Baystate Marathon – State #1 – Oct. 20, 2013 – Lowell, MA

I tend to do a lot of living in the moment, so writing a race review for a race I did almost 6 years ago is a little tough! I apologize for the lack of detail and hope that the detail that I can provide is still relevant. 

I ran Baystate for the specific purpose of qualifying for Boston.  According to the research I did before selecting my qualifying marathon, Baystate’s numbers suggested it would be a good choice.  I think that still holds true – according to findmymarathon.com, “[l]ast year 29.6% of finishers qualified for the Boston Marathon and 30.5% of runners qualified for Boston in 2017.  This gives the Baystate Marathon the 22nd highest percentage of Boston Marathon qualifiers in the U.S. last year and the 19th highest percentage in 2017.”  Certainly, there are other marathons with better numbers, but Baystate is a short drive away from where I live, and I wanted a fall marathon, so it made the cut.

The course is flat and is pretty much a double loop: 

I don’t really love double loop courses, but at least with this one, you don’t have to run through the finish line at the half-way mark.  I hate it when I have to do that!  Instead, the Baystate course is a partial double loop because you cut over the Rourke Bridge about halfway back down the course between mile 12 and 13 and complete only the top portion of the course twice (which means that you cross over the Tyngsborough Bridge, pictured as the featured image on this post, twice).  For this reason, I prefer the layout of the Baystate course to that of a standard double loop.

The weather is typically crisp and cool, and that held true for me in 2013.  Because of the flat course, the mid-field size that is well stocked with competitive runners, and the predictable fall New England weather, this race offers up ideal conditions for qualifying.

I don’t recall too much about the area through which we ran.  I vaguely remember a small town area past the Rourke Bridge (but could be completely wrong about that), one or two miles where there was no shoulder on the road and the footing was poor – I had to run off the road in order not to twist my ankle, and some very pretty country roads next to horses and with good shade around miles 9/19 and 10/20.  I also recall coming back into a populated area for the finish, after you pass Rourke Bridge for the last time, and that was extremely welcome.  The noise from the crowd helped push me along to the end. You finish shortly after crossing over the Oulette Memorial Bridge, pictured below.

This was only the second marathon I had ever run, so I still had no idea what I was doing and was eager to listen to other marathoners share their wisdom.  Something I overheard from another runner during this marathon has stuck with me to this day.  She was telling her running partner how she divides the marathon in half – purposefully choosing to run easy during the first half and not think about being in a “race” at all, and not switching her mind over to focusing on the task at hand until she hits the halfway point.  At that point, she’s only got a half left (which feels comfortably doable, since so many of our training runs are longer than 13.1 miles), she’s not fatigued from going out too fast, and she has plenty of time left to strategize. 

I’ve employed a modified version of this approach ever since overhearing it during Baystate.  For some, thinking about the fact that you are running 26.2 miles is daunting.  Dividing it into two halves with different, purposeful, strategies for each half is mentally easier for me.

On the whole, I recall great crowd support at Baystate, a perfect mid-size field, and lots of resources at the finish line.  I also recall that I had lost a lot of salt in my sweat (I now know that I am a “salty sweater” and take salt tabs) and one of the volunteers came right over to check on me, handed me a towel for my face, and offered me soup and Gatorade.  I also recall that packet pickup was well organized and there was plenty of hotel lodging in the area.  There was ample parking as well, and since the start and finish are right next to each other, you don’t have to worry about shuttles.  In summary, Baystate was designed to be a go-to race for those wanting to qualify for Boston.  I think it helped me do get that, as I qualified comfortably.  Lowell is also just 40 minutes to Boston and 90 minutes to Portland, ME, so if you are not from New England, running Baystate can serve as an excellent excuse to sneak away and enjoy everything our area has to offer in the fall!


“Some seek the comfort of their therapist’s office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy.”
Dean Karnazes

Flying Pig Marathon – State # 9 – May 7, 2017 – Cincinnati, OH

I love the Flying Pig.  Whenever I think about this race I get a huge smile on my face.  First, the name of the race is just plain fun.  As an added bonus, it ties into the city’s history.  According to the Pig’s website, in the 1800s, Cincinnati was a center of Western commerce. Hogs were a major source of income, so pigs that were brought in by boat or otherwise herded into town were marched through the streets of Cincinnati to the processing plants. So many hogs were marched through the streets that Cincinnati came to be known as “Porkopolis.”

The Pig has an event for just about everyone.  In addition to the marathon, there is a half-marathon, a 10K, FOUR different youth events, an event for your dog, and multiple-event challenges.  My kids participated in the Flying Pig Kids’ Marathon and had a blast.  This is a great way to incorporate your kids into your marathon experience, if they are interested in doing so.  I’ll start with the expo, which was amazing.  The Flying Pig’s expo was, by far, my family’s favorite expo.  There was a sign-making station and so many great vendors (including one that sold little pink seed bead pig keychains, which the girls loved).

Plus, there were more freebies than you could handle.  We snagged water bottles, backpacks, food, and tons of Proctor and Gamble samples.  I also loved the t-shirt provided to race participants – it is now one of my favorite running t-shirts.  It was white in 2017, with a cute pig, heart, and happy face emoji.  But the best part is that it fits really well.

