Bismarck Marathon, North Dakota-16th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. North Dakota was my 16th state.

North Dakota was completely unexplored territory for me in 2009 when I signed up for the Kroll’s Diner Bismarck Marathon and Half Marathon. At the time, I hadn’t been anywhere near Bismarck or anywhere in North Dakota for that matter.

I got a long-sleeve white technical shirt with the race logo on the front at packet pickup, which was quick and easy to get in and out of. The race started at 7:30 am and it was in the mid-50’s then, so weather-wise, we had ideal racing conditions. The start and finish were at a nice park but the rest of the course was pretty uneventful and not very scenic.

Much of the race course was along running trails that were mostly flat. It was an out-and-back course with a loop during the first part. There were sufficient water stops with good volunteers but sporadic crowd support. I felt like the finish line was upon me suddenly, with the many twists and turns of the park trails, and my finish time was 1:59:00.

At the finish, I was handed a pretty hefty medal with the race logo on it that matched the shirt I had picked up at packet pickup. Overall, this was not a particularly bad race, there just was nothing exciting or out of the ordinary about it. If you do run this race, the race website always has hotel discounts every year so check there before you make reservations.

My family and I found Bismarck to be a very depressed area with not much to do. I would only recommend this race if you’re going to be in Bismarck anyway and are looking for a good half marathon while you’re there. It’s not bad for a half marathon, it’s just that there are better ones out there in my opinion from what I’ve since seen and heard from other runners. South Dakota on the other hand, was a completely different story, but I wouldn’t discover that until years later.

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Bismarck Marathon

Traverse City Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon, Michigan-15th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Michigan was my 15th state.

I signed up for the Traverse City Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon because I knew other runners who had ran the half marathon or marathon and raved about the course. My family and I were also going to a christening for my husband’s twin nephews fairly nearby the area in April, so the timing would be perfect.

When I ran the half marathon in April of 2009, the marathon and half marathon both were filled to capacity (1700 for the marathon and 1500 for the half) in January. Both races were filled less than seven weeks after registration opened in December so they’re obviously very popular races, or at least they were in 2009. I imagine it’s still a popular race since it’s still going strong. One thing to note is that the races have been moved to Memorial Day weekend.

The course was definitely one of the most scenic ones I’ve ran and unlike race directors who mean hilly when they say that, I don’t. The half marathon was a pretty flat out-and- back course with several views of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. In fact, 90% of the course was along Grand Traverse Bay. We also ran past huge stately homes along the water.

Spectators were sparse, which didn’t surprise me since runners had to be bussed to the start. I found the weather to be a bit colder than I prefer, but I also prefer warmer racing temperatures than most people. The finish was on an outdoor track for the last quarter mile, which I liked and it made it easy to find my family after the race.

My finish time for the Bayshore Half Marathon was 2:00:37.

I highly recommend this race and spending some time in Traverse City before and after the race. Traverse City is a popular vacation area during the summer but in late spring when this race is, the weather is nice but it’s not so crowded. There are many wineries and places to try all things made with cherries of all sorts. One place you can’t miss is Sleeping Bear Dunes. Who knew there was an enormous sand dune you can climb up (or roll down as I saw many kids doing) in Michigan? We loved this place! It was only about a 35 minute drive from Traverse City, which makes it an easy day trip but you can camp at the park if you prefer to stay there overnight.

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Bayshore Marathon

Run the Reagan Half Marathon, Georgia-14th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Georgia was my 14th state.

For my half marathon in Georgia, I really wanted to run the one on Tybee Island. However, in 2008, the year I was planning on running it, there was talk of cancelling it so to be on the safe side I found another half in Snellville, Georgia around the same time (February) and thought that would be fine. I was very wrong indeed.

Curious about what it might be like to run along a major expressway that’s usually only opened to vehicles? My word of advice:  think twice about running a race that’s entirely on an expressway.

This race course began and ended on the Ronald Reagan Parkway so for much of the race, all I could see was the highway and trees along the sides and nothing else. At least in my experience, highways aren’t the most scenic of places. Even worse, your sense of direction is thrown off because all you see is miles upon miles of highway with no houses or anything to break up the distances so it’s really difficult to judge how far you’ve gone or how far you have left.

To make matters even worse, the weather was terrible- cold and rainy the entire duration of the race plus after I finished. There was a great kids play area at the start/finish area, but it was too rainy, cold, and muddy for the kids to even enjoy them.

