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

What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran

Life is really just a learning process, right? If you don’t learn as you go along, you don’t make progress and grow as a person. Looking back at the half marathons I’ve run, I realized I learned something at each and every race. Sometimes the things I learned were life-changing and with others it was just minor things I probably knew already but they were re-emphasized to me.

Let’s take a look back at the half marathons I’ve run over the years, going back to the very first half marathon I ever ran, way back in 2000, up to the present day. For most of these, I’ll keep it brief but for the truly life-changing races, I may dig a bit deeper. Hopefully this will be fun, so let’s see!

My very first half marathon, the Battleship Half Marathon in Wilmington, North Carolina in November 2000 was quite a learning experience for me. The weather was crazy, with freezing rain and even snow, which is almost unheard of in this southern coastal city. By the time I finished, my arms and shoulders were so tired I could barely lift them to take my sports bra and running shirt off. I learned several things after this race but the top ones were: 1) I needed to start lifting weights, concentrating on upper body exercises, 2) I learned what a huge factor the weather can be and I knew I could run this race faster under more ideal weather conditions, and 3) I learned I was hooked on running half marathons and wanted to do more.

When I ran the 2001 Battleship Half Marathon, sure enough, I cut several minutes off my finish time and the weather was a beautiful day for a race! I learned the importance of being prepared for a half marathon with strength training and a training plan. The Gold Rush Half Marathon in Concord, North Carolina taught me that heat, hills, and humidity is a nasty combination when it comes to races and to avoid the possibility of the 3H’s at all costs when signing up for a race!

Philadelphia Distance Run (can you find me?)

The Kona Half Marathon in Hawaii (at least when I ran it) was on the same course as the Ironman running portion. It was hot and hilly (but not humid) and beautiful. I loved every second of it and I learned having great views along a course goes a long way! When I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run, I learned big races can be fun as long as they’re well-organized, which this one was.

Kiawah Island Half Marathon in South Carolina is very flat but also tends to have strong headwinds. I learned races along the beach can be difficult despite being flat because of the winds. When I ran the Valley of the Sun Half Marathon in Phoenix, I learned it’s possible to run a half marathon when pregnant as long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations and advice.

The Columbus Distance Run was a race I never should have run. I had been suffering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) before this race and had pain in my knee after running only a couple of miles at a time but I ran it anyway. I couldn’t run for months after the race and I learned sometimes you should DNS (did not start) a race if you’re injured.

After running the Louisville Half Marathon in Kentucky, I learned to research my races better because like the race in Columbus, Ohio, this race was just OK with nothing exceptional about it. The Naples Daily News Half Marathon in Florida taught me there are plenty of fun races in Florida besides Disney and they don’t have to cost a fortune and you don’t have to get up at 3 in the morning on race day either! Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Woodstock, Vermont taught me how much I love Vermont and left me wanting to see the rest of the New England states.

I was surprised at how stifling hot it was at the half marathon in Connecticut!

When I ran the Marathon of the Americas and Half Marathon in San Antonio, Texas, I learned the importance of working in some vacation days after a race; San Antonio is a fun city to explore. The Laughlin Half Marathon in Nevada showed me you can’t always trust the website descriptions for a race (I didn’t find it scenic at all) and packed dirt with gravel on top is horrible to try to run on. Stratton Faxon Half Marathon in Fairfield, Connecticut showed me that even the New England states can get extremely hot during the summer.

The Evansville Half Marathon in Indiana showed me that sometimes taking that leap of faith to run in small towns you’ve never heard of can be worth it (it was my fastest half marathon to date and I loved every minute of the race). Run the Reagan in Snellville, Georgia taught me it’s not fun at all to run along a freeway and even more miserable when it’s raining and cold. The Bayshore Half Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan showed me popular races are popular for a reason (this one sold out quickly when I signed up) and I loved the scenic course.

Finishing on a track was fun at the half in Traverse City, Michigan!

