Dixville Half Marathon, New Hampshire- 35th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. New Hampshire was my 35th state.

Before I chose this race, my daughter’s best friend from grade school had recently moved several states away from us to Vermont. My daughter missed her greatly and kept asking when she could go and visit her. I had already run a half marathon in Vermont (Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-9th state) but I hadn’t run one in New Hampshire. I knew how close parts of Vermont and New Hampshire can be so I started looking up half marathons in New Hampshire. Beyond belief, I found a race about a half an hour from my daughter’s friend’s house- the Dixville Half Marathon in Colebrook, New Hampshire and I signed up for the 2015 race.

Most people probably have no idea where Colebrook is or what there is to do there. Let me save you the trouble and tell you it is in the far northernmost corner of New Hampshire, bordering on Vermont, and about 45 minutes from the Canadian border. It is a very remote portion of the United States, sparsely populated, with not much to do. I had a very hard time finding a decent place for my family and I to stay, with such limited availability, and there are only a handful of restaurants anywhere within a 20-30 minute drive of Colebrook. However, as I mentioned, Colebrook is close to the Canadian border and Montreal is only about 2 and 1/2 hours away by car. I can’t recommend visiting Montreal enough. The architecture, food, and things to do are all unique and well-worth a visit. See Montreal, a City Unlike Any Other.

The Dixville Half Marathon was a very low-key race as you might imagine, being in such a small town. Most years there have been 100-200 runners for this race. Packet pickup was at Coleman State Park the day of the race. We received a long-sleeve t-shirt of nice quality but nothing extraordinary. It was unisex sized and a bit on the large side for me.

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Typically, the nights get quite chilly in northern New Hampshire the end of September and I was glad the race didn’t start until 10:30 am, since it allowed some extra time to warm up just enough for nice running weather. The weather was perfect for the majority of the race but it started to get hot by the end, when it was in the mid-60’s.

The race began on Diamond Pond Road but the majority of the course was on Route 26, with parts along the Mohawk River. With the fall foliage at its peak, the scenery was nice as we wound along the countryside at a very gradual downhill descent. Although the course was called “a scenic, downhill course,” there were also many steep uphill portions that were quite difficult. There were views of farms, barns, and pasture but not much else including spectators.

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The course dropped by about 1,200 feet in elevation, with the last stretch going through town streets of Colebrook and finishing at the North Country Community Recreation Center. In a quite cruel twist, the last tenth of a mile was up a steep hill. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is this race was so small and low-key it wasn’t even chip-timed. Someone wrote down all finishers’ times, and a portion of each finisher’s bibs were tacked up on a huge board in order. My finish time was 1:57.

All runners had free access to the recreation center to change and take a shower after the race. Since it was a nice day and there was music with a local band playing, I decided to take a shower and change clothes then hang out for the awards ceremony. I managed to finish second in my age group, so I won a silver medal. Medals weren’t given out to all of the finishers; only the top three in each age group.

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The finish (the blue tent)!
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How many of you have seen one of these at a race?

I enjoyed this race even though it’s super small in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. It was great weather and the people were friendly and it was just a perfect day to run a half marathon in New Hampshire. Just don’t plan on spending much time here because there honestly isn’t much to do!

The 44th annual Dixville Half Marathon was scheduled for September 26, 2020.  It just goes to show even small towns can keep a race going for many years with enough support!

Dixville Half Marathon

Montreal, a City Unlike Any Other

When I started writing this post, I almost put “Montreal, a little slice of France,” as the title, but then I stopped myself for a few reasons.  1) I have never been to France before so I can’t really say that.  2) I might seriously make some Canadians upset by saying this (or French people). 3) Montreal really is a unique city unlike any other.  However, there is definitely a strong French influence in the food and culture. French is the city’s official language and is the language spoken at home by the majority of people living there.  If you’re into food, architecture, and/or history, this is a city for you!

Some of my favorite sites in Montreal include Old Port, Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, Biodome, Jardin Botanique, just to name a few.  Old Port, or Vieux Port de Montreal, has a lot going on.  During warmer months, there are pedal boats and jet skis for rent, Voiles en Voiles where you can climb about a life-size replica of a pirate ship, you can cruise on a schooner, take the Decalade challenge at the Conveyor Quay Tower or if that’s not thrilling enough you can sky jump.  There are numerous special events in Old Port throughout the year as well.  Last but not least, there is the Montreal Science Centre full of fun exhibits and an IMAX theatre.

The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal is like visiting a museum as well as a massive, ornate church.  There are many tours offered including a 60 minute guided tour that will take you in very private areas of the Basilica as the galleries and the baptistery.  You can also sit in the balcony of the organ to listen to classical organ music and meet organist Pierre Grandmaison.  The original chapel was much smaller and was operated by the Jesuits.  In 1657, the Sulpician Fathers took over operation and started construction of a larger church.  Construction of this Baroque style church was completed in 1683.  However, by 1800, this church was also deemed too small and construction of a larger Gothic Revival style church began and was completed in 1829.  In 1889, the architects Perreault and Mansard were commissioned to build a chapel that would accommodate ceremonies for smaller ceremonies. Named the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) it was built in Gothic Revival style and consecrated on December 8, 1891, only to be seriously damaged by a fire in 1978.  The new chapel was opened in 1982.

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The Biodome, Botanical Garden, Insectarium and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium are all part of Space for Life, which has the purpose to raise individual and collective awareness about the need to get involved in protecting the Canadian heritage.  This mission is carried out through educational, conservation, research and outreach efforts.  The Biodome recreates ecosystems of the Americas including a Tropical Rainforest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Labrador Coast, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. When the Biodome opened in 1992, its ecosystem concept was a world first.  With over 4,500 animals from 250 different species and 500 plant species, the Biodome is bound to have something for everyone.  The Insectarium has both permanent and traveling exhibitions and includes one of the most comprehensive collections of insects in North America.  The Botanical Garden is full of themed gardens such as the Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden as well as 10 greenhouses open to the public.  The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium has one of the largest collections of meteorites in Quebec, the permanent exhibit called EXO:  Our Search for Life in the Universe, as well as rotating shows in the immersive theater.  There are several options for tickets for these four places.  You can combine two or more places to get a better deal on pricing and tailor your tickets depending on your interests and income.

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Montreal has some stunning architecture, with some buildings going back to the 16th century.  In 2006 Montreal was named a UNESCO City of Design, only one of three design capitals of the world (the others being Berlin and Buenos Aires).  There are 50 National Historic Sites of Canada in Montreal, more than any other city according to Wikipedia. Many of these historic sites are churches and battle sites but there are others as well.  I enjoyed just walking around the city and admiring the beautiful buildings around me.

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Finally, to the food of Montreal!  Some foods in Montreal are unique to the city itself or to Canada in general and are definitely worth trying.  One example is Montreal smoked meat and one of the best places to get it is Schwartz’s Deli.  Believe me, it’s worth the wait. Another famous example is poutine.  These are french fries smothered in gravy, cheese, and curds but you can get all kind of different toppings on them.  One place to try them is Poutini’s House of Poutine but you’ll find them at restaurants scattered throughout the city.  There are so many different phenomenal restaurants in Montreal, you should have no problem finding good food.  The only problem may be in deciding which place to go to since there are so many to choose from!  Some of the current top restaurants include Bouillon Bilk and Le Robin Square.  While the restaurants in Montreal tend to be a bit expensive, they’re an experience you won’t forget and that is priceless.  Come to think of it, your whole vacation in Montreal will be a priceless experience that you won’t forget.