My finish for the Run the Reagan Half Marathon was 1:59:49.

I received a cotton long-sleeve shirt of pretty low-quality and a fairly plain medal; both had the race logo on them (the red, yellow, and blue squares), as seen on the banner in the photo below. Food at the finish was the usual bananas, oranges, bagels, water. Since it was so cold and rainy I didn’t even want to get any food, though. I just wanted to get back to my warm hotel room.

This was a race that I was happy to just finish. After I was done running, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We did have a fun time in Atlanta, which was close-by so I’m glad we could at least enjoy the sights there.

If you’re looking for things to do in Atlanta, here are just a few suggestions and some of the things my family and I did while we were there:  visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden, be awed by all of the animals at the Georgia Aquarium, see some art exhibits at the High Museum of Art and get a burger and milkshake at the The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant.

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Run the Reagan Half Marathon

Evansville Half Marathon, Indiana-13th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Indiana was my 13th state.

Evansville, Indiana is a place many people have never even heard of or at least that’s my impression of it. It is the third largest city in Indiana and the largest city in Southern Indiana. The West Side Nut Club Fall Festival is a street fair held in the area west of downtown Evansville. It is held on the first full week of October and draws nearly 150,000 people. That, in a nutshell is why I chose this race (pun intended). I had no idea I would enjoy the race as much as I did. My family and I also had a fun time in Evansville before and after the race.

The race began at the top of a hill, which we got to run down, giving us a bit of a boost from the beginning. Parts of the course went along the Ohio River, which was scenic. We also ran the bases of a baseball field, which I found unique and loads of fun. The volunteers were outstanding and there was good crowd support. I thoroughly enjoyed this race from beginning to end and it was my fastest finish to date, at 1:56:16. The vibe along the course was very fun and uplifting. If you’re looking for a fun, fast half marathon, I recommend this one.

If you’re looking for things to do before or after the race, there are several options.  We went to the Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden and had a blast.  If you have young children, you should check out the Children’s Museum of Evansville.  If you’re a car enthusiast, there’s the Dream Car Museum.  For something unique to the area, there’s Angel Mounds, a historical site of the largest settlement of the time.  As far as accommodations go, check the race website for hotels near the course that offer discounts.  They are the usual Hampton, Hilton, Holiday Inn, and Marriott hotels.  There aren’t any large airports nearby, but Nashville International Airport is about 2 1/2 hours away and Louisville International Airport is about 2 hours away.

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Evansville Half Marathon

 

 

Stratton Faxon Half Marathon, Connecticut-12th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Connecticut was my 12th state.

The Stratton Faxon Half Marathon in Fairfield, Connecticut was Runner’s World magazine’s race of the month for June 2008. That just so happens to be when I ran it. Given this and the fact that I had already been to Vermont and absolutely loved it, I had high expectations for this race and coming to Connecticut for the first time.

I know not all of the New England states are exactly the same, but still I was excited about going to Connecticut. While this part of Connecticut is beautiful, I didn’t find the same draw that I did to Vermont.

For the race, we ran past some stately homes in nice neighborhoods and along the water (Long Island Sound) with a finish at Jennings Beach, but in general I didn’t find the course very interesting and there were a lot of hills as well. There wasn’t really anything that made it stand out from other races other than the fire trucks at the end.

This race was also a hot one, which I didn’t expect. Since it’s so far north, I expected it to be cooler but not only was it really hot, it was also very humid, also unexpected. Given the heat and humidity, I was surprised to have finished in the time I did:  2:00:36. Food at the finish was typical bananas, oranges, bagels.

For pre-race accommodations, the Fairfield Circle Inn is close to the race start, as is the Hotel Hi Ho. We stayed at the Fairfield Circle Inn and it was fine, has an outdoor pool (always a bonus if you have children), and late check-out for runners. Before and after the race we flew into/out of New York City, which is only about an hour away by car. We spent some time in Fairfield but it is small so there’s not a ton of things to do. I recommend going to Lake Mohegan Recreation Area if you have the time. This is a race where it’s easy to tack on a mini-vacation to New York City after the race, too.

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Fairfield Half Marathon

Laughlin Half Marathon, Nevada-11th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Nevada was my 11th state.

