Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Florida- 8th state

I  know a lot of people may question why I didn’t run one of the races in Disney World for my half marathon in Florida.  Honestly, I purposefully didn’t choose a Disney race because the huge crowds at their races and super-early start did not appeal to me.  I think Disney is fine for family vacations just not for a race, but I know plenty of people love their races so I may be in the minority on that one.

I ran the Naples Daily News Half Marathon in January 2007.  I chose this race for my one in Florida for a couple of different reasons.  At the time, my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law had recently bought a winter house in Naples and had invited us down for a visit. Also, we (my husband’s parents and my husband, daughter, and me) were all planning a vacation together in Hawaii the following fall and would be bringing our daughter who would be almost 2 when we flew to Hawaii.  I wanted to see how she would do on an airplane before we flew all the way to Hawaii.  Since this race was in January, it would be a nice respite from the cold weather where we lived.  My verdict:  the Naples Half Marathon is a fun, not overly-crowded race in a perfect location for those from colder climes looking for a break from winter weather.

For things to do, there’s the Naples Zoo, which is especially good if you have younger children; the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a fantastic place for viewing wildlife in the area; and if it’s warm enough there are some beautiful beaches.  One of the best beaches is Loudermilk Beach with powder white sand, perfect for long walks after you’ve ran your race.

From my post-race notes:

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

Louisville Half Marathon, Kentucky-7th state

Lucky number seven?  No, not really.  By this point, I was starting to feel mostly back in the swing of running post-baby and post-ITBS.  I chose this race because I had never been to Louisville, Kentucky and I thought it would be a fun city to check out and since it’s along the Ohio River I knew it should be a flat course.  I also thought the weather should be nice here in October, and it should be ideal running conditions.

As far as I can tell, the Louisville Half Marathon I ran in 2006 doesn’t exist any longer but there is The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in Louisville in October, which sounds way cooler than the race I ran to be honest.  The Louisville Half Marathon I ran was similar to the Columbus Distance Classic, Ohio- 6th state in that it was unexceptional in almost every way.  The course, t-shirt given out, and medal were all just ho-hum and ordinary.  I was able to get my finish time back down close to where I wanted, so that was good at least.

For things to do, I missed the boat on that as well.  We didn’t really do much in Louisville, partly because I had a cranky infant who didn’t want to be cooped up in the car after such a long car ride, but partly because I just wasn’t in that mind-set at the time for planning things to do after the race.  It was still relatively early in my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states and I was still learning as I went along.  If I were to go back to Louisville, I would definitely check out the Louisville Mega Cavern which sounds awesome and Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co..  When I was a kid I went to see the Kentucky Derby with a friend of mine’s family and that was pretty exciting, even to me then.  If you can’t swing that you can always go to the Kentucky Derby Museum.

For my race entry, I received a long-sleeve technical shirt of pretty good quality and a nice but simple-looking medal.  This is the first race where they were giving out shirts made of technical material.  Given that it was such a small race and this practice of handing out shirts made of moisture-wicking technical material was just beginning to take off in popularity, it was a pretty big thing then.

From my post-race notes:

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

Columbus Distance Classic, Ohio-6th state

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

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

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

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

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

From my post-race notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received a bright yellow short-sleeve cotton t-shirt and a cute medal with a red chili pepper on it at the finish.  The finish had the usual foods and water.  At this point, races were still pretty low-key compared to what they’re like now.

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

From my post-race notes:

“Got to watch sun rise while waiting in beautiful park surrounded by cacti.  Was pregnant for this race.  Course was mostly flat with one or two hills, one very long one.  Finish on outdoor track.  My finish time was 2:06:50.”

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

Why I run

I’ve been running pretty much since I can remember.  I remember running on the track team in grade school and how my lungs would ache on those chilly mornings in West Virginia.  I remember the sheer thrill I would feel as a kid when running with our dog through our neighborhood and how happy our dog looked.  I remember running to stave off the freshmen 15 in college.  Then I remember getting shin splints during one run in college and almost crawling back to my apartment, followed by the agonizing pain I felt when all of my leg muscles seized up in the shower.  I decided to take some time off running at that point and I did not run again for about four or five years.  Then I realized how much I missed running and I decided to train for my very first 5k.  The race I chose was on the 4th of July in North Carolina.  Being young and naive, I didn’t even think twice about running through the heat and humidity that envelopes the North Carolina summers.  Fortunately, the race was in the evening, but I remember it was still extremely hot and humid even after the sun had gone down.  It was during that summer that I remembered why I run.  It’s not to stay in shape or lose weight. It’s not so I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight.   When I run, I feel free.  I feel alive.  Sure, there are times when it’s painful and not much fun, but I know when I’ve finished a run, I will feel satisfied that I’ve put my all into that run and I have done my best.  I run because I love it, quite simply.