Kroll’s Diner Half Marathon in Bismarck, North Dakota showed me it can be tough to find a half marathon that fits in with your schedule in some states, with North Dakota being one. When I was looking for a half marathon there, I could only find a few races and to this day there are only a handful. Ole Man River Half Marathon in New Orleans showed me even a fun, quirky city like New Orleans can have plain and ordinary races like this one. The Olathe Half Marathon in Kansas showed me some race directors aren’t thoughtful at all when planning a race course and will take you through industrial areas and past neighborhoods with just ordinary houses (or maybe that was just the best they had to offer for a safe course).

The Madison Mini-Marathon in Wisconsin showed me when you run a half marathon in August, even in a state as far north as Wisconsin, it’s going to be HOT so you’d better be prepared for slower race times. I learned a couple of things when I ran the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon: 1) just because you’re running in a cool place like a space center doesn’t mean you’ll see actual rockets and 2) it sometimes gets cold in Mississippi in late November (I was not expecting it to be in the 30’s).

I’m going to stop here since I still have several half marathons to go and this post is already pretty lengthy. I’ll continue with the rest of the half marathon lessons in another post.

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

Happy running!

Donna

Ask Me Anything

I realize this could go one of two ways, either fun and interesting or poorly, so I’m depending on all of you who read this (no pressure) for it to go the former way. My idea is this: everyone who regularly follows my blog knows I just finished my quest of running a half marathon in all 50 states, with my last race in Albuquerque, New Mexico in November of 2021. If anyone is new to my blog, now you know too. Many of you regulars, especially the long-timers (and a HUGE thank you if that’s you) probably already know or think you know many other things about my quest. However, I’m guessing there are still some unanswered questions out there that you may be curious about.

This is your chance to ask me absolutely anything and everything you ever wondered about what it was like for me to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Really, nothing is off-limits, too nosy, too trivial, or too silly. If you’re wondering something, someone else may also be wondering the same thing, and even if you’re the only person in the world with the question, it’s still a valid question.

What I would like is for everyone to ask some questions below and if all goes well, I’ll write up a post to answer the questions, rather than just answer them below; that way I can expand on anything that might need more than just a sentence or two to answer. If someone else has already asked your question but yours has a slightly different spin on it, ask it again in your words. That will also clue me in on the more popular questions that need more explanation than others.

Your questions can be broad such as running-related or more specific like half marathon-related, or they can be travel-related, logistics questions, race bling questions, traveling with kids or family, state-related, specific race-related, etc. These are just some examples but certainly not meant to limit you just to these. Questions like favorite/best/worst/most scenic are all fine as well. Creative questions are highly encouraged.

OK. Let’s see how this goes! Thank you to everyone who asks questions! If you never see a follow-up post with the answers, well, we all know what that means, but I’m confident that won’t happen.

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

The Effect of Mood on Running and the Effect of Running on Mood

The evening before my half marathon in New York City (which you can read all about here: Allstate New York 13.1 Half Marathon, New York- 30th state), my husband and I got into an argument that was started by him. It was pretty serious and I was furious with him. Not furious because he was mad or why he was mad but furious that he chose that moment to bring up the subject. It was something that could have certainly waited until after my race.

I was worried I would have the argument on my brain during the race and as a result do poorly in the race. You see, even though I went on a journey to explore the importance of the mind and running in 2018, I’ve known well before then how my mood can effect my training runs and race performance. However, it’s a subject not many people talk about, which is why I’d like to explore it a bit here.

For some people, anger can actually get them fired up so much that they run faster. I’ve found I’m not one of those people. If I’m angry and try to go for a run, I usually end up working through the problem by the time my run is over but my average speed isn’t that great. I’ve seen other people who seem to go faster when they’re angry, though, so I guess some people are able to use their anger to fuel their runs.

What about running when you’re sad? Again, that’s not a good combination for me. I end up working things out emotionally if I’m sad or have sad feelings during a run but I inevitably end up going slower. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I’ve been looking at all of this from the wrong perspective.

I’ve always thought that it’s not a good idea for me to go for a run if I’m angry or sad because it will distract me in a way that slows down my run. Maybe the speed of my run isn’t the point, though. The bigger point is to work through my anger, frustration, or sadness. If I can accomplish that on a run, who cares if I’m slower. Unless it’s during a race, of course.

