Just Two More States Left!

As I type this post, I only have two states left in my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, Iowa and New Mexico. Both races are close to each other so in less than a month, as long as all goes well, I will be finished with my quest. Honestly, it feels surreal to say that before the end of 2021 I will have run a half marathon in all 50 states.

It will have taken me almost exactly 21 years since my very first half marathon, the Battleship Half Marathon in Wilmington, North Carolina (Battleship Half Marathon and Gold Rush Half Marathon, North Carolina-My first half marathon (and third and fourth), on November 19, 2000 to finish this quest. Life is funny how things turn out. It was 44 degrees that day with a cold rain that later turned into snow. For the coast of North Carolina, it’s almost unheard of to see snow especially in November so it was definitely crazy and unexpected weather.

I knew that if I were to run the same race the following year it would almost definitely be better weather. That was my hook. I wanted to see just how I could do in a half marathon given better weather and of course better preparation that would inevitably come from another year of running. Had it been sunny and in the 50’s, who knows if I would have felt the drive to run that race again or any other half marathons for that matter.

When I ran the Battleship Half Marathon in 2001 it was sunny and 51 degrees and I shaved off almost 17 minutes from my finish time. At this point I had run several other races including the Kona Half Marathon in Hawaii (Kona Marathon and Half Marathon, Hawaii-2nd state). Not only was I hooked on running half marathons, I was hooked on traveling to half marathons although I didn’t have the goal of running one in every state at this point. Still to this day, I haven’t run a half marathon anywhere close enough to my home that I didn’t have to stay in a hotel the night before.

This was taken after my recent 14 mile training run

They say with children you should get them used to your lifestyle from the beginning so it becomes second nature to the child. For example, if you enjoy traveling and plan on bringing the child along with you, you should travel with the child from the start so they become accustomed to traveling and it’s just a “normal” part of their life.

I believe how you approach running and racing is a bit like that. If you start out running 5k’s near where you live and continue doing that over several years, it would be a much bigger barrier of entry to suddenly travel to a race. But if you’ve traveled to races very early in your racing history, it’s second nature to you and not traveling before a race would seem strange to you. At least that’s how I feel about racing.

The few local races I have run don’t stand out in my mind nearly as much as the ones I traveled to. Sure, I enjoyed the Color Run I ran with my daughter (Color Vibe 5k), a local 5k, but it did seem strange to sleep in my own bed the night before the race and drive back home after the race. Part of the difference could be that it was a 5k and you can’t fairly compare a 5k to a half marathon because of course it’s going to be a wholly different experience. Still, I have run a local 10-miler, almost as long as a half marathon and at this point in my life I have absolutely no desire to run a local half marathon and most likely never will run one.

For me, part of the draw to running a half marathon is the travel aspect and visiting a new area. I know for some people the mere idea of traveling to a race makes them so anxious they would never do that. Then again, I believe travel in general makes many people anxious and I understand that.

There are so many moving parts involved with traveling to a race including just getting to the city where the race is being held, whether it’s flying or driving, finding a hotel or other place to stay at least the night before the race if not afterwards as well, renting a car if you flew to the race, eating and finding suitable things to eat the night before the race so it doesn’t upset your stomach, getting to the race start, and on and on. I know for some people, the thought of planning all of these things is overwhelming and I believe this is why some people are drawn to the companies that have popped up that basically take care of everything for you if you’re traveling to a race so you just have to sign up and show up. A popular one is Vacationraces: https://vacationraces.com/.

Back to my half marathon in Iowa, state number 49. This race is full of firsts for me. It will be the first race where a family member won’t be going to a half marathon with me. This is also the first race where I won’t be traveling to other parts of the state once I get there. In fact, I’m not even going to rent a car but will be relying on the local transportation and ride shares. A friend of mine who lives in Iowa is also running the race so I won’t be totally by myself but for a majority of my time there I will be by myself so I’m calling it my first solo travel trip.

I’m not anxious at all about any of these first times. On the contrary, I’m very much looking forward to traveling by myself and seeing what solo travel is like. A travel podcaster I follow has said before that he thinks everyone should experience solo travel at least once in their life and I’ve heard other people say how much they enjoy traveling by themselves and the many positive things to come of it.

I will be sure to let you all know how the race goes and what I think of solo travel!

Happy travels!

Donna

Circle of Life Half Marathon, Lake City, Minnesota- 48th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Minnesota was my 48th state.

Never would I have thought I would be running a half marathon in tiny little Lake City, Minnesota, but my life has often taken unexpected twists and turns so really I shouldn’t be too surprised. I was supposed to run the Tiki Run in St. Paul, Minnesota for my Minnesota race in 2020 but of course that was cancelled because of the pandemic. In fact, the race director’s response time to messages and emails last year was so poor (he never responded) that I decided even if the race was held this year I would not run it.

When I saw things start to open back up including in-person races in the spring of this year and I was fully vaccinated, I started looking for half marathons in Minnesota and Iowa to run. I knew my race registration from the half marathon in New Mexico would roll into the November 2021 race so I didn’t have to bother finding a race for that state. Iowa was easy, with the race director for the Des Moines Marathon and Half Marathon basically stating the race would be held in-person come hell or high water, so I immediately signed up for that, leaving Minnesota.

My search for a half marathon in Minnesota was further complicated by the fact that my teenage daughter wanted to run it with me but didn’t want to miss school for it. That meant I needed to find an in-person half marathon in Minnesota between mid-June and the end of July (we already had a trip planned in August just before she goes back to school). That didn’t leave many options, and given the fact that the pandemic still wasn’t 100% over and some races were at limited capacity or going the virtual route, that left barely any races. To further limit my choices, I knew how hot it gets in Minnesota in July, so I had my fingers crossed I could find a race in the last two weeks of June.

As luck would have it, I found the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Lake City, about an hour from Minneapolis. Knowing absolutely nothing about the race course, the town or surrounding area, or really anything other than the race director assured me it would be an in-person race, I signed up myself and my daughter and began making travel plans.