If I were to go back, and I hope that I will someday, I would not stay at the hotel that we stayed at.  It was a perfectly nice hotel and suited our needs just fine.  It was within walking distance of the zoo, which we visited, and the surrounding area was nice.  When I was running, however, I noticed that the Holiday Inn in Covington, KY, was literally on the race course very close to the start, just as you cross the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.  It is one of the host hotels and according to the Pig’s website, there is a shuttle that will pick runners up from the hotel to bring them to the start (and back again at the end).  I would have definitely stayed here, as my family could have seen me run by, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and then just walked to the end.  They’ve had that luxury during other marathons and it is well worth it.  Of note, you need to book early and mention that you are participating in the marathon to get the group rate.  If you don’t end up staying there, there are a bunch of hotels in Kentucky right along the front of the Ohio river and although I don’t know if the shuttle picks up at all of them, they are all pretty close to each other.  You could probably walk to the shuttle.

I don’t remember much about the course.  The Flying Pig has such a good website, you will find all that you need to know about elevation, etc., there.  Things I do remember – there is a mile stretch of motivational signs that came at the perfect time.  It might have been somewhere around mile 20 or soon thereafter.  These were really good signs – not the “don’t trust a fart after mile 20” variety.  I looked forward to each one.

I also remember the aid stations.  The people who volunteered at them were amazing.  It seemed like there was one every 1.5 miles with the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered on a race course.  I remember one station outside a church somewhere around mile 22 or 24, when I was really feeling it.  This lovely woman handed me water and with the warmest eyes stared straight into mine, smiled, and said “I believe in you; you can do this.”  She just about brought me to tears.  I remember her often, during the tough moments of races. This is a heavily sponsored event, resulting in neat twists you won’t find at other races.  For instance, Old Spice sponsored an award for the “fastest mile to the finish” for each age group.  I had no idea that there was such an award when I ran the race.  But I felt amazing coming back into the city and pulled out a 7:21 minute mile, winning the award.  That was a really fun surprise.  Another really fun surprise was the announcer at the end of the race, who kept yelling out – “Good job guys – you just ran 22.6 miles!” repeatedly in congratulations.  Jeez, I hope not! 

My family, unfortunately, never saw me on the course.  While I was having a lovely time, they were driving around, trying to find a place where they could park and go out to greet me.  But everywhere Adam turned, the roads were shut down.  He drove for hours and never made it near the course, which was obviously very frustrating.  Another reason just to stay at one of the KY hotels!  I never carry my phone, but I did for some reason during this race.  I remember calling him when I was five miles out from the end, hearing his frustrating story, and telling him to just go to the finish line.  That was like bells to his ears!

This was a family trip, and so we packed in some fun as well.  No trip to Cincinnati would be complete without some Skyline Chili (they have gluten free options!), which you can get in multiple places in the city.  We also went to the zoo, as mentioned, which was quite a nice zoo and I would recommend it if you are taking your family to this race.  We took in a Cincinnati Reds game as well, which everyone enjoyed.  Finally, I would highly recommend the American Sign Museum. https://www.americansignmuseum.org/  This is a funky, unusual, museum that features sign making and usage throughout American history.  They have 100 years of signage, organized by era and style.  It’s a relaxed, easy going, atmosphere and you can take in as much, or as little, information as you please.  The kids still talk about it because of the visual impression it made.

Bottom line, if you get the chance to run the Pig, do it! 


“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
Kathrine Switzer

Mississippi Blues Marathon – State #17 – Jan. 27, 2019 – Jackson, MS

This was my fourth trip to Jackson.  We are extremely fortunate to have developed good friendships with Jerri and Dick Bennett, who run Wolf Pond Sanctuary, which is a non-kill dog rescue in nearby Magee.  My family was heavily involved in dog rescue a few years ago and for her seventh birthday, my youngest daughter wanted to go meet the folks with whom our organization partnered.  Dick is a lawyer, like me, and both Dick and Jerri are accomplished marathoners.  We instantly had a lot in common. 

So that is how my family’s association with Mississippi was born, and when it came time to running a marathon in Mississippi, the choice was obvious.  I had to go back to Jackson and get in another visit with our friends.

The Mississippi Blues Marathon enjoyed a long partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield until Mother Nature intervened with hazardous conditions that led to the cancellation of the race in 2017.  Blue Cross pulled its sponsorship after that year, and so although I had plans to run the race in 2018, I decided to wait a year to see if the change in sponsorship affected anything.

Reports from participants in 2018 were decent, and I had a generally good experience in 2019, as well.  The expo was super easy – small, but there were some vendors selling cute merchandise, such as jewelry, customizable t-shirts, and locally crafted signs to hold all your medals.  There was live blues music and easy parking.

I had perfect weather for a marathon.  30’s in the start, 50’s at the end, and clear skies.  I would recommend parking in the parking lot behind the convention center, by Cathead Brewery.  I arrived there at 6:10 a.m. and the parking lot was almost completely empty.  The parking lot in front of the convention center was quite crowded at that point. Plus, the back parking lot is closer to the finish line.

A few thoughts about this course – it truly is hilly.  I live in an area that is full of hills, and so I feel well-trained for hilly courses.  My training opportunities paid off on this course, but there was no doubt – it was hilly right through the end.

Also, the quality of the road surface is not good.  Although the course goes through some beautiful parts of Jackson, the potholes and condition of the pavement are strikingly inconsistent with the surroundings.  Watch your footing – there were a number of reports from participants about tripping. 

You may also want to consider carrying your own hydration.  Although the website promised plentiful water stops, there were several lacking on the course.  There were a couple of times that we went for 4-mile stretches without water.