I listen to the Another Mother Runner podcast regularly and one of the hosts, Sarah Bowen-Shea has mentioned that she started running when she and her first husband divorced, many years ago. Running can certainly be cathartic for many people going through a rough time in their lives, not just a one-time event, like you get in an argument with someone. Beyond the endorphins being released when you run, there are many other benefits of running. You begin to see positive changes in your body, so your self-esteem increases. If you join a running group, there are the benefits of being part of a group. All of this brings me to the second part of my title about how running effects our mood.

There have been many scientific studies on the effects of running on mood, including one from 1988 titled, “Effects of running and other activities on moods.” This was a study of 70 college undergraduates who participated in running, aerobic dancing, lifting weights, or no physical activity over six weeks. As you might guess, the researchers found that the runners but also the aerobic dancers experienced more positive moods than those in the other groups. A more recent study published in 2019 by researchers at Harvard found a “26% decrease in odds for becoming depressed for each major increase in objectively measured physical activity.” This study wanted to determine whether being physically active can improve emotional well-being, or if we simply move less when we feel sad or depressed. They found the former, people who moved more had a significantly lower risk for major depressive disorder.

It’s interesting how more and more people are realizing this and implementing things like running groups in prisons and therapists and mental health doctors are recommending exercise like walking and running for patients dealing with depression. I know throughout the pandemic, running has definitely been a mood stabilizer for me. Fortunately this past spring, the weather was absolutely gorgeous where I live, and I cherished those moments when I could go for a run outside and clear my head. Even during the hot, humid summer I knew I would always return from a run in a better mood than when I left.

When fall came and cooler weather along with it, I kept running and once again was reminded how beautiful fall is where I live. Even with no end in sight for the pandemic and my patience long ago worn thin, running has kept me going, literally and mentally. Because I’ve been running throughout the entire pandemic, I haven’t gained the COVID-19 extra weight that many other people have. Despite having a major life change on top of the pandemic, I’ve been able to stay optimistic and know that eventually things will get better, thanks in part to running.

What about you? Does anger fuel your runs and make you run faster? Do you go for a run when you’re trying to work through something? Have you been running throughout the pandemic or did you just start running during the pandemic?

Happy running!

Donna

How Travel Has Helped Me Cope With the Coronavirus Pandemic

While I feel like I probably travel more than the average American, by no means would I consider myself an expert on travel (whatever that even means). However, I’ve chosen to travel to some off-the-beaten path destinations, at least for an American, and this has ultimately changed me forever as a person. I was thinking recently how travel has impacted how I’m dealing with Coronavirus, specifically not being able to travel or leave my house except to run or go grocery shopping but also all of the trickle-down effects of travel on my life.

By traveling to tiny towns in Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Austria, Germany, and other places where the locals didn’t speak much if any English, travel has helped me become more resilient and to deal with issues that arise. Travel has also shown me that life often doesn’t turn out as we plan and we’ll be much happier if we learn to go with the flow. Instead of losing my temper or panicking when I got lost or couldn’t figure out something because of the language barrier, I would take a deep breath and try to figure it out. When my travel plans for April were cancelled because of the pandemic, sure I was sad my vacation wasn’t going to happen, but I knew it was better that way and eventually I will be able to travel safely.

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Although we missed a connecting flight to Malta, we eventually made it to this incredible country

I’ve learned to make the best of what I may find in a grocery store and figure out how to make meals for my family with what is on the shelves. One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a foreign country is to see what their grocery stores have to offer and how much things cost in stores. It’s always been an adventure and more times than not, I’ve ended up with some pretty delicious meals out of what I’ve found on the shelves. I may not have been able to fully read the labels, but that’s just added to the adventure. At least in the US, I can read the labels (unless the food is imported). I have been to countries where they routinely have had shortages of things like toilet paper, with the difference being due to hoarders in the US and more of a routine problem with supply in other countries.

