half marathons come.

Chicago is filled with all kinds of fun things to do.  My family and I spent a week here just doing all of the touristy things like taking photos of ourselves in front of the “bean” at Millenium Park, going to the Museum of Science and Industry (highly recommend), checking out the Field Museum (also highly recommend), admiring the views from the Skydeck at Willis Tower, and my daughter had a ton of fun playing in the water at Crown Fountain.  One way you can save money is to buy a Chicago CityPASS and you can save 53% off admission for up to 5 attractions.

From my post-race notes:  “Nice course along shoreline of Chicago, with some shade first 7 miles, but no shade remaining miles; extremely flat with only one small incline. Was very hot the day of the race, however and completely cloudless. Warning flags (due to extreme heat) were on course starting at mile 2. Volunteers were great along course and afterwards. Big, heavy medal, nice technical shirt and rucksack. Large race but with corrals wasn’t too crowded. Usual food and drinks afterward. Cooled my severely blistered toes in the cool water of Lake Michigan. Because of heat, finish time was 5 minutes off goal (had to slow down last 5 miles), but was on schedule for a 2:02 finish before that.” Ha!  That last sentence in my notes crack me up!  I can tell myself that I was on schedule for a 2:02 finish, right?

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The cold water of Lake Michigan felt awesome after the race!

Run 13.1 Series

Charming Charleston- How to visit without breaking the bank

If I had to describe Charleston, South Carolina in one word it would be charming.  The city is full of charm from its architecture to its restaurants and even more importantly its people.  With a population of only around 130,000 encompassing roughly 110 square miles, this city packs a punch with personality.  However, all of this charm does not come cheap. Charleston is a relatively expensive city to visit, especially for a city of its size.

First a bit of history. Founded in 1670 by English colonists, Charleston has some history under its belt by American standards anyway.  Charleston had grown to a wealthy city by the mid-eighteenth century and prospered because of the sale of rice, cotton, and indigo. Everything came to a halt in April of 1861 when there was an attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate soldiers in Charleston Harbor, thus triggering the Civil War.  Charleston took some time to recover and rebuild after the war finally ended in 1865.  However, some say it was this slow recovery that gave Charleston its current architectural charm.  Rather than rebuild new buildings, Charleston opted to repair and as a result many historical buildings still exist today.

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The USS Yorktown is at Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum

Historical Charleston is lined with cobblestone streets and there are rows of pastel antebellum houses.  You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the elegant French Quarter and Battery district and hear some stories about the area by your (hopefully) entertaining guide.  The Battery promenade and Waterfront Park are lovely areas to take a post-dinner walk. Options abound for walking tours of the city from ghost tours to historical walking tours to culinary and pub tours.  If you would rather take your tours on the water there are numerous boat tours as well. Of course you could also just take your own self-guided tours and stroll along the area and take in the scenery as my family and I did.  That doesn’t cost a penny!

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If it’s shopping that interests you, take some time to meander through the stalls of the City Market and browse the local wares.  You can find jewelry, hand-woven baskets galore, various kinds of art, snacks and local foods, and handmade clothing for starters with the option of going to the day market or night market.  There are of course numerous vintage and antique shops throughout Charleston in addition to unique boutiques with men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. You don’t even have to spend a dime; just browsing at all of the local unique finds can be fun!

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You would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant in Charleston that has sub-par food. I have yet to have eaten at a restaurant that was bad, although I’m sure it’s possible.  When we were there this past August, we started our culinary adventure at Spero and we were not disappointed.  When my 10-year-old daughter asked if she could have her sandwich without the homemade sauerkraut that came with it, the chef came to our table and asked her if she would just give it a try and if she didn’t like it, she could send it back and he would happily make her another sandwich without kraut “lickety split.”  She agreed and ended up loving her sandwich, whereas before she absolutely detested sauerkraut, even when we were in Germany and had it there.  My husband and I loved our sandwiches as well.

Other restaurants that were every bit as fabulous were Poogan’s Smokehouse, Butcher & Bee, and Brown Dog Deli, just to name a few.  But I think my favorite was brunch at High Cotton.  This is where I experienced the best shrimp and grits I have had in a very long time.  The first time I ever had shrimp and grits was on my first trip to Charleston many years ago and that memory still remains vivid.  A meal at any of the aforementioned places is not exactly cheap but they may just be some of the best meals you’ve ever experienced. One way to save a bit of money is to eat breakfast at your hotel or B & B, pack a picnic lunch, and just eat out for dinner.  Even better may be to just eat out for lunch and if you have a kitchen in your hotel room, cook dinner in your room.  You can pick up some freshly caught seafood and have a delicious, quick, and easy meal for much less than eating out.