I felt all alone in the last 10 miles.  The crowd support was sparse and I went for several miles where I actually questioned if I was headed in the right direction.  This was right after the water stop at mile 16, when you enter what felt like a private/golf course/residential area.  I understand not wanting to have a lot of support in this quiet, residential area, but maybe more signage would help the issue by assuring and encouraging runners.  So save your bag of mental tricks for this stretch!

I ended up placing in my age group, but it’s been a few months and I have yet to receive my award.  Since the marathon, I’ve read some negative reviews about the race management company; I kind of have to say that taking four months to mail a medal is a big of a negative.  I also can’t comment on post-race activities/benefits, as I don’t usually partake in them and this race was no exception.  I was able to use the restroom in the Mississippi Museum of Art to change (of note, this is also the perfect warm-up area and is open to runners – the convention center is locked up and it was quite chilly on the morning of this race, so it was great to have a warm place with a real bathroom and plenty of space to sit and stretch), and it was a quick walk to my car. 

To do around the Jackson area – I heard from my friend that the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is quite well done, but we did not get the chance to get there, as we had other activities in the Magee area.  We have been to the Mississippi Children’s Museum, which I would recommend for younger children, as well as the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, which is small but informative and has some eye-catching exhibits.  My friend also highly recommends the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, which I hope to visit the next time we are in the area. There are a few marathons to choose from if you are looking to do one in Mississippi, and the Blues is a solid choice.  I will say that all of the volunteers were extremely warm and welcoming, and with the exception of a couple of panic-stricken miles after the water stop at mile 16 when I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, I genuinely enjoyed myself.  Plus, the medal is super cool!


“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”
Haruki Murakami

Bataan Memorial Death March – State #18 – March 17, 2019 – White Sands, NM

Let me begin by stating that my experience at the Bataan Memorial Death March was an unusual one, by both design and luck.  First, I chose to run/race the March, which put me in the minority.  I think that to truly experience the March, a participant might choose to enter one of the heavy divisions and walk/march the course.  This approach would give the participant more time to spend on the course, reflect on the meaning of the event, and revel in the comradery of the other marchers.

I, however, am on a mission to complete a marathon in under 4 hours in each state.  While I contemplated letting go of this goal for this one event, in the weeks leading up to the March I realized that I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I tried to complete the course in under 4 hours.  So I geared up for the unknown.

The other factor that made my experience unique was completely outside of my control.  The weather was absolutely perfect this year.  It was not perfect for sightseeing, but perfect for running a marathon.  As we drove from Albuquerque to Las Cruces, it began to snow.  People were posting pictures from White Sands, where there was a definite accumulation of the white stuff on the ground.  I’m a Maine girl, so this was right up my alley!  I wilt in the heat, but running in the snow is something I know how to do.

The snow did not stay around for race morning, but the effect of the snow was brilliant.  It tamped down all the sand, making it easier to run on.  This course has a limited amount of pavement, adding to its difficulty.  There is also a section after mile 20 that is affectionately known as the Sand Pit, which was difficult, but not nearly as difficult as it would have been without the previous day’s snow.  And, along with snow comes cooler temperatures.  It was in the high 30s at the start and in the 50s by the end.  Add in the fact that there was virtually no wind and the skies were crystal clear – you couldn’t have ordered up better conditions.  Had they been any different, I likely would not have made my sub-4-hour goal.

Okay – so onto the logistics.  As you may already know, the Bataan Memorial Death March is held on the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico.  The event is held in honor of the brave service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II.  Tens of thousands of U.S. and Filipino soldiers were forced to become prisoners of war, deprived of food, water, and medical attention, and marched 65 miles to confinement camps.  Thousands died along the way and those who survived faced brutal conditions.  Every year, a few survivors of the Death March attend this memorial event to tell their story, which makes it especially meaningful. 

There are several different participation divisions available. Civilians may enter the light or heavy division, and there are military heavy and light divisions as well.  Those who enter the heavy division must carry a 35-pound ruck sack during the March.  I love the fact that marchers are encouraged to fill their sack with food, which they can donate at the finish line.

There are also opportunities for people to participate as a team, and ROTC entries too.  Finally, there is a 14.1-mile Honorary March.  I’m so proud to say that my husband and eldest daughter completed the Honorary March while I ran.  This was a really big deal for my husband, who is not a fan of exercise, and a special opportunity to create some lifelong memories with our daughter. 

You need to be on base by 6 a.m. (they say you need to be in your corral by that point, but they were flexible about that in 2019), and so some people choose to camp on base or sleep on a cot in the gym.  I am not one of those people and so cannot comment on that experience.  I will recommend, however, that anyone who participates in the March join the Facebook Bataan Memorial Death March Training Group.  You will find an extraordinary group of individuals there and a wealth of information should you decide to stay on base.

We stayed in Las Cruces, which is about 30 minutes from the base.  This year, they moved packet pick up to Las Cruces (it was previously on base), making it extremely convenient.  Things you need to know – bring your passport or other form of a “Real ID.”  The packet pickup was super easy, and the expo was small.  The vendors were geared towards the military, which was to be expected.  There was some good merchandise for sale.  Also, if you want to hear the survivors’ presentation, you need to show up and be in line early.  There is limited capacity in the auditorium, and we missed out.  I really regret that.

If you stay in Las Cruces, do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, leave Las Cruces later than 4:30 a.m. on the day of the race.  Leave earlier if being pressed for time concerns you.  We left at 4:30 a.m. and got to the base around 5 a.m., but did not get through the security line and to our parking space until about 5:50 a.m.  This made me stressed out about being in our corral by 6 a.m. (we were not) and so I was thankful that they were flexible about that requirement in 2019.  Have your Real ID with you, as well as your parking pass printed and in your car.  It states that you need evidence of car insurance, which I was concerned about because we had a rental car and I didn’t have my insurance card with me, but that was not a problem. 

