What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran- Part 2

If you missed part one, you can read it here What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran. TLDR? I went through the half marathons I ran in all 50 states beginning with my first one in North Carolina in 2000. I briefly state what I learned at each race, since after all, life is a learning process. In my first post, I stopped at a half marathon I ran in Mississippi in 2010 so that’s where I’ll start here.

Picking back up where I left, although I was struggling with health issues at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon in November of 2010, my health continued to deteriorate for another reason. By the time of the Arbuckles to Ardmore Half Marathon in Oklahoma in March of 2011, I had full-blown anemia. This was my 21st state (and 23rd half marathon) but my first experience with anemia. I was borderline in need of a transfusion but my doctor chose to prescribe heavy doses of iron pills along with B12 and other vitamins to help with absorption. She also told me not to run. I learned it is indeed possible to run a half marathon if you don’t mind going slowly (but I certainly don’t endorse this).

At the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana I learned to be better prepared for drastic changes in weather at races. Although it was supposed to be mid-50’s at the start of the race, a cold front had moved in the day before the race so it was predicted to drop to the low 40’s that morning. For some people, that’s shorts and short-sleeve weather but not for this southern gal. I went to a running store in search of running pants but the closest they had was capris, in a size smaller than I normally wore. I bought them anyway and while not ideal, at least my legs weren’t freezing.

I learned having elite runners at a race can have its perks for everyone else. When I ran the Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon in Alabama, elite runners Deena Kastor and Johnny Gray were speakers there (they didn’t run the race) and we were treated to one of the best post-race spreads I’ve ever had at a race. At the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I learned it’s possible to have fun and not be overwhelmed at big races as long as they’re well-organized like this one. I learned just how hot it gets in Chicago in June at the Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon.

At the Amica Half Marathon in Newport, Rhode Island, I learned just how much of an underrated state this smallest of the US states is. The Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon showed me just how insanely hilly Knoxville is (one of the hilliest races I’ve ever run). I learned how amazingly scenic the islands off the coast of Washington are when I ran the San Juan Island Half Marathon.

I learned that all-women’s races have a different vibe than coed races do when I ran the All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The New York City 13.1 showed me how many fun half marathons (and other distances) New York State and New York City has and you don’t have to run the bigger, better-known races to have a great race (this was in Queens). When I ran the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine, I learned just how hot and hilly Maine is in July but since it’s so beautiful, it’s worth it.

The Roller Coaster Half Marathon in Branson, Missouri showed me it’s possible for someone who had never even finished in the top three in her age group before to finish first. After I ran the Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon in Maryland and learned the race director was my daughter’s teacher’s niece, I learned what a small world it truly is. The Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota showed me two things: 1) South Dakota is entirely different in many ways than North Dakota and 2) I love races that start at the top of a canyon and you run down it.

In September of 2015, I learned that some race directors were still not using timing chips at the Dixville Half Marathon in Colebrook, New Hampshire. At the McKenzie River Half Marathon in Eugene, Oregon, I learned just how intense runners are in this part of the country. I asked someone at the packet pickup about the hills and was told, “they’re not that bad,” only to find out the only flat portions were the first two miles and the last mile, with none of the hills going down, only up. The Boulder Rez Half Marathon in Colorado showed me what I already suspected, that running at altitude is no joke.

I learned sometimes race directors try to cram too many events into one race at the Silver Strand Half Marathon in California. In addition to the half marathon, there was a 5k, 10 miler, and half marathon for skaters, handcyclers, and wheelchair racers and the course was extremely crowded. I learned it can be so cold in Utah in February that despite wearing gloves, my fingers were still cold at the end of the Dogtown Half Marathon and my feet were numb for the first couple of miles. The Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown, New Jersey showed me how much fun it was to see other people’s costumes at a race (I didn’t dress up).

The Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia showed me how cool it was to run with a football on a football field at the end of a race. The Famous Potato Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho showed me how life often doesn’t turn out how you think it will but that can be a good thing. For years I thought I’d run a half marathon in Coeur d’Alene for my Idaho race but the timing was never right so I signed up for this race in Boise and loved it. I learned it’s possible to have a not-so-unique race even in such a beautiful state as Alaska at the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage. The course was primarily on greenways, with little water views and overall not that scenic in my opinion.

I learned it’s possible to have a blazing fast course, plenty of amazing volunteers, boatloads of food before and after the race, huge medals, and quality shirts for finishers at small races like the White River Half Marathon in tiny little Cotter, Arkansas. At the Seashore Classic Half Marathon in Lewes, Delaware, I learned running on crushed gravel is killer on the legs and a frozen strawberry daiquiri really hits the spot after a tough race. I learned it’s possible to PR at high elevation if the race has a downhill start like the Star Valley Half Marathon in Thayne, Wyoming.

The Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon in Omaha, Nebraska taught me to tie my shoelaces better before a race. I had double-knotted them but they still came untied and that 20-something seconds it took me to tie them likely cost me a third place age group finish. At the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Lake City, Minnesota, I learned that “Minnesota nice” is real. Those were some of the friendliest and nicest people I had ever chatted with at a race.

I learned it’s possible to PR at your 51st half marathon at the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon in Iowa. This race also showed me that Des Moines knows how to put on a half marathon right, with so many little touches and big additions as well. The Albuquerque Half Marathon in New Mexico showed me life truly is all about the journey. Although many things went wrong or not exactly ideal before, during, and after this race and it didn’t end on such a high point as I would have liked, I learned running a half marathon in all 50 states isn’t just about state number 50, but the point is every single state along the way that adds up to all 50 states.

So that’s it- 53 half marathons in 21 years and what I learned along the way. Every single race taught me something, sometimes big things, sometimes smaller things but they were all lessons nonetheless.

If you’d like to read more in-depth about any of the half marathons I’ve run, check out my page here: https://runningtotravel.wordpress.com/half-marathons/

What lessons have you learned from half marathons or other races you’ve run?

Happy running!

Donna

Answers to Ask Me Anything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Did you ever miss a flight?

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

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

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

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

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

Happy running and travels!

Donna

Running Highs and Lows of 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

With my daughter before the half marathon in Lake City

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the Des Moines Half Marathon

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

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

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

At the finish line of the Albuquerque Half Marathon

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

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

Happy running!

Donna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy running!

Donna

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 was an extremely fast course. 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.

Iowa- IMT Des Moines Half Marathon. My post is here: IMT Des Moines Half Marathon, Des Moines, Iowa- 49th state. I ran my fastest half marathon ever at this race, and I loved all of the details the race director added. The course was full of iconic parts of Des Moines, the weather was perfect, and the post-race party and food were epic. This was one of my favorite races ever.

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

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