I found a good flight deal using travel credits I had from cancelled flights in 2020 and flew into St. Paul/Minneapolis a few days before the race, giving me plenty of wiggle room before the race, should anything happen with the flights (everything went smoothly). We checked out the National Eagle Center in nearby Wabasha, https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/, walked around the very few shops in the towns of Wabasha and Lake City, and just took it easy until the race Saturday morning.

It turns out Lake City is the birthplace of water skiing, and there is a huge festival every June that includes concerts, an arts and crafts fair, a water ski show, a car show, a parade, and more. Most of the events began on Friday evening and ran through the weekend but I had planned on checking out immediately after the race on Saturday so we missed all of that. Oh well. We were there for a half marathon anyway, right. On to that.

Packet pickup was quick and easy at the same place as the race start/finish: Underwood Park in Lake City. I picked up a cotton t-shirt, bib with a chip embedded in it, and a plastic bag with a granola bar, water bottle, some coupons, a local booklet, and some other odds and ends, most of which went in the trash or recycling.

I always like to drive the race course the evening before a race and this one was no exception, only this time I was a bit early. I happened to see someone putting up small signs by the road near packet pickup and noticed he was putting up mile markers. Great! I thought! But it wasn’t so great because he was going pretty slowly, driving to each mile, getting out of his truck, grabbing the mile marker sign and hammering it into the ground, sometimes also adding direction arrows as well. I quickly felt like a stalker, which I pretty much was. I tried to follow behind him with some distance but a few times I would catch up sooner than I thought I would and not have anywhere to “hide” the car so I would just sit off the side of the road until he moved on. My daughter had a good time laughing at the situation and we made a sort of game out of it. Who knows if the guy saw me and if he did what on earth did he think about a woman and her teenage daughter following behind him for 13’ish miles.

It was good and bad that I saw the course before the race start. The good was I knew fully what I was in for, the bad was I knew fully what I was in for. Part of the course was on a gravel road, which I detest running on, and even worse, some of it went uphill. There’s not much worse than running uphill on a gravel road. Further, there was a steep hill near the finish, which I’ve always felt is cruel and unusual punishment by a race director.

Even though the weather forecast had called for a downpour around 7 am, which was race start time, by the time I checked that morning, it had gotten downgraded to showers starting around 9 or 10 am. It was overcast and around 73 degrees, but no humidity, which my North Carolina self is used to, so it didn’t feel bad at all. We all lined up at the start and promptly were on our way.

My first mile was faster than I knew I should be going but I thought I would go by feel and most likely slow down on the gravel and hills, so I went with it (8:38). I still felt good for the next few miles (8:56, 8:48, 8:34) but then around mile 5.5 the paved road ended and was a gravel road. We had run by some homes in the first couple of miles but quickly were out in the country with not much other than farm land to distract us.

I felt like I couldn’t get my footing on the gravel and at times felt like I was almost running in place. Still, I was surprised I didn’t slow down too much (9:13, 9:08, 9:13). By the time we got back on paved roads, my quads were so tired from working so much harder on the gravel road, I knew I’d have to push mentally to keep anywhere near a 9-minute mile. We got a break and actually got to run down a short hill and I gained a tiny bit of time (8:54).

Water views! Paved roads!

I struggled through the next mile (9:29) and I started to feel beat up, only to get another break with another short down hill (9:02). For the last 3.1 miles, I kept repeating to myself over and over, it’s only a 5k, I can run a 5k in my sleep, it’s only 2 more miles, it’s only 1.5 miles, it’s only a mile, I can crawl a mile. Those miles were tough ( 9:32, 9:48, 9:31) and were only made tougher with a steep hill we had to run up around mile 12. I was genuinely elated when I could finally see the finish line in sight.

My Garmin and Strava clocked me at 13.13 miles in 1:59:58, but the official time according to my chip was 2:00:00. There was bottled water, Gatorade, oranges, bananas, and huge cookies at the finish, along with medals for finishers, all 18 women and 25 men who ran it, by far the smallest half marathon I’ve ever run. I heard someone say at packet pickup how more people were running it this year than normally. There were no age group awards, no big party afterwards, everyone just got in their cars and went on their way after they cooled down and chatted with their friends. I was just happy to cross Minnesota off my list. It was definitely one of the hardest half marathons I’ve run, but the people I talked to before and after the race were also some of the nicest and friendliest people I’ve met at a race.

Finisher medals!

Date of my half marathon was June 26, 2021.

https://runsignup.com/Race/MN/LakeCity/CircleofLifeRun

https://lakecity.org/news-events/waterski-days/

Running Highs and Lows of 2020

Every year I write a post to summarize my running for the year with all of the races I ran and the highs and lows for the year. I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone how different this post is going to be from every other year I’ve written these. Yes, 2020 sucked when it came to races because of all of the cancellations, but it wasn’t all low points when it came to running for me.

As you may or may not know, I’m on a quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states and only have three states left, which I was supposed to run in 2020. My remaining states are New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa. All three half marathons were cancelled in 2020. No idea when they will be rescheduled or what will happen in 2021 with those races or quite honestly anything at all at this point.

So what did happen in 2020 when it came to my running? Well, as I said in my post Running Highs and Lows of 2019, last year was a stellar year for me with only highs and no lows. I continued on that high early this year when I was training for what I thought would be my half marathon in New Mexico in April. Then I hit my first low point for the year when the pandemic started and my race was postponed until November 2020. Little did I know back in April that this pandemic would still be in full force in November and registered runners would have the option to run the race virtually in November or (hopefully) run it in April 2021. I opted for the latter since the whole idea is for me to run a race in all 50 states.

For most of 2020 I averaged around 130 miles each month. May was my highest mileage month with 186 miles. May was also near-perfect running weather where I live and one of the most stressful months so far for the year (although little did I know June would be much, much worse). I kept running to clear my head, get outside to enjoy the weather, and keep healthy.