Runners enjoy the privilege of corralling right up at the front of the line.  My husband and daughter were in the very back.  Because the officials encouraged people to meet the survivors at the expo this year and NOT to stop to shake their hands at the start, it took my family just 15-20 minutes to get to the start line once the race began.  This was a major change from years’ past, as I have heard it has taken back-of-the-pack participants over an hour to get to the start.  So, all in all, some really great changes were instituted in 2019, and I hope they carry those forward.

The opening ceremony, which started at 6:30 a.m., was well-organized and profoundly moving.  My advice is to plan your porta potty use so that you will be in your corral and present for the opening ceremony.  The roll call of the survivors who are present at the March and the ones who passed away during the prior year is a haunting reminder of why you are there.

In terms of the course – it was extremely well supported.  I never lacked for hydration or encouragement.  Although a remote course, it just seemed as though there were always supportive people around.  And it was absolutely gorgeous.  I’ve run Sedona, and maybe it was because of the dusting of snow that was still left on Mineral Hill, or maybe it is always that beautiful, but I would rank this course right up with Sedona’s beauty.

You start out on pavement/base roads, but that only lasts for a couple of miles.  You then turn off and into an area where you should watch your footing to make sure you don’t turn an ankle.  It’s a mix of hard-packed dirt/grass that makes it pretty bumpy.  And then you are onto the dirt roads.  Again, I’m not sure what they would be like in a typical year, but because of the previous day’s snow, I found them very runnable.  In fact, the first time that I felt like the footing might prove to be an issue was on the first real hill, just before mile 8.  At this point, I started to feel winded (perhaps due to the elevation), it was harder to get secure footing, and the incline was real.  My speed dropped precipitously, and I got worried about my ability to meet my goal.

At mile 8, you turn to the right.  At this point, you realize that this course is no joke.  Fortunately, you get back on pavement and stay there for a few miles.  The pavement gets you about half of the way up Mineral Hill.  I’ll be candid – I thought that this hill was never going to end.  It was really, really, tough and does not break until around the half-marathon mark. 

I watched my pace steadily and did a lot of math.  I figured that so long as I was at 2 hours or under at the half-marathon mark, I would be okay.  In this race, what goes up comes down.  I knew that for all the work I was putting in getting up this mountain (well, I’m going to call it a mountain, regardless of the word “Hill” in its name), I was going to reap the benefits of a long downhill stretch where I could recover.  I figured that even with the fatigue that I knew would set in around mile 22, the time I could make up on the downhill section would get me safely to my sub-4-hour goal, so long as it didn’t take me more than 2 hours to get to the halfway mark.

This worked.  I think I was somewhere around 1:58 at the halfway mark and I finished the marathon at 3:54.  To me, these numbers are telling – despite the fact that I made up serious time on the downhill section, I was struggling big time at the end.  But before I get to the final miles, I want to share this:  When you get back on the pavement for the last mile or two of downhill, you are on the “stick” end of the lollipop.  This means that you are running past all the folks who are just starting to make their way up the mountain.  Most of these folks are military, in full gear and with 35-pound ruck sacks.  Guys – these men and women were so amazing.  They were all clapping and cheering us on, sending forth words of encouragement, smiles, and respectful nods of the head.  I wanted to stop and personally thank each one of them.  What I was doing was nothing – I was running with zero extra weight and in the most breathable, comfortable clothing possible.  I was doing what I loved, for the sheer fun of it.  It was they who were working hard and memorializing the sacrifice that they, and all of those who have gone before them, make so that I can engage in my hobby with the ultimate freedom.  I was actually sort of glad when I got to mile 20, which is when you get back on course with the Honorary Marchers, because I was feeling a little overcome by emotion.

It’s a little crowded for the next few miles as runners weave through the Honorary Marchers.  I won’t lie – this was the one time I felt a little aggravated on the course.  It was also somewhere around this point that fatigue set in.  Other than the “Sand Pit,” there is nothing particularly hard about the course after mile 20.  But you cannot exert the type of energy that you need to expend on Mineral Hill without having it catch up with you at this point.  I just focused on the pace I needed to make my goal and shuffled through the last few miles.

Cowbell Man is out there every year, I’ve heard! Photo cred: Jose Arreola

Post-race, there is a free lunch (burgers, potato salad, etc.)  I can’t eat that stuff, but Adam and my daughter did and said it was good.  And there are showers on base.  In fact, here is my super-secret inside tip, passed down to me by a fabulous lady at the expo.  Most people know that there are showers in the gym.  But those showers are very crowded, especially because a lot of Marchers stay in the gym.  Virtually no one, however, realizes that the pool is also open.  Grab yourself a map of the base from the media table at the expo and find your way to the aquatic center.  You can walk right in the back doors to the locker room and you will have the place to yourself.  Best tip ever.

We made a road trip out of this marathon and saw a whole lot besides White Sands.  We flew into Las Vegas, drove over to Williams, AZ, and toured the Grand Canyon.  While in Williams, we also went to Bearizona, which is a drive-through wildlife park that is not to be missed if you are in the area with kids.  I recommend driving through once and then hopping on the bus tour, which goes through again.  Our driver was very informative and because you are on a bus, you can stop for longer periods for observation.