Where to stay in Charleston?  If you want to stay in the historical district, it will cost you.  Most hotels are around $300/night and up during the summer months before taxes and fees.  Bed and breakfasts abound and you can usually find one a bit under $200/night but this isn’t an option for families unless you rent multiple rooms as most only have one bed in the room.  Another, more affordable option is to stay in Mt. Pleasant.  Mt. Pleasant is a wonderful choice to stay especially if you plan on spending time at the beaches since it is about 15 minutes from historic Charleston, Sullivan’s Island, or Isle of Palms, with both of the latter having nice beaches. There are numerous options for hotels in Mt. Pleasant, many of which are much more affordable than those in historic Charleston.

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Ravenel Bridge connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston

The beaches near Charleston include Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.  Isle of Palms has more than 6 miles of beach and many restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.  There are public restrooms and public parking (pay lots).  The feel is much more touristy at Isle of Palms than at Sullivan’s Island and on weekends it is much more crowded than Sullivan’s Island. Sullivan’s Island has no public restrooms, very few restaurants (all are on Middle Street), no hotels or high-rise condos, and less options for parking.  However, in exchange, the beach at Sullivan’s Island is much less crowded and more peaceful.  Soft, beige powdery sand is at both beaches and wild dunes add to the beauty.  Other than possibly paying for parking, going to these beaches is totally free so you can spend all day here, pack a picnic lunch, and hardly spend any money.

Kiawah Island is a barrier island 15 miles south of Charleston and was ranked one of the Top 10 Beaches by Forbes in 2013.  It is primarily a gated beach and golf community but Beachwalker County Park is open to the public and although quite expensive, a very nice place to stay is The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Resort.  One of the first half-marathons I ran was in Kiawah Island.  If you’re a runner, I highly recommend this for a fast marathon or half-marathon. Rates for condos are deeply discounted the weekend of the race making it much more affordable.  See my post Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon, South Carolina-4th state.

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How to get to Charleston, South Carolina if you’re not lucky enough to be within driving distance?  Charleston International Airport is a joint civil-military airport 12 miles from downtown Charleston.  Once here, a rental car is recommended, as public transportation exists but is not nearly as comprehensive as in bigger cities.  However, it would be possible to rely on CARTA, the bus system, and DASH trolleys in the downtown area, if you supplemented with taxis and Uber.

Once you visit Charleston, you too may fall in love with the city’s charm and be left with a longing to return that stays with you after you’ve returned home again.

Shamrock Marathon, Virginia-24th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Virginia was my 24th state.

We all see people wearing race shirts from previous races all the time, right?  Well, I ran the half marathon of the Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia quite honestly because I saw a guy at the gym where I work out wearing a shirt from the race and it piqued my interest.  When I asked him about it, he was very enthusiastic about the race and the course, so I thought I would give it a shot.  This was definitely one of the biggest half marathons I had ever ran, but it was so well-organized, the crowds weren’t an issue.

This race is held on the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, so a lot of people that run it go for the party atmosphere.  I was a little concerned about partiers being loud and keeping me up the night before the race (go ahead, call me old!), but that wasn’t an issue fortunately.  The weather was nice while we were there and we got to enjoy the area before and after the race.  Virginia Beach can be pretty expensive, especially hotels in the area, and it is fairly touristy so this place certainly isn’t for everyone.  The sand sculptures on the beach were really cool and a very popular spot for photos after the race.

I felt like I got a ton of swag at this race, too; much more than I had at any other race. I got a short-sleeve technical shirt, hooded sweatshirt, running hat, small rucksack bag, in addition to one of the coolest medals I’ve received.  The medal was a bottle-opener in the shape of a shamrock so it was functional as well as fun. Fun was pretty much the vibe from start to finish for this race.  I highly recommend it.

If you’re flying into the area, the closest public airport is Norfolk International Airport, 13 miles away.  Another option is Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, 35 miles  away in Newport News, Virginia.  There is a trolley system, the VB Wave that is part of the city’s public transportation system.  Depending on where your hotel or B & B is, you may be able to walk to many restaurants, bars, and shops.  If you stay on streets that are numbered in the teens to twenties (for example, 19th or 25th Street), you should be able to get by without a rental car.  However, if you prefer more peace and quiet and stay accordingly on a street at either far end (10th Street or lower and 30th Street and higher), you will definitely want to either rely on the trolleys, a rental car, or taxis.