A death march through the desert. That’s how I would describe the Laughlin Half Marathon in Nevada. I ran the Laughlin Half Marathon in March 2008. I had thought about running another half marathon in Nevada- the Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam Half Marathon, but wasn’t sure about running through all of the tunnels. I thought it could go either way- either it would be terrible because the runners get bottle-necked around the tunnels or it would be novel and fun.

Ultimately I chose the Laughlin Half Marathon, and I have to say this race was one that was pure torture from start to finish. They really should have started it much sooner than 8 am because the sun was out in full force beating on us runners and by the end, I was simply exhausted from the heat.

The description of the race from their website includes comments such as “Enjoy the river as you run along the Colorado River… enjoy panoramic views of the Arizona and Nevada mountains,” but honestly I didn’t think the view was that nice when I was running. But then again, all I could think about was the stifling heat and the wind beating down on us on the way back.

The course was also on what they called packed dirt with a gravel overlay but I really had problems getting my footing on the gravel.  In some places the gravel was so thick and uneven I had to slow down so I wouldn’t fall or twist an ankle. I see they now have a 7 am start time, which is a good move. An hour earlier would have made a big difference when I ran it.

At the finish, there were bananas, oranges, and bagels. This was definitely one of the smaller post-race spreads I’ve seen. The medals were small (not much bigger than a silver dollar) but cute. We also got white short-sleeve cotton t-shirts with the race logo. My finish time was 2:07:06.

As it was when I ran the race, the Avi Resort and Casino is the official host hotel for the race. The best part about staying there is the proximity to the race start/finish. Just about the only thing I really liked about the Avi Resort and Casino other than location to the race is they do at least have a pool, which my daughter loved. Not being gamblers, my husband and I didn’t visit the casino but it’s definitely low-scale compared to most of the mega casinos in Las Vegas. To drive from Las Vegas to Laughlin is a little over an hour and a half.

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I have to admit, looking at the website for the race now, it looks like many things have changed about this race, including the course, and even the fact that it’s now in December instead of March. With all of the changes, maybe it’s not as bad as when I ran it. I would hope all of the changes were for the better because it couldn’t have gotten much worse!

Laughlin Half Marathon

 

 

Marathon of the Americas and Half Marathon, Texas-10th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Texas was my 10th state.

For my Lone Star State race, I chose the 33rd annual Marathon of the Americas and Half Marathon. When I ran it in 2007, there were 2481 half marathon finishers. I thought Texas in November should be a nice time of year for a race and I was right.

San Antonio is a popular tourist destination with scenic areas such as the River Walk and the Alamo. It also has five missions of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, including the Alamo. The race began at the Alamo, which was beautiful in the early morning light, and the course continued past some of the other missions (missionary buildings). The volunteer stations were well-manned, quick, and efficient. We finished inside the Alamo Dome, a stadium used for football and basketball games and is also home to the UTSA Roadrunners.

My finish time for the Marathon of the Americas and Half Marathon was 1:59:19.

San Antonio has a lot of character and history; if you’re a history buff, you’ll love it here. My family and I stayed after the race for a few days to do all of the touristy things. One of our favorite areas was the Riverwalk, where we took a boat tour, walked along the shops, and ate at some of the restaurants.

As far as I can tell, 2007 was the last year for this race so I can’t put a link to the site here.

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Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-9th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Vermont was my 9th state.

This was my first time to Vermont and I immediately fell in love with the area. Vermont is known as the “Green Mountain State” and I know why. Everywhere I looked was the greenest grass and trees I had ever seen. In June 2007, I ran the 16th Annual Covered Bridges Half-Marathon beginning in Woodstock and ending in Quechee, not really knowing what to expect.

I had debated whether I should sign up for a fall race in Vermont instead of one in June, because I had heard how beautiful the New England states are in the fall with the changing leaf colors. However, as I said in my post about the Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Florida- 8th state, I was planning a vacation to Hawaii later that fall and wanted to test out our daughter with flying shorter distances before we flew all the way to Hawaii. This would be a short flight so it fit the bill. She was a champion traveler this time as well as on the flight to Florida, so I felt like we would have no problems flying to Hawaii.

The race tarted at the ski resort area in Woodstock and continued along country roads before ultimately ending in Quechee. It was hilly and normally I don’t like running a hilly course, but it was so beautiful the hills truly didn’t bother me. We ran past four covered bridges and the Ottauquechee River. The local people running the race and the volunteers were all friendly and helpful as well. The runners I encountered were also extremely friendly and had great senses of humor; several times during the race, I heard someone saying something that made me laugh. I had fun running this race from beginning to end.