Also, if you are going through Albuquerque prior to the race, check and see if the Chocolate and Coffee festival is going on.  It was a fabulous way to sample local chocolate, coffee, and other treats.  I picked up the most beautiful boxes of hand decorated chocolates for our friends back home who were helping us while we were gone.

After the marathon we went down to the White Sands National Monument.  Bring your sunglasses!  It is astonishingly gorgeous and bright.  You can also purchase plastic disc sleds at the gift store before you drive in and you can sled down the sand dunes.  You might think I’m crazy for climbing up sand dunes after running the Death March, but when your 12-year-old asks to go sledding down sand dunes in New Mexico with you, there is no other answer but “you bet!”

We had to drive back up to Albuquerque to catch a plane that night, but had one more stop to make.  About 90 minutes north of White Sands is a town called Truth or Consequences, where we booked a 1-hour session in a private natural hot spring at Riverbend Hot Springs.  It was reasonably priced ($45 for the three of us), a unique experience, and EXACTLY what we needed after the March and before flying home. 

This trip was super special to me.  Not only did the March carry special meaning, it turned out that my youngest daughter was not interested in coming on this trip.  I missed her madly while we were away, but the silver lining was that Adam and I spent five days with our eldest, and you just don’t get many opportunities for one-on-one time like that.  I hope that we have a similar experience with our youngest in the next couple of years, because once they hit middle school, the time just flies by. Bottom line: If you are interested in Bataan, you should definitely do it!  There won’t be many more years of survivor attendance left, so get out there soon.  You will not regret it!

P.S. – Elena Paulina captured the photograph of the Marchers at sunrise at the beginning of this post.


“The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”
Haruki Murakami

Ocean’s Run Marathon – State #14 – March 4, 2018 – Westerly, RI

I am going to be honest here, I did not enjoy this marathon.  Candidly, I cannot recommend it to anyone who is looking to run a marathon in Rhode Island.

Here’s how it came to be that I chose Ocean’s Run Marathon:  I did not need to make this a family trip, as my family goes to Newport every summer.  We LOVE Newport and I can suggest plenty of summer time activities that are great for the whole family.  But since the kids go every summer, they had no interest in missing a weekend of their own sports to watch me run in a town they had already explored.

I could have signed up for the Providence Marathon, but I did not want to go to Providence by myself for the weekend.  What I wanted to do was to bring my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law with me and to go to Newport, as my mother-in-law had always wanted to see the Newport mansions.

And yet, I did not want to run the Newport Marathon.  I had read some negative reviews about political disputes and changes in management; there seemed to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Newport Marathon when I was making decisions about which marathon to run and I didn’t want any part of that.

Ocean’s Run, however, is only about an hour from Newport and although there was not a lot of information on its website, it had been in existence for about a decade and seemed okay.  I figured that we could have a ladies’ weekend in Newport and I could just pop over and do the marathon.  With my mom and in-laws onboard, I rented a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at Oceancliff in Newport using my RCI points and away we went.

The weather was absolutely not the race director’s fault, quite clearly.  March happened to be a horrific month for New England’s weather and Rhode Island got hit hard in the days before the marathon.  Bridges were shut down because the winds were too dangerous and had blown over a tractor-trailer truck.  When we pulled into Newport, we stopped to watch waves turn into walls of water as they collided with the wind and the water was pushed skyward.  Seagulls started to take flight and could not move forward, instead using all of their energy just to hover in place and not be swept backwards.  I was not looking forward to exposing myself to those elements for almost four hours.

Moreover, as you might expect, the flooding was extreme.  I completely understand the desire to keep the race on track, really, I do.  But by the afternoon on the day before the marathon we still did not have an answer as to whether we were running the next day and if so, whether we were going to run on the original course or one that avoided the flooding.  I think it is interesting that on the marathon’s Facebook page, the administrators have since deleted all of the posts related to their communications and decision-making about whether the race was going forward in 2018.  Perhaps this is because none of that chatter was very positive.  Nonetheless, in the late afternoon/early evening we finally got word that we would be running the next morning, and on the same route as originally planned.

It was wet, raw, and windy on the morning of the race.  Again, none of that was anything that the race director could control.  But here’s the thing – the race director wasn’t even there that morning and there were no efforts at meaningful communication regarding the conditions on the course.  People were buzzing around at the start, disorganized and unable to answer questions, and I overheard volunteers telling people that the director wasn’t going to be there and so they could not find out the answers.  This was frustrating.

The flooded course was also really frustrating.  We had to run through the same flooded area four times even though we could have been rerouted to a road that ran parallel to the flooded route and was dry.  The emcee mentioned that they paid a lot of money to have the course certified and so were reluctant to change it.  Again, I understand that was a tough decision, but sometimes weather requires flexibility.  The flooding went up to the middle of my calf, soaking my shoes four miles into the run. 

Here are some positives: The course is flat and if the weather was nice, it would have been pretty.  I also appreciated the ability to pick up my bib and shirt on the morning of the race.  Also, if your family wants to spend four hours at the beach, they can park right at Misquamicut Beach, where mine did.  This is actually pretty convenient, as you will see them at the start, a few miles in when you cross back by the start, at the half way point, a few miles later as you cross by the start again, and at the end. 