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This market in Peru was HUGE and quite the experience to walk around

One of the things I love to do as a stress-reliever is run outside, whether I’m on vacation or at home. I can do it virtually anywhere, although there are places where I would not run for safety reasons. Another bonus is all I need are my running shoes and appropriate running clothes. I can run outside or on a treadmill if running outside is not an option (assuming there’s a treadmill I can use). If I can’t run, I can do body weight exercises like lunges, squats, core work, and push-ups. I can also make up my own yoga routine no matter where I am. Being able to exercise on my own while traveling and at home has been a huge asset to my well-being and overall health and something I’ve always been grateful to have in my life but perhaps even more so during this pandemic.

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Some of the stunning water views I got to enjoy while running in Hawaii

I’ve learned that family members need a break from each other every now and again. When you’re traveling with family members, you’re in close proximity to one another for days on end and even the best of us can get tired of all of that one-on-one time. This is one reason why I’m such a huge fan of staying at Airbnb properties, because if we’re staying in a house, we can stretch out a bit more, have a kitchen to cook some of our own meals or just snack if we’re hungry and have a place to store our food, and usually we have more than one bathroom (although certainly not always). We all like to have some time on our own to catch up with friends through various social media apps, listen to a podcast or music, or just read a book in a quiet room to decompress. Being stuck at home for weeks on end while the Coronavirus pandemic has been going on has reminded me what a good idea it is to give family members a break from one another.

I’m sure there are more things that travel has shown me to help deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, but these are the first things to come to my mind. Are there aspects of travel or other parts of your life that have helped you deal with the pandemic? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Happy travels (someday),

Donna

 

 

What it’s Like to be a Brand Ambassador

For 2018 I was chosen to be a brand ambassador for nuun hydration, Honeystinger, and Zensah. My first experience as an ambassador was with nuun in 2017. Honestly, when I applied to be an ambassador the end of 2016, I didn’t fully understand what being a brand ambassador entailed, hence my post “I’m an Ambassador- Now What?”

Yes, I was naive when it came to being a brand ambassador and I’m sure I still am in many ways to be honest. Many of you that follow me have been brand ambassadors for many companies much longer than I have. By no stretch of the imagination do I mean to pretend to be an expert on all things related to being a brand ambassador.

What I would like is to tell my story and what I’ve experienced as a brand ambassador because not everyone knows about being a brand ambassador. I should also state that I’m talking about brand ambassadors that don’t get paid, as opposed to event marketers, who are basically brand ambassadors who get paid and usually travel around promoting a product or brand. Side note- technically it’s “brand advocate,” meaning you don’t get paid and “brand ambassadors” are paid, but honestly, most companies use the term brand ambassador when you’re not paid so that’s what I’m going with here.

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When I first began to pay attention and noticed that many fellow bloggers were ambassadors for different companies, I questioned what that really meant. I googled “ambassador” for “x product” and pretty quickly realized it meant these people are representatives for companies to help promote their products. In return, the average person gets discounts, often an invitation to a private Facebook page, sometimes webinars and other free advice and information, free or discounted race entries, and entries to win products.

So what should you do if you want to be an ambassador for a particular company? Google the company name and ambassador and see if the company has an ambassador program. I suggest choosing products you already know and love, so you can fully promote the product in an honest way.

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Many companies ask you to complete an application online to request to become an ambassador and this is often done at the end of the year for the following year, but some have “rolling” applications where they take applications throughout the year. This will usually be stated on the webpage you find after doing a google search as stated above.

When you fill out the application, you can expect to provide links to your social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and any webpages or blogs you have. There are also usually questions about how you plan to promote the product, what you love about their products, and lifestyle questions like your favorite forms of activities and interests. Once you submit your application you can expect to hear back within a month if you’re accepted into the ambassador program (usually within a couple of weeks). If you don’t get a response, you can safely assume you weren’t chosen to be an ambassador.

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Once you’re accepted into the ambassador program, you’ll get links and/or codes to buy their products at a discount and often you can join their private Facebook page, as mentioned above. You will also be sent logos that you can download and put on your blog and post to social media. Sometimes there are no minimum requirements for how often or where you post to social media about the product, but sometimes there are. This should all be spelled out clearly in the application so you know what is expected of you.