Even in June, when I was supposed to run my half marathon in Minnesota, I still thought that race might happen right up until about a week prior (yes, I know it seems crazy now). The race director for the half marathon in New Mexico had been excellent with his communication, letting us know the plans for the race so we could plan accordingly. However, the race director for the half marathon in Minnesota was terrible. The website was not updated and when I tried multiple ways of contacting him, he didn’t respond. Finally at the last minute I found out the race was postponed until September. I decided to not run that race at all, even if it did actually happen in September, which was doubtful. Not being able to run my second scheduled race for 2020 was another low point for me.

Still, I kept running, ever hopeful (naively) that I would still be able to run the half marathon in Iowa in September. The race director stated that the race would go on even with the pandemic; that they would figure out a way to put on the race safely. As you already know by now, this did not happen. Yet another running low for me.

Running on the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, South Carolina with my daughter was a high point!

Not to give you the impression I don’t or didn’t understand why all of these races were cancelled. I fully understand that obviously there could be no races when states had limits on the number of people who could be together, some as few as 10 people. No race director in their right mind would have wanted to have a race and risk spreading the virus throughout their city and state and have runners come in from out of town on top of that. Only when it was deemed safe to have bigger groups together did in-person races start resuming and even those were more common in some states than others.

In September the town where I live hosted a virtual 5k, with what I thought would include race swag, an online leaderboard, and prizes to the top finishers in each age group. On top of that, it was free. Normally not one for a virtual race, given all of the above listed, I entered and ended up running my fastest 5k yet, I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count?. I was the top female finisher for my age group but I was told by the race organizer that prizes weren’t going to be given out after all, and I could download my finisher certificate. Um, great! Thanks! This one was a high point for sure since I hadn’t even trained for this distance but was able to run 3.1 miles much faster than I ever had before, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed to not get an age group prize like I thought I was going to. Would I have pushed myself as hard as I did if I knew there wouldn’t be prizes? Nope. I’ll fully admit I need that carrot out there to really push myself.

When October hit, my mileage and motivation slipped but I continued running until I started having hip pain. It was something I had experienced before so I was confident I knew how to treat it. For starters I had to take at least a solid couple of weeks off of running and even long walks. This was a bit of a low point for me because October is one of the best months for running where I live. The weather is perfect and the autumn leaves are in full display. To not be able to run or even walk in that was tough.

I really love checking out all of the fall foliage when I run!

The time off and babying my hip paid off, though, because I was able to run again in mid-November and still enjoy that gorgeous fall weather. The first time I was able to run again without pain was definitely a high point. It felt great to be outside running again, even if it was a struggle because I had lost some fitness during that time off. When I worked my way back up to six miles for a long run, that also felt great.

December has been mostly spent getting my fitness back and watching my pace split times gradually drop. With no races in sight, I plan on maintaining my fitness throughout the winter and to keep running moderately. I’ll probably try to run around 6-8 miles for my long runs and run a few times during the week. With all of the holiday baking I’ve done lately, I also need to make sure I don’t add any holiday pounds!

Overall, 2020 has had plenty of running lows for me but also some running highs. I’m a pretty optimistic person and I like to try to find the positive in most things; running is no exception. Even though I wasn’t able to run any of my planned half marathons this year, I know I will eventually be able to run them. I’ve been able to keep running for most of the year and was only sidelined for a small portion of the year with my hip injury. For sure, running has helped with my mental health and dealing with the pandemic and that has been priceless.

What about you? How did your running go this year? Any running highs or lows you’d like to share?

Happy running!

Donna

How COVID-19 Changed My Attitude About Running a Half Marathon in All 50 States

As you may at least partly guess from the title if you didn’t already know, I’ve had a goal for several years now to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I only had three states left before COVID-19 hit and the world pandemic began. Three stinking states. I was supposed to run my final states- New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa and finish on Labor Day weekend, 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, I haven’t been able to run a single race this year.

My half marathon in New Mexico was pushed back from April to November, so I suppose that could in theory still happen but I’m not holding my breath on that one. The race in Minnesota was also technically pushed back but the severe lack of communication from the race director made me never want to run that race ever. The race in Iowa was turned into a virtual race. Since my whole plan is to run a race in all 50 states, I’m not doing that one.

Believe it or not, I’m not feeling the least bit upset over the way my lack of races has panned out this year. Sure, initially I was sad and disappointed but I fully understand why these races couldn’t take place. At this point, I’ve come to the realization that like so many other things in my life, these races are completely out of my control.

Since I’ve started chasing this goal, it was a huge priority for me to run as many races as possible in a year and still spend some time in each state. I was limited both by time off at work and my budget. In the beginning that meant one state/half marathon in each season, so four races each year. When I had run all of the southern states, that mostly meant (there were one or two exceptions) I was down to running during the spring, summer, and fall because I had no desire to run a race in Minnesota or any other northern state in the winter.

20200627_092908

I also made sure my daughter was able to go to each race, which meant finding a race during one of her school breaks so I didn’t have to pull her out of school. So far she’s been to every race with me since she was born. That will change if I’m able to run the race in New Mexico in November because she’ll be in school then and doesn’t want to have to make up the school work since she’s in high school and the course load is pretty intense. So far the only state she hasn’t been to other than my remaining three states is Pennsylvania. That may change to New Mexico and Pennsylvania, but as I said, we’ll see.

During these past few months of the pandemic I’ve had some major life changes made by someone else, not me, and I’ve had to roll with the punches. I felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath me and it has taken time to adapt. With time things have gotten better but I still have a long ways to go.

As a result of the pandemic and the changes in my life, I feel like my goal to run a half marathon in every state has evolved into something different. Not less important because I still very much want to finish this quest and it’s still a high priority but it’s just different now. Before the pandemic I felt like one of my top priorities was to make sure I found a half marathon that would fit in with my family’s schedule and to run at least three races a year. Now, however, I don’t feel such a burning pressure for that to happen.