All of this crossing back and forth across the start line is because the race starts and ends in the same place and is comprised of two loops of the half marathon course.  For me, this is a negative.  Double loop marathons are convenient for the race organizers and spectators, but, personally, I find them mentally difficult.  All the half marathoners get to stop, right in front of you, but you get to do it all again (and nothing is new the second time around, there are just fewer people around you).  It’s also tough because you have to make more of an effort to run your own race, at your own pace.  It’s easy to get caught up with the speed of the half-marathoners if the races are run at the same time, which is the way it is done at Ocean’s Run.  Add it all together and about four miles or so into the second half, my poor pacing and the environmental conditions caught up with me and I started to tank.  I had a really tough time motivating myself to keep moving and running. 

Notably, it is nearing late January as I write this and the website for Ocean’s Run says that they will be holding the race again this year, on March 3, 2019.  And yet, there is no course map and all of the substantive information, like the Athlete Guide, is still from 2018. 

Long story short, one gets the feeling that the race organizers are operating on auto-pilot.  If you are an experienced marathoner (or are, in general, a very low-maintenance individual), then this race will be just fine.  You have to go into it with low expectations and just treat it like one of your long runs. 

On a brighter note, the Newport mansions were stunningly opulent and I had a great time with my family!  We love Newport and I’m going to try out the Newport marathon at some point, now that things seem to have settled down. 

Happy running, and if you had a positive experience with any RI marathon in particular, please share!

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.” — Dean Karnazes

Miracle Match Marathon – State # 13 – Jan. 28, 2018 – Waco, TX

This was a birthday trip – I was about to turn 40 in February and wanted to take a family trip somewhere fun.  Adam loves Texas and the girls had never been that far west.  I did some searching and found this marathon, which I fell in love with from the start.  The Miracle Match Marathon has a great story.  The marathon was created by one of Waco’s firefighters, C.W. Whorton.  An honorable 100% of their proceeds support Be the Match, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.  In addition to contributing financially, the race supports the program by allowing folks to join the National Marrow Donor Registry on race weekend.  Since its inception, four of Waco’s firefighters have donated marrow or stem cells to patients in need and likely hundreds have signed up for the Registry (39 in 2018, according to their website). 

Throughout the course you will find information on Mile Marker Honorees – individuals who have been affected by stem cell or marrow donation and for whom that particular mile of the course is dedicated in honor.  This is a race that is all about doing good things for those who need some good, and I was all in.

An added bonus is the fact that the race is held in Waco, Texas, and my family happens to be huge fans of the show The Fixer Upper.  We were convinced that Chip and Joanna Gaines would want to come to cheer me on.

This was the one other race course, besides Sugarloaf, that I drove before the race.  I was concerned about the hills and wanted to get a sense of what was in store.  I didn’t know if the warnings on the website were just a “everything is big in Texas” thing, but it’s true – the hills are big.  In fact, there were a few sections where I walked as part of my racing strategy, and that proved to be a very good choice.  For example, I walked some of the hills in the McLennan Community College campus (around mile 20), and this gave me what I needed for a strong final 10K.

Near the beginning of the race you run through Baylor University.  I was a little confused by some of the twists and turns through here, so don’t be afraid to speak up and confirm with officials that you are on the right track. You then navigate through a residential area, which had some decent rolling hills and is the least beautiful of the areas on the course. 

I knew what was in store, though, and that pushed me forward, even if the scenery didn’t. My husband and kids parked at the Waco High School to lend me support, and this proved to be perfect timing.  The high school is right after you get out of the residential area, somewhere between mile 10 and 11.  The wind kicked up at this point and I knew I was about to head onto Lakeshore Drive and into the hills.  I really appreciated the “send-off” support because I needed some motivation.  After seeing me, my family was off to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum to kill some time while they waited for me to finish.  My husband LOVED the museum and the girls thought it was interesting too, although Adam was clearly the bigger fan.  https://www.texasranger.org/

The rest of the marathon after Waco High School is very pretty and very challenging!  Definitely save your energy for these 15 or so miles.  At mile 24, there is the Jacob’s Ladder Challenge, which I did NOT do.  Check out the page detailing it, though, because it is one of the fun twists that makes this marathon unique.  https://miraclematchmarathon.com/general-info/jacobs-ladder-challenge/

In the last mile or two, I recall being in a park area that had a single painted line running down the middle of the paved path.  All I remember is focusing hard on that line.  I was spent at that point and just wanted to get to the end.  Before I knew it, I heard the cheers from the crowd and thought I heard one of my girls yell out in support.  That was all I needed for the final push.  I remember having to get up one more hill from the park path up to the finishing line on Waco’s Suspension Bridge, which seemed like torture.  But the bridge is a fun place to finish, and there’s a great party when you are done, with fajitas and beer (which I do not drink – Adam always benefits from my beer tickets!). Plus, the swag was great – a neon beanie that I still wear running for visibility, and a metal water bottle in addition to your shirt. 

The medals are handcrafted by Tim Anderson, Engineer and Equipment Operator with the Waco Fire Department.  Tim Anderson is also a stem cell donor.  I believe that he also makes the medals for the age-group awards, which are very cool.  I was lucky enough to receive one.

Of note, we stayed at a nearby hotel and I was able to go back and shower before the awards ceremony.  I wish I could remember the name of this hotel, and searched my records for it, but I cannot. I don’t recall having any trouble finding a good hotel in the area, though. I mention this just because there was a decent gap of time between my finish and the awards ceremony, so you would want to be mindful of that.

I really love this race and would return in a heartbeat.  The people were great, the course was challenging, the scenery was beautiful, there were fun little additions that made it memorable, and I found it very well organized. 