I received a short-sleeve technical shirt, pretty plain and on the large side but fine.  It was white with the race logo on it:

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Medals weren’t given out until beginning in 2012 for this race so I didn’t receive one.

I highly recommend anyone looking for a scenic half marathon to run the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. Tip:  this race sells out fast so register as early as possible. They do have options to run for charities, however. If you commit to raising at least $500 plus pay your entry fee, you’re in! When considering lodging, remember this area has some wonderful bed and breakfasts. There are links to several nearby on the race website.

My finish time for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon was 1:59:43.

Covered Bridges Half Marathon

 

Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Florida- 8th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Florida was my 8th state.

I  know a lot of people may question why I didn’t run one of the races in Disney World for my half marathon in Florida. Honestly, I purposefully didn’t choose a Disney race because the huge crowds at their races and super-early start did not appeal to me, plus they’re crazy expensive. I think Disney is fine for family vacations just not for a race, but I know plenty of people love their races so I may be in the minority on that one.

I ran the Naples Daily News Half Marathon in January 2007. I chose this race for my one in Florida for a couple of different reasons. At the time, my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law had recently bought a winter house in Naples and had invited us down for a visit. Also, we (my husband’s parents and my husband, daughter, and me) were all planning a vacation together in Hawaii the following fall and would be bringing our daughter who would be almost 2 when we flew to Hawaii. I wanted to see how she would do on an airplane before we flew all the way to Hawaii. Since this race was in January, it would be a nice respite from the cold weather where we lived.

There was an early start to the race to beat the heat. The course was flat and went through wealthy neighborhoods with enormous multi-million homes and views of the water. There was a priest in front of Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church blessing runners going by with holy water, which was a first for me to see at a race. Our finisher’s medals were cute and of good quality, as were the short-sleeve technical shirts we received. My verdict: the Naples Half Marathon was a fun, not overly-crowded race in a perfect location for those from colder climes looking for a break from winter weather.

My finish time for the Naples Daily News Half Marathon was 2:01:09.

For things to do, there’s the Naples Zoo, which is especially good if you have younger children; the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a fantastic place for viewing wildlife in the area; and if it’s warm enough there are some beautiful beaches.  One of the best beaches is Loudermilk Beach with powder white sand, perfect for long walks after you’ve ran your race.

www.napleshalfmarathon.net

Louisville Half Marathon, Kentucky-7th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Kentucky was my 7th state.

Lucky number seven? No, not really. By this point, I was starting to feel mostly back in the swing of running post-baby and post-ITBS. I chose this race because I had never been to Louisville, Kentucky and I thought it would be a fun city to check out and since it’s along the Ohio River I knew it should be a flat course. I also thought the weather should be nice here in October, and it should be ideal running conditions.

As far as I can tell, the Louisville Half Marathon I ran in 2006 doesn’t exist any longer but there is The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in Louisville in October, which sounds way cooler than the race I ran to be honest. The Louisville Half Marathon I ran was similar to the Columbus Distance Classic, Ohio- 6th state in that it was unexceptional in almost every way.

Race morning was on the chilly side and overcast but it warmed up quickly. Part of the course went past the Ohio River and was mostly flat, but it wasn’t much to look at. The course, t-shirt given out, and medal were all just ho-hum and ordinary. I was able to get my finish time back down close to where I wanted, so that was good at least.

In return for my race entry, I received a long-sleeve technical shirt of pretty good quality and a nice but simple-looking medal. This was the first race I ran where they were giving out shirts made of technical material. Given that it was such a small race and this practice of handing out shirts made of moisture-wicking technical material was just beginning to take off in popularity, it was a pretty big thing then.

My finish time for the Louisville Half Marathon was 2:00:29.

For things to do, I missed the boat on that as well. We didn’t really do much in Louisville, partly because I had a cranky infant who didn’t want to be cooped up in the car after such a long car ride, but partly because I just wasn’t in that mind-set at the time for planning things to do after the race. It was still relatively early in my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states and I was still learning as I went along. If I were to go back to Louisville, I would definitely check out the Louisville Mega Cavern which sounds awesome and Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.. When I was a kid I went to see the Kentucky Derby with a friend of mine’s family and that was pretty exciting, even to me then. If you can’t swing that you can always go to the Kentucky Derby Museum.