I know in my heart that I will finish this quest and run in all 50 states but I’m letting go of some of that pressure to make sure I find a race during all of my daughter’s school breaks. For example, I won’t be running a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break next year. 2021 will be the first year I haven’t run a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break in as many years as she’s had a spring break (she’ll be a sophomore in high school starting next week).

Even though I tried, I was unable to find a half marathon in Minnesota or Iowa during her next spring break. Rather than spend countless hours searching for a race, I used a couple of vouchers I had won from a contest with an airline and booked us seats to Oregon during her spring break. I’ll find other half marathons to run and if I have to wait a bit longer to run them, so be it.

For years I thought 2020 would be the end of my big journey but now I know that’s not going to happen. Who knows when I’ll be able to finish running a half marathon in all 50 states? I know it will happen and when it does it will be all the sweeter. The pandemic has changed me in so many ways, some bad, some good, but with regard to this goal, it has just put some things into perspective a bit for me.

What about you? How has the pandemic changed you?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Star Valley Half Marathon, Thayne, Wyoming- 46th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Wyoming was my 46th state.

Many of you may be wondering, where the heck is Thayne, Wyoming? Well, it’s a little town about halfway down the state, close to the Idaho border, due east of Pocatello, Idaho, if you know where that is. Still nothing? It’s about an hour south of Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park.

Now you may be wondering how I happened upon a half marathon in little Thayne, Wyoming. Well, actually, I had my eye on this race for many years. When I was choosing which race to run for my half marathon in Wyoming, this one popped up as a contender. You may not be aware that many cities in Wyoming are at a high altitude, and as a person who lives at low altitude, this was a concern for me. Thayne, Wyoming and the surrounding area sits around 6,000 feet in elevation. High elevation is considered anything between 5,000 and 11,500 feet (with very high and extreme altitude more than that).

When I ran the Boulder Rez Half Marathon, Colorado- 37th state the elevation was 5,430 feet and I definitely felt the effects of the altitude during the race. The rest of my time there, I was perfectly fine, but during the race, it felt like my legs were made of lead. However, when I ran the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state, the race begins around 5,000 feet and it was my fastest half marathons ever; granted, it’s a downhill course.

IMG_2500.JPG
I took this when I drove the course the day before the race.

Regardless, there were many other places in Wyoming with races at higher elevation, and I felt like this race in Thayne was a good choice for me. So, with all of this in my head concerning elevation of the area before the race, I was anxiously looking forward to seeing Wyoming for the first time. I was also looking forward to running in cooler temperatures because I was getting tired of the heat and humidity where I live.

Packet pickup was offered both Friday evening from 6 to 8 pm and race day morning on Saturday in July 2019. I picked up my packet at Thyne Elementary School on Friday and it was quick and easy. All runners received a drawstring bag with our race number on it so we could put clothes in it for after the race and a bright yellow short sleeve technical shirt. Inside the bag was an ad for an upcoming local race, a sticker, some Hammer nutrition samples, a water bottle, and hand wipes. There was also a spaghetti dinner that evening but I didn’t go.

20190712_201107
Packet pickup goodies and race shirt

Race morning was 49 degrees and partly sunny. Most runners were bused to the start at Grover Park, a tiny little area with not much other than a grassy field. My husband dropped off my daughter and me, which was nice since we could sleep in a little later and not have to be at the bus pickup at 5:30 or 6:00. The race started promptly at 7:00.

The start of the race was downhill and although it was on gravel, which at first I worried would be slippery, it was fast. I was actually one of the last people to go across the start since I was in line for a port-o-john right before the start, but since we had chips on our bibs, it was fine. My first mile was 8:56 and that was with me fumbling with my phone; it wasn’t syncing with my ear buds for some reason. I finally just put them both away and ran like I usually run races without listening to anything.

The next few miles were my fastest of the race:  8:14, 8:31, 8:31, 8:23, and 8:18. After mile 6 when we had been on flat roads for a while and the sun started to heat things up, I started to slow down a bit but not too much. Mile 7 was 8:44, then 9:04, 9:07, 8:51, and 8:44. All along the course I wasn’t really paying much attention to my split times other glancing down at my watch every now and then and being surprised at my times.

20190713_084816
Farms and mountains were my views for much of the race

By mile 11, I was pretty sure I could be close to a PR if I could just hold on to around 8:45 for the last couple of miles. I told myself that I felt really good, nothing really hurt, and I could continue to push. Mile 12 was at 8:37 and my last mile was 8:46. I crossed the finish line at 1:53:00, a PR for me by two and a half minutes.

The course was almost entirely along quiet country roads but there were more spectators than I thought there would be. I was impressed with how many people had come out to the middle of nowhere for the sole purpose to cheer runners on. There was a spot along the course where three girls were dancing and playing music, which made me smile. I also loved all of the people with signs for runners and the little boy and girl hosing off runners that wanted to cool off a bit from their garden hose.

This race was in memory of Jeremy Bart Kunz, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. There was a photo of Jeremy at every mile marker. The community obviously thought highly of Jeremy and it’s nice that they remember him in this special way. I definitely got a sense of what a close-knit community this was.

There were aid stations at miles 3, 6, 8.5, and 11 with water and a sports drink. Aid stations 6 and 11 also had cut up oranges and bananas and aid station 8.5 had Otter Pops. There were also port-o-johns near each aid station.

20190713_100431.jpg
Posing with my medal after the race by the largest collection of elk horns in the world

We were handed a medal and cold bottle of water when we crossed the finish line. The medal was a bit small and kind of plain. Nearby the finish line there were volunteers with bananas, orange slices, cut-up watermelon, mini muffins, rolls, sports drink, and cold chocolate milk. The watermelon was particularly refreshing.