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Throughout the year, you can connect with fellow ambassadors either in your geographical or online community. Think of it as growing your connections. The idea is since you’re all passionate (well, maybe that’s too strong of a word, so let’s say enthusiastic) about the product you’re helping to promote, you already have something in common with these people. You can expect to get support and encouragement from fellow runners, for example, if you’re an ambassador for a running-related product.

Besides running-related companies that primarily sell one main general product (say socks such as with Balega), you can also be a brand ambassador for races and running stores such as Fleet Feet. By no means are product ambassadors limited to running-related companies, however. You can also be an ambassador for Target, Starbuck’s, credit card companies, office supply stores, and the list goes on. Obviously the more followers you have on social media platforms, the more likely you are to land a brand ambassadorship. For example, some companies require you have a minimum of 5000 Instagram followers.

If you’re interested in getting paid as a brand ambassador, you can check out this article “Here’s How You Can Get Paid $16/Hour or More to Party (Seriously!)”

So tell me what brands are you all ambassadors for? What else should I have included in this post?

Happy running!

Donna

 

How to Make the “Herd Mentality” Work for You Instead of Against You as a Runner

The herd mentality is certainly nothing new. Many of us grew up with our parents asking us, “If one of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?” Back then it was more commonly called peer pressure. What ever you choose to call it, peer pressure, herd mentality, mob mentality, or having pack mentality, it all boils down to the same thing, that we are influenced by the people around us.

Sometimes having herd mentality can be advantageous, if it drives you to do something positive that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise do on your own. Likewise, the herd mentality can be detrimental if it pushes you to do things that are unsafe or just not right for you at the moment. With the increase in social media platforms, the herd mentality has increased hugely in the last 5-10 years because we can now see what others are doing around the world, not just in our little corner of the world.

One way I deal with herd mentality as a runner is by realizing that everyone is different and what may work for one person may not work for me. Likewise, what may have worked at one point in my life may not always work for me. For example, I run half marathons and have had the goal of running a half marathon in all fifty states in the US for many years now.

If I let fomo (fear of missing out) get to me, I would sign up for more races than I currently do, based on what my fellow runners are doing. The SeaWheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver looks like an amazing race and I know several people who have run it. The website even claims: “SeaWheeze isn’t your average half marathon. In fact, it may just be the most breathtakingly beautiful and ridiculously fun half marathon in the world.” How could I possibly not run this race?!

Quite simply, my body (and my wallet) can only handle a few half marathons a year. Although I used to run four half marathons a year (one every season), I’m currently running three a year because I’ve run all of the southern states during the winter months and am not willing to run a half marathon in say Minnesota in February! If I were to run SeaWheeze, that’s one less state I can run in to make my goal. I’m up to 42 states so I feel like it’s critical to not get off-focus at this point.

Herd mentality can work to your advantage if you need a little nudge or push. For example, if you’re an evening runner and you’ve had a particularly rough day at work and are just not in the mood to run after work. You check Instagram and notice that someone you follow just ran 5 miles and had “one of the best runs ever” despite having a hard time getting out the door, and they were so glad they took that first step and went for a run. You may see this and think, “OK. If she can do it, so can I” and go on to have a good run, although maybe not “one of the best runs ever” but a good run is better than no run, right?

When taken to the extreme, though, herd mentality can be bad. Say you planned on running 4 miles because that’s what was in your training plan for that day, but you saw on Strava that your friend just ran 5.5 miles. You decide to run 5.5 miles as well and you feel great afterwards, so you think that was a good thing after all. Then the next day you’re supposed to take a rest day but your friend just ran 4 miles, and you decide to run 4 miles as well. You continue down this path for several days which turn into a couple of weeks and that’s when the wheels start to fall off. You’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long and it all comes crashing down. You think maybe you just need to take a rest day, but even after a day off you develop a nagging pain in your foot. That nagging pain gets worse and before you know it you have a full-blown running injury and have to take some serious time off now.

On the flip side of herd mentality is our influence on others. Every post we put out there on social media is viewed by someone and sometimes many people. We may not even realize how much we influence other runners. Someone else may be on the receiving end of that post you put on Instagram about running 18 miles even though you had a fever and cold and “probably shouldn’t have gone for that run.”