Onto the other fun stuff, since this was a family trip too!  We flew into Dallas/Forth Worth, which was a direct flight from Boston.  We stopped by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which was so awesome, I am still gushing over it.  https://www.moneyfactory.gov/fortworthtxtours.html  Admission is free and you do not need reservations for the self-tours.  The audio tour kept the kids engaged and there were lots of interactive exhibits.  Plus, you get to watch our money get made as you walk through the production floor on a suspended walkway overhead.  I highly recommend this stop.

From there, we went to the Fort Worth Stockyards.  https://www.fortworthstockyards.org/  This is such a fun area!  We watched the daily cattle drive from up close and the kids tried out the Cattle Pen Maze.  Adam surprised me in some chaps when I toured the corner of one of the great shops, and we had a fabulous BBQ dinner at Riscky’s Barbeque.  https://risckys.com/risckys-bbq/  Riscky’s had a good gluten free selection and something for the entire family.

From there we spent a really fun evening at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk.  https://www.fortworthstockyards.org/play/billy-bobs-texas  They have free line dancing lessons every Thursday night at 7 p.m. – the girls and I gave it a try and had SO much fun!  There’s also this really cool wall of hand prints and autographs from dozens – maybe hundreds – of artists such as Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash. Don’t hesitate to bring your kids to this honky-tonk on a weekday night – it was not an adult-only venue. Yes, there is drinking and dancing, but nothing worse than what you see at a wedding!

We also hit up the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo before leaving town.  I highly recommend this as well.  We have a lot of country fairs in Maine, but it is so much fun to go to a Texas fair.  We had never been to anything like the rodeo before either, and it was truly amazing.  People think marathoners are a little nuts . . . those men and women are really nuts!

Also, right there at the Fair you can go to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.  http://www.cowgirl.net/   We really enjoyed this museum, where you get to learn about more than 750 accomplished “pioneers, artists, writers, entertainers, humanitarians, business women, educators, ranchers and rodeo cowgirls,” such as Annie Oakley, Georgia O’Keefe, and Sandra Day O’Connor.  There were lots of interactive exhibits on display and I dare say the girls were inspired. 

The only sort of flop on the trip was our visit to the Waco Mammoth National Monument.  I thought that the dig site was super cool, but I guess the girls were not impressed with the bones in the dirt.  Every time I bring it up I get lukewarm responses.  However, it does not take long to explore, is super cheap, and you are not going to see anything else like it back home.  https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm  I’m glad we went, even if the response from the girls wasn’t overwhelming.

Finally, no trip to Waco would be complete without a stop at The Silos and Magnolia Market.  The girls ate some delicious cupcakes, we bought t-shirts (Addy’s appropriately bearing the slogan #demoday), and we played soccer in front of the Silos.  We also found our way to the Harp Design Co. Shop, where we picked up the beautiful wall hanging of the contiguous 48 states that makes up my profile picture on my Instagram account.  Sadly, Chip and Joanna did not come out to extend their good wishes for a successful race, but maybe next time! 

This was such a fun trip – a true favorite!

“A goal is just an awesome way to force growth on yourself.” – Deena Kastor

Atlantic City Marathon – State #15 – Oct. 21, 2018 – Atlantic City, NJ

This was my first marathon of this racing season, which for me always begins in the fall and ends in May or June.  I’m sure there are some marathons in the summer, but I wilt like a delicate flower in the heat and prefer to use the summer to break away from traditional road races and explore new challenges.  I will post about some of those here.

In any event, I chose Atlantic City for a couple of reasons.  I knew it wasn’t going to be a family trip because of soccer season and so I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t enticing to the kids.  It was New Jersey or Connecticut, and the friend I want to visit when I do Connecticut had plans on the Hartford marathon weekend.  So Atlantic City it was.

My mom came with me for this trip, which was perfect.  She’s always ready for an adventure, and since neither one of gamble or partake in the typical boardwalk activities, it was nice to have someone like-minded along.

We flew into Philadelphia, which is about an hour’s drive from Atlantic City.  We had a couple of hours before needing to be in Atlantic City, so we drove over to the Bourse Building, which is right across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.  The Bourse Building has a great food hall, with lots of different culinary options.  I had a great gluten free lunch from Ka’Moon, which serves Egyptian fare.  https://philly.eater.com/2018/9/19/17874638/bourse-food-hall-old-city-philadelphia-whats-open

Mom and I then hopped on a tour bus operated by Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours.  We scored a seat on the top of the double-decker bus, right in the front.  This proved to be a good way to see some of the city.  The tour guide was so-so, but we learned a few things and were able to mark up our tour maps and take note of places we would like to visit when we come back with more time. 

After peeking through the glass at the Liberty Bell (we had no time for that line!!) it was time to head to Atlantic City.

We stayed at Atlantic Palace, which was the PERFECT place for this marathon trip.  http://www.fantasearesorts.com/resorts/atlantic-palace/   This resort happens to be part of my RCI timeshare deal, and so I was able to just trade in points for a two bedroom, two bathroom suite with a full kitchen.  The views were absolutely amazing. 

The biggest benefit of this hotel is that the marathon starts and finishes on the boardwalk, probably about ¼ mile from the hotel.  It’s such a treat not to have to get in your car and drive to your hotel after running.  Helpful tip – there are no grocery stores within walking distance and you do not want to have to move your car out of the hotel’s garage unless you absolutely have to.  So, if you end up with a room on the boardwalk that has a kitchen, stop at a store before getting downtown in order to stock up on any food you might want.  There was a well-stocked convenience store within walking distance so that I could buy creamer and a banana for the morning, but that was about it if you didn’t want to eat out every meal (which I don’t).  Fortunately, there was a Rainforest Café on the boardwalk where I grabbed a gluten free salad with grilled chicken for my pre-marathon dinner.  (I may have also had salt and vinegar chips and peanut butter M&Ms from the convenience store – these are some of my go-to foods.)