From my post-race notes:

” Completely flat course along neighborhoods, a military base, and ended at boardwalk by the beach.  Good aid stations and volunteers, DJ’s playing music along course.  Overcast until very end when sun peeked out, not too much wind.  Low 50’s at start.  Was biggest race (number of runners) I’ve ran but were divided into corrals so course didn’t feel crowded.  Received short-sleeve running shirt, nice hooded sweatshirt, small rucksack-type bag, running hat, and nice medal with a shamrock on it.  Was a good race to do.  Finish time was an improvement over past several races.  My finish time was 2:07:40.”

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Shamrock Marathon

Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon, Alabama-23rd state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Alabama was my 23rd state.

When I read this blurb about the Kaiser Realty Coastal Half-Marathon, I thought this was a good race for me: “Why run it.  For the wildlife.  At this backcountry race across the trails of the 6,150-acre Gulf State Park and wildlife reserve, don’t be surprised if you spot a great horned owl or gopher tortoise along the route.  The mostly flat course meanders beside swamps, beaches, and rivers, and finishers will be rewarded with local seafood cuisine.” How could I resist?  I signed up immediately.

This race was sponsored by BP and they had paid for elite runners Deena Kastor and Johnny Gray to be there although they weren’t actually running the race. I had never seen Deena Kastor in person before and was surprised to see she was even tinier than I thought she was.  In the days before the race I had been sick with a cold and was running a fever the morning of the race.  I remember telling my husband that running a half marathon was just about the last thing I felt like doing at the moment but of course I sucked it up and ran it anyway.

Although you would expect the course to be flat since it’s in a coastal town “at the beach,” the course was slightly uphill and there was a strong wind, so it wasn’t as easy as I expected.  The food after the race was incredible- a full on southern spread of crab cakes, shrimp and grits, crab corn chowder, and more; definitely some of the best post-race food I’ve ever had.

My family and I relaxed in Orange Beach before and after the race.  Orange Beach is a clean area with powder white sand and not overly touristy.  There aren’t a lot of hotels (not sure if there are any really) in the area so I suggest searching airbnb or renting a condo or beach house through Wyndham Vacation Rentals.  The race is held on Thanksgiving weekend so it’s typically quiet then but the weather is still pretty warm.  It’s a great place for a racecation!

From my post-race notes:

” Majority of course was on paved bike/running trail, which was nice since it sheltered us from the wind and sun. About 1 mile was on the road and we could glimpse the ocean, but it was slightly uphill, into the wind, so it was very difficult. I also had a cold with cough and fever, so my finish time wasn’t so fast, but I was happy with it nonetheless. I passed several runners the last few miles. Post-race food was the best yet at a race- crab corn chowder, seafood gumbo, shrimp or oyster po boys, chicken fingers, bread. Medal was plain. Shirt was long-sleeve technical. Volunteers were pretty good along the course. Minimal people cheering runners on. Deena Kastor and Johnny Gray were at packet pickup and spoke at race start.  My finish time was 2:15:08.”

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Kaiser Coastal Half Marathon

Missoula Marathon, Montana-22nd state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Montana was my 22nd state.

Ah, Missoula, Montana.  I have fond memories of you.  The Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon is in July, which means while much of the US is sweltering, it is quite comfortable here.  I have to admit, I broke a cardinal rule of running races here.  I had only brought shorts (no pants) with me for this race but a cold front suddenly came in and they were predicting temps in the low 40’s the morning of the race, so I found a local running store and bought the last pair of running capris they had in stock, which a kind sales lady dug out from the back store room.  The race was the next day so I had never worn these before let alone run in them, but it was either that or freeze my buns off.  Everyone tells you to never wear anything you’ve never ran in at least once during a race, and I had always followed this to the letter. However, buying those capris turned out to be a good decision and I was glad I had the extra coverage to help keep me warm.

From this race forward, I always make sure I pack running pants, shorts, capris, short sleeved tops, and long sleeved tops for every race, no matter where because as I learned here, the weather can be very unpredictable.  I know some of you may be thinking, “40 degrees is actually quite nice for a race,” but where I live, we don’t see temperatures that low until winter is nearing or in full force; certainly not in July.  I just wasn’t used to running in temperatures that low.

The Missoula Half Marathon of 2011 was one of my favorites for the scenery, the people, and the course.  This race does have a 6 am start so if you’re not an early morning person, that could be an issue.  I think it helps with the temperatures, though.  At the start it’s usually around mid 50’s (although as I said for me it was only in the low 40’s) and up to the high 70’s around noon.  The course is very scenic and fairly flat, taking you though the countryside, along a river, and finishing in downtown Missoula.