My husband checked my finish time and even though it was a PR for me, I was still only 7th in my age group so we didn’t wait around for the awards. They were also giving out prizes like a treadmill but I was just too tired to wait and see if I won a prize. I’m guessing since I never heard anything either I didn’t win or they gave my prize to someone who was there.

This race was one of my favorites so far and not just because I PR’d. My three fastest half marathons have all been at races with a downhill start, even though two of them were at high elevation. Beyond my fast time at this race, though, it was scenic with views of mountains and farm land all along the course. Friendly volunteers and pacers were the icing on the cake. I highly recommend this race if you’re looking for a very fast course in Wyoming with awesome people.

Date of my race was July 13, 2019.

Star Valley Half Marathon

Have you run a race in Wyoming? If so, which one and what did you think of it and the area?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

Seashore Classic Half Marathon, Lewes, Delaware- 45th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Delaware was my 45th state.

Since I live on the east coast, you might think Delaware is a state I would have run long ago instead of it being one of my last few races. However, I found it a bit difficult finding a half marathon in Delaware that I thought would be a good fit for me, that is, until I found the 2019 Seashore Classic Half Marathon. I prefer smallish races put on by local runners. I also prefer courses that are flat or slightly downhill. This one checked all of those boxes plus the races along the coast came recommended by other runners when I asked which race I should run for my half marathon in Delaware.

Packet pickup the evening before the race was about as quick and easy as they come for races- I went to a restaurant called Irish Eyes, told the volunteers which race I was running, picked up my bib and shirt, and was done in less than five minutes. There was no expo, no vendors, absolutely nothing other than a room with two volunteers handing out shirts and bibs, oh and print-outs of hand-drawn maps.

20190511_080444_001
Start of the Seashore Classic 1/2 Marathon

Normally I like to drive the course the day before a race so I get an idea in my head what I’m up against before a race. We tried to find the start but were unable to and it was quickly getting dark and we still hadn’t had dinner, so we decided to just get dinner and I decided to just hope for the best for the course. It was touted as being flat and fast, along the water and mostly through a state park. How hard could it be, right? That would come later.

Race morning was 65 degrees and a bit overcast, a tad warmer than I would have liked but not terrible by my standards (I tolerate the heat much better than most people). There was a 5k, half marathon relay, and half marathon, all of which started at the same time and place. Still, it was a fairly small crowd so even though maybe the first half mile or so was a bit crowded, things pretty quickly thinned out.

The first two miles of the race were on the road and my mile splits were 8:18 and 8:26, way too fast for me and I knew it. I figured I would just roll with it as long as I could, though. We entered Cape Henlopen State Park somewhere around mile 2.5 and shortly after that the ground changed from asphalt to crushed gravel. Mile 3 was 8:53, much closer to what I was aiming for.

IMG_2049
Part of the crushed gravel course of the Seashore Classic 1/2 Marathon

We continued on the crushed gravel path through the park, passing a lighthouse, and had several water views along the way. The turnaround point was on Gordons Pond Trail, which was also the relay handoff. I still felt pretty good at the halfway point but by mile 8, I was pretty much done mentally and physically with the crushed gravel trails. The sun was out in full force by now and there were long stretches where we were exposed to the wind, which was pretty brutal.

I did a ton of self-talk during this race and I told myself that we should be back on asphalt somewhere around mile 10. However, I was warned by a local runner that often when you go from running a long distance on crushed gravel to asphalt, it feels harder on your legs when you get back on the asphalt. Perhaps this is because the gravel isn’t quite as solid as asphalt and you have to work a bit harder to get your footing. Whatever the reason, my legs were toast by the time we reached the asphalt again.

Mile 11 was my slowest mile, at 9:46, and I was struggling to not walk (but I didn’t). All around me, people were stopping to stretch their legs briefly before continuing on. By mile 12 I was able to speed up a bit to 9:34 but my legs were so tired I couldn’t speed up that much. Finally, with the end in sight, my last mile was 9:18, and I had a respectably strong finish, with a final time of 1:58:38, good enough for second in my age group.

20190511_111038
2nd in my age group!

I had put it out there earlier this year that one of my goals for 2019 was to finish in the top three for my age group, Running Resolutions for 2019. I was thrilled that I was able to do that with this race because I knew it was my best chance for doing that this year. I waited around for the age group awards ceremony, not knowing where I placed in my age group, but knowing there was a slight chance I might win something based on previous years’ times.

Following the race, medals were handed out to all of the finishers at the finish line, along with bottles of water. Just a little walk from the finish line, at Irish Eyes Restaurant, there were hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, beer, and Bloody Mary’s. I didn’t have the stomach to eat or drink anything other than water, so I just sat and people-watched for a bit, waiting on the awards ceremony. Finally I decided a strawberry daiquiri would taste awesome (that’s normally not a drink I would ever get, either), and my husband happily went to buy one for me inside the restaurant.

My thoughts on this race are that it’s a pretty good one to run if you’re a 50-stater or live near Lewes, Delaware and want to run a scenic half marathon. If you’re the type of runner who needs crowd support, fancy aid stations, and loads of bling, this isn’t the race for you. The shirt was pretty simple, as was the medal. There were three aid stations on the course, with water only. I barely saw anyone cheering on runners except for the finish/start area.

Even though this race is often described as “fast and flat,” this isn’t an easy course by any stretch of the imagination. There are rolling hills in the park and large sections of the race where you’re exposed to the sun and wind. There’s also the toll running on crushed gravel takes on your legs. That being said, I really did enjoy this course and several times commented out loud to other runners how beautiful it was. I would recommend this race with those reservations.

Seashore Classic Half Marathon

Have any of you run a race in Delaware? If so, which one did you run and what did you think?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Running a Half Marathon or Marathon in All 50 United States? Here are the Races in States that I Recommend

Thanks to some suggestions by regular followers, I’ve compiled a list of half marathons (most of which have marathons or other distances as well) in states that I’ve personally raced in. So far I’ve run 46 half marathons in 44 states so while my race history isn’t complete (sorry Delaware, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, New Mexico, and Minnesota), it’s pretty close to the full list. I’ll do an update when I get further along (maybe up to 47 states and again at 50 states).

