Stratton Faxon Half Marathon, Connecticut-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.  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.  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.

From my post-race notes:

“Ran along water for portion of course (started and finished at a beach).  Hillier than expected also hot and humid.  Nothing outstanding either way about race, other than finished just past fire trucks (race benefits firefighters in area).  My finish time was 2:00:36.”

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Fairfield Half Marathon

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Laughlin Half Marathon, Nevada-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.

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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From my post-race notes: “8 am start meant very hot conditions for most of course.  Ran out and back on dirt course, with loose gravel in places, which made proper footing difficult.  Very windy and hot on way back.  Not fun at all.  Was just glad to finish this one. Volunteers and crowds sparse. Finish time was 2:07:06.8.”

Laughlin Half Marathon

 

 

Marathon of the Americas and Half Marathon, Texas-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.  San Antonio has a lot of character and history; if you’re a history buff, you’ll love it here.

From my post-race notes:

“Ran past several missions (missionary buildings).  Great volunteer stations.  Started at the Alamo and finished inside Alamo dome, which was fun.  Alamo was beautiful with the sun coming up. Flat course.  My finish time was 1:59:19.”

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. It looks like it was replaced by the Rock ‘N’ Roll San Antonio in December, which I’m sure doesn’t have the same feel as the race I ran.  It seems like more and more of the smaller races are being replaced with bigger races.  I don’t think that’s a good thing, personally.

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Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-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.  I signed up for 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 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.

I highly recommend anyone looking for a scenic half marathon to run the Covered Bridges Half Marathon.  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 awesome as well.  They were extremely friendly and had great senses of humor.  I had fun running this race from beginning to end.

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.

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.

From my post-race notes: “Started at ski resort area and ran along country roads.  Was somewhat hilly, but was so scenic, didn’t bother me at all.  People were all outstanding as well.  One of my favorite races.  My finish time was 1:59:43.”

Covered Bridges Half Marathon

 

Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Florida- 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.  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.  My verdict:  the Naples Half Marathon is a fun, not overly-crowded race in a perfect location for those from colder climes looking for a break from winter weather.

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.

From my post-race notes:

“Ran through wealthy neighborhoods with huge multi-million dollar homes and had views of the water.  Flat and nice.  Good early start so didn’t get too hot.   The short-sleeve technical shirt and medal were cute and of good quality.  A clergyman at Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church was outside the church blessing runners passing by with holy water, which was quite interesting.  My finish time was 2:01:09.”

www.napleshalfmarathon.net

Louisville Half Marathon, Kentucky-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.  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.

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.

For my race entry, I received a long-sleeve technical shirt of pretty good quality and a nice but simple-looking medal.  This is the first race 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.

From my post-race notes:

“Parts of course ran along Ohio River.  Chilly at start but warmed up.  Other than that, course was unexceptional, but mostly flat.  Finish time 2:00:29.”

Columbus Distance Classic, Ohio-6th state

When I ran the Columbus Distance Classic it was on April Fool’s Day, which I thought was funny given my circumstances.  It was 13 months after my previous half marathon Valley of the Sun Marathon and Half Marathon, Arizona-5th state but a little over 6 months since I gave birth. I had ran through about 7 1/2 months of my pregnancy but once it became too uncomfortable because of the pressure on my bladder, I switched to the elliptical trainer for the duration of my pregnancy.  At my post-delivery 6 week checkup with my doctor I was given the go-ahead to run again, and I was thrilled to be running after having some time away from it.

Then I discovered all of the little ways a woman’s body changes during pregnancy, some of which don’t go away once you give birth.  For instance, my hips were incredibly tight and that probably led me to develop Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), which consists of inflammation and tightness along the outside of your thigh from your hip to your knee.  Most people feel pain along the outside of their knee after they’ve been running a few miles or so.  My knee pain didn’t start until I had built up to running 5 or 6 miles, then it flared up with a vengeance.  I tried to run through the pain but ultimately would end up hobbling back home.

I had started seeing a massage therapist before I had gotten pregnant but she had moved out of the area so now I had to find another one to help me deal with my ITBS.  Fortunately I found a wonderful therapist who was able to work on my leg but unfortunately not in time for the half marathon I had signed up for.

The morning of the Columbus Distance Classic, I limped to the start.  Not a good sign and not something I would recommend anyone do, but I was determined to run, walk, crawl, or do a combination of all three to finish this race.  The course description stated that we would be running past the Ohio State University football field, but we literally ran past the closed off outside without so much as a glimpse inside so it could have been any other college football stadium for as much as I saw of it.  The course was about as boring and uneventful as they come for a race.  I would pay dearly for running this race with an injury as well, as it took me quite some time until I was walking without a limp and even longer until I could run without pain.

Although there are tons of fun things to do in Columbus, I only went there for the half marathon and to see friends and family so I didn’t do any of the touristy things.  There is a Botanical Garden that looks really nice, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and I’ve heard the Center of Science and Industry is a fantastic science museum.  If I ever go back to Columbus I will definitely check out COSI and the Botanical Gardens.

From my post-race notes:

“Course ran along downtown, part of it was past OSU football field, but just looked like concrete building when running.  Not very scenic.  Chilly start.  Nothing exceptional about race.  Difficult to find family afterwards, because of setup of finish.  My finish time was 2:06:39. ”

The Columbus Distance Classic doesn’t seem to exist any longer, so I can’t put the link here.  Hopefully it has been replaced by a better race than the one I ran!  There are currently three half marathons in Columbus as seen here.  If I were to do it over again, I would also consider running the Buckeye Half Marathon in Cuyahoga Falls.  It looks like a small, scenic race that would be during peak fall foliage with cooler temperatures perfect for running a half marathon.