I always try to think before I post and use the rule of thumb that if it’s not something I wouldn’t want put on the front page of my local newspaper, I probably shouldn’t post it. Beyond that, though, I try to think how what I’m posting might be interpreted by others. Would I recommend that someone run 18 miles when they were sick with a fever? No, so I probably shouldn’t post something like that, let alone actually do that. There’s nothing badass about not making good decisions for your body and your health.

I’m not trying to be all preachy here. I was just thinking about this one day when I was running and how no one really talks about this subject. It seems like it’s gotten worse over the years because of Instagram and Facebook, or I guess it’s just more obvious.

What do you all think? Are you effected by the herd mentality because of social media or do you just stick to your own running schedule regardless of what you see others doing?

Happy running!

Donna

Famous Potato Half Marathon, Idaho-42nd state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Idaho was my 42nd state.

Woo hoo! I was able to squeak out a sub-2 hour finish for this race, but I’m getting way ahead of myself. Several years ago when I was driving from the Spokane airport to Missoula, Montana for a half marathon there, I was in awe of the scenery in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho along the way and I always thought that’s where I would run my half marathon in Idaho.

As I’ve found out many times over in this journey, things often don’t turn out as I thought they would. About a year ago, I asked other runners where I should run my remaining half marathons, including the one in Idaho. Several people mentioned Boise, so I took them up on their suggestions and chose a half marathon in Boise, The Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon.

The races consisted of a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon on May 17, 2018. The start for the half marathon and marathon was Lucky Peak State Park- Sandy Point. The 13.1 mile course was point-to-point and finished at Albertsons Headquarters in Boise.

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Race start of Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon

Packet pickup was about as simple as they come. I got my bib, a potato-shaped pin that said Idaho on it, a couple of Honey Stinger energy bars, and grabbed a map of the course. I like to physically see the course where I’ll be running so usually we’ll drive the course the day before. Since so much of this course was along greenways, it was difficult to see much other than to see that it was going to be a flat course.

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Giant potato photo op at packet pickup

It was 53 degrees at the start but it felt colder than that because it was extremely windy and overcast. We were in a canyon for the first few miles and once we got out of the canyon, the wind died down. The race start was delayed by about 10 minutes because two of the buses shuttling runners to the start had gotten pulled off by a volunteer who had mistakenly told the driver he couldn’t be on the road at 7 am because the race was starting. Finally it was straightened out and the runners came hurrying off the buses to the start.

The race start was extremely crowded and it didn’t thin out for a few miles. I was a bit concerned because I knew a considerable portion of the race was going to be on greenways. Luckily that wasn’t an issue by the time we got on the greenways and they weren’t usually too congested to be a problem.

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There were several water views and we crossed over the Boise River at least a couple of times. There were also nice neighborhoods that we ran past for some portions of the race. I felt like the race was pretty scenic for the most part. This race was also flat with only small inclines to go up, but it didn’t feel so pancake flat that my legs were too tired.

Along the way, I was passed by a man trying to break his 50th Guinness world record, this one for running the fastest half marathon while balancing a pool cue on one finger. I don’t think I could have managed to do that for one mile, let alone 13.1! There were also some other 50-staters running this race for their marathon or half marathon for Idaho and I briefly chatted with a couple of them before I ran ahead.

The volunteer stations were sufficiently scattered every couple of miles and there were port-o-johns every few miles along the course in addition to the start and finish. One thing that was pretty scarce was spectators along the course but that’s the nature of it when a good portion of a race is on greenways.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I finished just under 2 hours, at 1:59:51. My GPS watch also had me running 13.32 miles, but I understand GPS times don’t always agree 100% with course distance. My time was good enough for 7th out of 59 in my age group, overall 253rd out of 897, and 105th female out of 535, and I was happy with all that. Not since my race in New Hampshire- 35th state, was I able to finish under 2 hours.

Post-race food was bagels, fruit, water, Chobani yogurt, and of course the famous potato bar with a bunch of different toppings to choose from. There were several bounce houses for kids and some business booths. One thing that I thought was a nice touch and I wish other races would have is tables and chairs were set up in the grassy area. It was nice to not have to sit in the grass after the race.