I’m not going to list races that I either don’t recommend or races I ran that no longer exist. If you have a specific question about a state or race not listed here, feel free to ask. I realize recommendations are based on opinions, which means while I may not have enjoyed a race, perhaps someone else would like it and vice versa. Still, I feel like by now I have a pretty good feel for “good” races. Also, while not all of these races come recommended on Bibrave by people other than myself (yes, I checked each and every one of them) the vast majority of them are recommended on Bibrave (I think only maybe two on my list here were not reviewed on Bibrave). Finally, I’ll list them in order of when I ran them, not in order of personal preference. I’ll link to the race site first then to my blog post.

ancient antique antique map atlas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hawaii- Kona Marathon, Half Marathon. My post is here: Kona Marathon and Half Marathon, Hawaii-2nd state. You can see it was only the second state I ran a half marathon in, before I even had the goal of running a half marathon in every state. My notes aren’t the greatest because it was so long ago and all I have to go on is the scrap book I started keeping for races. I think the fact that they’re having the 26th annual race in June 2019 says something. You’re basically running through paradise.

South Carolina- Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon, South Carolina-4th state. This is a race that came recommended to me by other people who had run it a couple of times and raved about it. Now entering its 42nd year, this race doesn’t disappoint. Although there are sometimes some strong winds, this seems to vary from one year to the next. It’s one of the best winter half marathons in my opinion.

Vermont– Covered Bridges Half Marathon. My post is here:  Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-9th state. Beware if you want to run this race which is the first Sunday in June, it sells out in a mere minutes when race registration opens online due to the race cap. It’s hugely popular for a reason. Even though I ran it so many years ago, this is still one of my favorite races ever.

Indiana– Evansville Half Marathon. My post is here:  Evansville Half Marathon, Indiana-13th state. Where is Evansville you may ask? It’s a small quintessential midwest town along the Ohio River in southern Indiana, about 2 hours from Louisville, Kentucky. I found a fun vibe to this race and absolutely loved it. Sure, I could have run the bigger race in Indianapolis but I doubt it would have had the same small-town vibe this one does, which I appreciate.

Michigan– Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Traverse City Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon, Michigan-15th state. This is another race that came recommended to me by other runners and it did not disappoint. It’s also a race with caps on runners which means it tends to sell out early.

Kansas– Garmin Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Garmin Marathon, Kansas-18th state. Good course on the border of Kansas and Missouri. As expected, Garmin puts on a great race and the race just seems to get better every year. The food is spectacular in Kansas City so it’s worth coming here just for that. Some of the other races in this area can be super hilly, and this one is not, which is another reason I chose this race.

Wisconsin– Madison Mini Marathon. My post is here:  Madison Mini-Marathon, Wisconsin-19th state. Yes it will be a hot one since it’s in August. As long as you know that going into it and don’t worry about getting a PB you’ll be fine. Stay for the post-race party!

Montana- Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Missoula Marathon, Montana-22nd state. Don’t just take my word for it; this race was chosen as number one on the Bibrave 100 in 2018. Be prepared for a chilly race start and bring layers especially if you’re a southerner then enjoy the scenery!

Alabama– Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon. My post is here:  Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon, Alabama-23rd state. Scenic, flat race held on Thanksgiving weekend. Some of the best post-race food I’ve ever had at a race.

Virginia– Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Shamrock Marathon, Virginia-24th state. This is one fun race with tons of swag and very well organized. Don’t let the fact that it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend deter you if you’re not a big partier. Although you may hear some people on the streets the night before the race like I did, I didn’t find it to be a big deal. If you are a partier, you’ll have a great time! Just be sure to book your hotel well in advance because it’s a big race and many places sell out.

Rhode Island– Newport Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Newport Marathon, Rhode Island- 26th State. Honestly, I don’t know how there aren’t any reviews for this race on Bibrave. Maybe because it’s in October and that doesn’t work for some people’s schedules or maybe because it’s in tiny little under-rated Rhode Island. Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this race and recommend it.

Maine– Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon. My post is here:  Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon, Maine, 31st state. Yes, it’s hot and yes, it’s hilly but the course is beautiful. Just go into it knowing you won’t PR unless you kill it at hot and hilly races. Do lots of hill repeats when you’re training for this race. I highly recommend working in some extra days after the race to check out the beautiful state of Maine.

Maryland– Frederick Running Festival. My post is here:  Frederick Half Marathon, Maryland- 33rd state. One of the best-organized races I have run. Beautiful course with nice swag. Early May in this part of Maryland (about an hour from Washington, D.C.) is a great time of year to run a race.

South Dakota– Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon. My post is here:  Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state. This is one of my favorite half marathons ever. It’s a low-key race without much swag but one of the most scenic and fastest courses I’ve run. Fly into Rapid City, which is about an hour away, and drive your rental car all over South Dakota after the race. Just be sure you stay close-by the night before the race.

West Virginia– Marshall University Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Marshall University Half Marathon, West Virginia- 41st state. I grew up in West Virginia and went to undergraduate school there (though not at Marshall University) so I’m pretty familiar with the state. I was extremely happy with my choice to run this race for my race in West Virginia and highly recommend it. Running on the university’s football field at the finish with a football that I could keep was so much fun!

Idaho– Famous Idaho Potato Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Famous Potato Half Marathon, Idaho-42nd state. Gorgeous race through a canyon at the start with the finish in beautiful Boise. How can you go wrong with a potato bar at the end of a race? Seriously, this one ranks pretty high on my list.