There are a couple of bonuses including with this race.  The renowned Olympian runner Jeff Galloway began a partnership with Run Wild Missoula in January 2011 to promote the Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon.  Every year since then he has given numerous talks, hikes, and even a 3 hour running school the weekend of the Missoula Marathon.  Another bonus is you get a free race day victory stand photo (printed out for you) at the Sunday Expo at the Caras Park Pavilion as well as a link after the race to download an on-course photo free of charge.

After the race, my family and I went to Glacier National Park and from there to Banff National Park in Canada. I highly recommend both parks, in addition to Missoula. The mountains and lakes are absolutely stunning and these are some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  This race is a nice opportunity to make it into a racecation.

From my post-race notes:

“Ran past a river, past rural areas, and finished downtown.  Course was great- mostly flat, some downhill, and a small uphill.  Weather was upper 40’s at start, but I warmed up after first couple of miles.  Sunny, almost no wind.  Aid stations were plenty.  Got a nice medal, technical shirt, and a photo printed out at the finish.  Plenty of food and drink at finish. Was still struggling with speed while training for race due to recent anemia Oklahoma-21st state but was happy with finish time.  Was a great race overall and one of my favorites.  My finish time was 2:16:53.”

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Missoula Marathon

Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy Half Marathon, Oklahoma-21st state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Oklahoma was my 21st state.

Anemia is something that only vegetarians have to worry about right?  That’s what I thought until I was diagnosed with anemia even though I’ve never been a vegetarian. Going into the Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy Half Marathon in Oklahoma I finally understood why I had been struggling with running, heck even walking without getting out of breath for many months, if not years.

When I ran the race in 2011, it was the second year for this race and as the newspaper clipping I have that covered the race states, the strong headwind that day kept times far higher than the inaugural race in 2010.  The strong wind on top of the fact that I had just been diagnosed with anemia resulted in one of my slowest half marathon times to date. Before the race, my doctor actually warned me not to run (at all, let alone run a half marathon), but like in the past, I let my stubborn attitude win and I chose to run it (well, sort of.  It was more like run/walk it).

My race times had been slipping over the past few races Mississippi-20th stateWisconsin-19th state and especially in the year leading up to this race I had been really struggling to get my breath when I ran.  At first I thought I was just getting older and this was par for the course.  I had not had a recent loss of large amounts of blood and I wasn’t vegetarian but I also was not taking a daily multivitamin with iron.  Then one evening I was out of breath and so dizzy I had to hold onto the wall after going up one flight of stairs at home that I realized something far more serious must be going on.

I went to the doctor the next day and was told my iron and B12 levels had plummeted and my red blood cells looked irregular. My doctor prescribed me these enormous pills that included mega doses of iron along with vitamin C and B12 and told me to take it easy until my iron levels were back up to normal.  Since I would easily get out of breath and be forced to walk, my body pretty much forced me to “take it easy” or at least not run all-out, which would have been downright impossible. One thing I started doing that helped and I highly recommend any pre-menopausal woman to do is take a multivitamin with iron every day.

Fortunately, the half marathon course was overall a pretty nice one except for the huge hills about 3/4 of the way into the race, which I walked of course.  If you’re looking for a race in Oklahoma with more of a small-town feel than Oklahoma City, this would fit the bill.  The volunteers and aid stations were well-manned and plenty and the swag was pretty nice (both a short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirt and a nice medal).

Turner Falls is a fun area to visit and this area of Oklahoma is a good one for a long weekend mini-vacation.  Ardmore is about 1 and 1/2- 2 hours from either Oklahoma City or Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport making it relatively easy to get to from other areas of the country.

From my post-race notes:

“Ran from near Turner Falls in Arbuckle to Ardmore.  Course started uphill, went downhill for a couple of miles, then the rest of the course was rolling hills until miles 9 and 10, where there were huge, long uphills.  Ran into strong winds (about 20 mph) the entire point-to-point course, which of course made it extremely difficult.  Weather other than wind was nice (low 60’s) until the last few miles when the sun came out and it got pretty warm. Finished at Noble Stadium, a high school track, which was fun.  Cinnamon rolls and other nice goodies at the finish.  Got a long-sleeve finisher shirt, which was unexpected and great.  Got short-sleeve shirt at packet pick-up so didn’t expect another shirt; also got a decent medal at finish.  Recently was diagnosed with anemia so have been struggling with that for some time now.  Was not my best time by any means, but considering my health, did OK.  My finish time was 2:35:42.”

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A2A Race for Mercy