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Enjoying the potato bar at the finish!

We got our finisher t-shirts at the finish. They were cute and of good quality athletic material. The medals were different for each distance but the t-shirts were the same for all runners.

Overall I really enjoyed this race and would recommend it. So if you’re looking for a flat, fast race in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, consider running the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon!

Happy Running!

Donna

 

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Half Marathon

I was extremely naive when I ran my first half marathon. While I wasn’t new to running, I was most definitely new to long distance running. I feel like I have been running since I could as a child. The only time I took time off from running was during college when I experienced the worst shin splints of my life and had to practically crawl home during a run. I decided to take some time off to heal and for whatever reason (most likely school and studying) that time off stretched into years. Finally after I had finished graduate school, gotten married, and moved to a new state, I began running again.

When I began running again in my mid-20’s, I tried to do things “the right way.” I began to gradually increase my distance, first running a 5k, then a 10k, a 10-miler, and a 15k (although I don’t think the races after the 5k were necessarily in that order). When I took the plunge and ran my first half marathon, I felt pretty well-prepared. Pretty much the only factor during the race that really threw me for a loop was the weather. The race was on the coast of North Carolina in late November and it was cold and rainy, which turned to snow eventually. By the end of the race, I was frozen to the bone, but hungry for more.

The weather that day was extremely unusual for the area so I was counting on that not happening again the following year. I knew if I could do as well as I did at my first half marathon, I could do even better the next year. You can read about my first half marathon here. It’s the only half marathon I’ve ever ran more than once. Since then I’ve finished 43 half marathons in 41 states (I ran three half marathons in North Carolina).

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Not my first half marathon, but one of my first ones. What the heck was I thinking not pulling my hair up into a ponytail?! And no hat/visor/sunglasses?!

Many things have changed over the years in the field of long distance running. Some fads have come and gone but mostly we’ve been given more options from everything like what to fuel with to apparel and shoes. When I was training for my first half marathon, there wasn’t this multitude of options for fueling before, during, and after running. There pretty much was Gatorade or Powerade. There was no Nuun, Tailwind, or Honey Stinger. This brings me to the first thing I wish I had known before my first half marathon.

  1. Try out some snacks on training runs to make sure your stomach and gut agree with them. Now I run with Nuun hydration and snacks on all of my long runs including my half marathons but back then I just drank and ate whatever was offered on the course. Maybe some people are fine doing this, but if you have a finicky stomach like I do, it’s not a good idea. I also love Honey Stinger waffles for a pre-run snack and haven’t had any gut issues after eating them but experiment to see what works for you.

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My running belt and tube of Nuun for a recent race

2.  Don’t get caught up in the excitement of the race and start out at a pace you can’t maintain for more than a few miles or so. People hear this one all the time, and yet they continue to do it. It’s tough to make your legs go slower than they want to in the beginning of a race, but they’ll thank you later for it.

3.  Don’t let it get to you when you see older people or people that look like they’re not in as good of shape as you pass you. I eventually learned this one. When it comes to runners, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve been passed by runners of all shapes, sizes, and ages during races. Sometimes I’ve been able to pass them towards the final miles of the race when they were walking, but sometimes I never saw them again and they left me in the dust. That’s OK.

4.  Wear what you’re going to run the half marathon in during your long training runs. Just because a sports bra/socks/shorts/shirt doesn’t rub and chafe you on shorter training runs doesn’t mean it won’t cause chafing on 13.1 miles. I always wince when I see people running in the shirt they just got at packet pickup. I was pretty badly chafed by my sports bra after my first half marathon, most likely because I hadn’t worn it enough in long training runs to know how it would perform on race day.

5.  Do some push-ups and other arm exercises to strengthen your arms and shoulders as part of your half marathon training plan. I didn’t do this and could barely lift my arms over my head after my first half marathon. I had no idea my arms would be the most sore part of my body after running a half marathon, but they were. Since then I appreciate how hard my arms work during a race and have made sure I work on them in addition to my core and legs.

What about you guys?  What things about long distance running have you learned the hard way and wish someone would have told you?

Happy running!

Donna

 

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