Arkansas– White River Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state. This is the last half marathon I’ve run and it’s one of the fastest courses I’ve ever run. Admittedly Cotter isn’t not the easiest place to get to but just fly into Little Rock, Arkansas; Springfield, Missouri; or Branson, Missouri (compare prices) and get a rental car. This is a small, low-key race with tons of post-race food and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. If you’re into race bling, the medal is enormous and race shirt is nice.

Runner-up:  North Dakota– Bismarck Marathon and Half Marathon. My post is here:  Bismarck Marathon, North Dakota-16th state. Why a runner-up you may ask? Well, to be completely honest, I didn’t care for Bismarck or the parts of North Dakota that we saw. I found the race to be pretty average; not bad per se but nothing special either. For those reasons, I’ll include it here. Like I said in my post on the race (link above), if you happen to find yourself in Bismarck and would like to knock off a race in North Dakota, this one’s not a bad one. Or, if you’re a 50-stater and need to run a race in North Dakota, this one will fit the bill.

Yes, there are several states not included here. As I said, some of the races I ran no longer exist and those that are still around are ones that I wouldn’t recommend. Have a question about a specific state and/or race? Feel free to ask! Have a comment about a particular state and/or race? Please share your thoughts!

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

Skinny Raven Half Marathon, Anchorage, Alaska-43rd state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Alaska was my 43rd state.

For years when I would tell someone about my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, often their response would be, “Have you run a race in Hawaii yet?” to which I would reply, “Yes, Hawaii was one of the first half marathons I ever ran, before I had the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states.” Now that I’ve been to Alaska, I have to wonder why no one ever asked if I had ever run a race in Alaska. The natural ruggedness of the state makes it one of the most beautiful and unique places in the United States.

I certainly wasn’t surprised at how beautiful Alaska was when I got there. Honestly, I had high expectations for Alaska, and it didn’t disappoint. So why did it take me so long to run a race in Alaska then? My daughter. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want her to get eaten by a bear, and I thought when she was younger and smaller, she would be bear bait. It may sound crazy, but that’s where my mind went as a parent. Once she had grown to the size of a small adult, I thought she would be big enough to not be an easy target for a bear.

But enough about bears and back to the race. The 2018 Racefest in Anchorage consisted of a kid’s race, one mile, 5k, half marathon, marathon, and 49k. The kid’s race and mile were on August 18 and the other races were on August 19. Packet pickup was August 17 and 18 and was well-organized and easy to get to at the convention center in downtown Anchorage. There were the usual vendors including some selling things and some giving out information for local running events and other Anchorage-area information. I picked up my bib then got what has to be the coolest race shirt ever.

IMG_20180818_093731
The coolest race shirt ever!

There was a local theater showing running-related movies on Thursday before the race but I arrived late Thursday night so I wasn’t able to go to it. Although I usually skip the pre-race pasta meals before races, I decided to go to this one, which was on Saturday at lunch. Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway were speakers at the lunch and I thought it would be worth going to just to hear them speak. I’m big fans of both men and wasn’t disappointed by their talks. The food was good too and not too badly priced at $12 per person. After the lunch Jeff Galloway was holding a running clinic from 2:00 to 5:00 but I didn’t go to that because I wanted to do a little sightseeing in Anchorage that afternoon. After a delicious dinner at the restaurant South, I relaxed in a hot bath with Epsom salts and called it a night.

It was 54 degrees and overcast at 9:30 when the half marathon started. The course very quickly went to running trails and within less than a mile was off public roads. The beginning of the race went downhill, and since it was an out-and-back course, that meant the finish went uphill, but I’ll get to that later. I was hoping for some nice water views near the beginning of the trail, but that was short-lived, as we only got a few glimpses of the water.

20180819_094939-1
Bart Yasso announced all of the races

The majority of the course went through wooded areas and was relatively flat with the exception of the beginning, end, and a couple of other shorter hills in the middle. Overall I would say the course was average as far as how scenic it was, but the hill at the finish was pretty demoralizing. There were several places along the course where there were entertainers like drum players and other people playing various kinds of music. There were also plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade. The course was plainly and obviously marked and easy to follow. About an hour after the start it began to drizzle but luckily it wasn’t a downpour. I’ve been told rain in Anchorage is very common in August.

My split times started off good for me but my last mile was my slowest by far and even though I didn’t walk, that blasted hill really slowed me down. I sprinted towards the finish line and finished in 2:01:06, 84th for women and 11/52 for my age group.

20180819_113939

On par with the coolest race shirts ever, the medals were also super cool. At the finish was water, coffee, hot chocolate, bread from Great Harvest Bakery, oranges from Orange Theory Fitness, and beer at a beer garden. There were also post-race massages but the best post-race perk had to be the free showers at Captain Cook Hotel, a nice hotel downtown with an athletic club. Since my family and I had to check out of our hotel by 11:00, I couldn’t just shower at my hotel room, and I didn’t want to sit in my sweaty running clothes for the 5 hour drive to Denali National Park. The people at the hotel and athletic club couldn’t have been more accommodating to us runners and I very much appreciated this hot shower in a nice place (as opposed to the local YMCA as I’ve showered at previously after races that offered that to runners).

IMG_1415
My husband thought I was crazy to take this photo of my medal at Denali National Park, but I think it turned out pretty cool!

Overall, I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this race. I wish it would have been more scenic rather than along greenways that could have been just about anywhere in the world if you didn’t know any better, and I was cursing the hill at the end as well. Maybe I’m spoiled by all of the greenways and running trails where I live, and someone else would have found the course incredibly scenic. The shirts and medals were awesome, which is kind of sad that they were the best things about a race in a place as incredible as Alaska. Maybe I had too high of expectations just because it was in Alaska. It wasn’t really a bad race, just not one that impressed me that much.

http://www.anchoragerunfest.org/index.html

Have any of you been to Alaska or raced in Alaska? If so, what was your experience?

Happy running!

Donna

My Biggest Running Influences

20160715_074244_resized
Earning these awards are part of what sparked running in me

I feel like I’ve been running ever since I can remember. When I was very young, I remember running through my neighborhood and feeling pure joy. I did take a few years off from running during college but other than that, I’ve pretty much always ran. Neither of my parents were runners or even athletic by any stretch of the imagination. My older brother wasn’t athletic and really no one else in my extended family was athletic either. I just discovered running on my own and fell in love with it from the beginning.

As I grew older, I began to pay more attention to famous runners and I would watch them on TV during the Olympics and cheer them on then, but I never really followed any certain runner’s career. I could name some of the big names, especially the longer distance runners but I really didn’t know much about them. For instance, I didn’t know if any runner in particular had a big race coming up but I would sometimes look up some race results like the Boston Marathon to see who participated and how they did.

I didn’t run my first race as an adult until I was in my mid-twenties. After I started running half-marathons, I realized I needed to get some advice about running and checked out some books from the library and looked around online. Eventually I started listening to some podcasts about running. I would like to think that I know a little more now as a runner in my forties than I did when I was in my twenties.

Recently, I started thinking about who were some of the most influential people in my life as far as running goes. My physical education teacher in grade school has to be at the top of my list. He introduced me to many different sports and activities.  He was also the coach for the school track team and he helped plant that spark in me that grew into a love of running that has never left. I earned the two Presidential Physical Fitness Awards shown above while I was a student of his. I was very proud of myself at the time and felt like it was a huge accomplishment. I think some people under-estimate the power of a teacher but he was extremely influential to my life.

Another person that had a strong influence on my running and has also influenced millions of other people has to be Jeff Galloway. He has written countless books full of advice to new (and not so new) runners around the world. Mr. Galloway has also taught running classes, given talks, and given advice to hundreds of thousands of people. Although he is most famous for his run/walk method, which I don’t currently prescribe to, I think it is a fantastic way for new runners to realize they too can run a long distance race.

Along the same lines as Jeff Galloway is Hal Higdon, whose name is synonymous with half marathon and marathon training. Mr. Higdon has written dozens of books, with his most famous being “Marathon:  The Ultimate Training Guide.” I have read several of his books and have used his half marathon training plans for many years, with some alterations to fit my needs and lifestyle.

A few years ago I discovered the Another Mother Runner podcast which was co-hosted by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell at the time. The AMR “tribe” is currently a little different than when I started listening a few years ago but I still am a big fan of theirs. The podcasts are now hosted by Ms. Bowen Shea along with a rotating cast of co-hosts while Ms. McDowell has been focusing on their Train Like a Mother programs. I’ve learned a lot by listening to their podcasts through the years and I’ve also found them entertaining and easy to relate to, especially being a mother myself.  Another Mother Runner link

As I alluded to before and if you’re new to my blog and aren’t aware, I run half-marathons. I set a goal for myself to run a half-marathon in all 50 states several years ago. Currently, I’m up to 39 states (and 41 half marathons total). I could not have accomplished this without the support from my husband and daughter. Even when my daughter was very young, she usually didn’t complain about me leaving her to go off and run for an hour or two; rather, she’d smile at me and say something like, “Have fun on your run!” Likewise, my husband only rarely ever has complained about my running or dragging him and our daughter to different states for a race. I feel like the two of them are my support team when I’m training for a race and also when we travel to a race. My husband is my official race photographer and my daughter is my official cheerleader. Together they are my support crew. Recently, my daughter has started running a 5k in each state we go to for a half marathon, so it looks like my husband will be doing double-duty as support crew and photographer!

Check out my other posts on the half marathons I’ve ran in each state.

Who are your biggest running influences? Do any of you listen to the AMR podcast?

Valley of the Sun Marathon and Half Marathon, Arizona-5th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Arizona was my 5th state.

This was the turning point in my life where I started to think about all of the half marathons I had run and the fact that I had run in a few different states. I had heard about other people running a marathon in all 50 states, and I knew about people who ran a half marathon in half of the states, but that just didn’t seem right to me. Why only run half of the states? I thought maybe I could run a half marathon in all 50 states.

I was planning a work trip to Colorado in 2005 and wanted to extend my trip out another week and go to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona for a vacation afterwards. While I was planning all of this, I saw there was a half marathon in Phoenix, the Valley of the Sun Half Marathon, so I signed up and came up with a plan. I was to fly to Colorado for a week then from there fly to Phoenix, where my husband would meet me and we’d spend a week in Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Everything was all set.

Then I found out I was pregnant. Oh boy. What to do? I asked my doctor and she said since I had a strong running base to go ahead and run the half marathon but to listen to my body and not go out for any PR’s but go easy. I would only be a few weeks pregnant at the race and there were no complications in my pregnancy so she said everything should be fine. I had been having morning sickness all along my pregnancy and the day of the race, I felt queasy as usual but nothing I couldn’t control. After some crackers and ginger ale, I was good to go.

All of the runners for the race were bussed out to a park surrounded by cacti. Even though it was pretty cold waiting for the sun to come up, it was beautiful and even a bit surreal for someone like me from the east coast who had never been to Arizona before. The course was pretty flat and since we started so early, it didn’t get too hot. I made sure I never got out of breath and went slower than if I hadn’t been pregnant but I felt really good during the whole race.

The course only had a couple of hills, although one was a long one that seemed to go on forever. We finished on an outdoor track, which was fun and still a novelty at half marathons for me. I received a bright yellow short-sleeve cotton t-shirt and a cute medal with a red chili pepper on it at the finish. The finish area had the usual foods and water. At this point, races were still pretty low-key compared to what they’re like now.

My finish time for the Valley of the Sun Half Marathon was 2:06:50.

Sedona is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I highly recommend going here. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona and the Grand Canyon is about another 2 hours from Sedona. The Grand Canyon is one of those places everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

From what I can tell, the last year for this race was 2010, so I can’t add a link to the race site. There are however, many half marathons in Phoenix so I’m adding a link to these plus others in Arizona here.