Packet pick-up was super easy, as it was also in a hotel on the Boardwalk.  We parked at our hotel first and walked over, which saved some exorbitant parking fees.  The expo was low-key, but they had this neat sand sculpture there when you walked in.  I really liked the hooded, long-sleeve tech shirt, and there were some fun sample goodies in the bag.

The following day was race day.  Again, it is such a luxury to be able to stay in your hotel room, all nice and toasty warm and with your own facilities, right up until the start of the race.  I was super relaxed, having come off a great summer of running with high mileage weeks and challenging terrain, like mountains and the woods at Pineland Farms.  I knew this race was flat and fast, and I was not concerned.

The race was flat, but maybe not terribly fast on account of the intense wind.  The race route is pretty exposed.  You start off on the boardwalk and then go through this odd area of on ramps/off ramps that is a little weird.  I was happy when I was done with the initial third of the race.  You get back on the boardwalk around mile 8.  Watch your footing, because you then run on the boardwalk for about 4 miles and it is easy to get tripped up.  After going the length of the boardwalk, you run through an area that is lined with beachfront condos for several miles, stopping at the tip of a peninsula, where you turn around and go back.  It was in this area that the wind picked up. 

I don’t use pacing teams very often, because I’ve been burned in the past by not running my own race.  However, on this occasion, the pacer for the 3:45 group was amazing and I stuck with that group for quite some time.  He was with marathonpacing.com and he spoke highly about how prepared the group was for the race and how seriously the owner of the company takes the responsibility of pacing.  If the rest of the pacers from this company are like him, I might use them when I see that marathonpacing.com is the pacing group in future races.  He was highly experienced and kept an absolutely precise pace.  Sticking with him until about mile 16 accomplished two things – it kept me from going out too fast, which is something I have to work hard to control, and we were able to draft a bit as a group, thereby saving energy.

My game plan was to just stay at a steady pace (which for me is somewhere around 8:15 min/mile) from mile 16 until about mile 23, which is about when you get back on the boardwalk.  I figured if I was feeling good, then I’d open it up there.  As luck would have it, I felt great and ended strong.  Again – word of caution – watch your footing during these last few miles on the boardwalk.  On a positive note, it’s a straight, flat course to the finish and there is plenty of activity on the boardwalk to keep your mind off the pain.

There appeared to be ample food and drink at the end.  I had my favorites back at the hotel and so did not partake. 

That afternoon, my mom and I were going to take Ocean Drive all the way to Cape May.  We went for a while and although it was pretty, we didn’t make it all the way.  One of the bridges was out and we decided we had seen enough of that particular type of scenery and went looking for something different.

We ended up at Batsto Village.  This is a nationally recognized historic site with a sawmill, gristmill, general store, blacksmith, wheelwright, and other historic buildings on site.  We had just missed the annual Country Living Fair, which was held earlier in the day.  That bummed us out because there were crafts, music, food, exhibitions, and special tours.  That said, the Park Rangers were still on site and two of them stopped and walked around with us to answer questions.  There was also a QR code system set up and we were able to scan the code with our phones and link to YouTube videos that gave us great information about the buildings we were seeing.  If historical villages are your thing, it is worth checking out the website to see if marathon weekend coincides with the fair when you are going.  http://www.batstovillage.org/  We got to see acres and acres of blueberry fields on the drive over too, which was cool.  I thought we had a lot of blueberry field in Maine – no comparison!

We stopped by the Absecon Lighthouse before heading to the airport the next morning.  It is the tallest lighthouse in NJ and is right there on your way out of Atlantic City.  It was too early in the day to be open when we went, but the signs around the grounds were well done and informative.

This was a well-supported, well-organized race.  The course design allowed you to see people the entire way without it being too crowded.  I recommend Atlantic City as a solid choice if you are looking to complete a marathon in N.J.

Happy running!

“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.” – Priscilla Welch

Sugarloaf Marathon – My First Marathon – May 15, 2005 – Carrabassett Valley, ME

An oldie but a goodie.  I signed up for this race because running a marathon was on my bucket list.  I had read a book about running a marathon in high school and it was a challenge I wanted to conquer.  I really knew nothing about running long distances, or road races in general.  In fact, I completed my first ever 5K road race when training for Sugarloaf.  And, of course, I completed my first ever 20-mile training run while training.  I will always remember that run.  My husband supported me, stopping every five miles to make sure I had Gatorade and was feeling okay.  He went a little too far on the third leg however, stopping somewhere around mile 15.5.  I wanted to strangle him.  He figured that if I had less than 5 miles to go after my last stop, it would be mentally much better for me.  (Turns out he was right!)  To this day, whenever we pass by the place where I reached 20 miles and he picked me up (I did a point to point run) he announces the spot to anyone riding with us, regardless of whether they’ve seen it 3,000 times already.  I’m pretty lucky to have such a fan!

This marathon was pre-kids and I was 27; a lot has changed in 14 years.  I am not sure, however, that a lot has changed about this particular race.  I’m also not sure why I picked Sugarloaf, except that it was in Maine and I am a Mainer.  It also starts at Cathedral Pines Campground, which seemed very appropriate, as I had grown up camping there every summer with my family.  In fact, my parents camped there the night before the marathon (I chose lodging with a bed).

You will probably find more comprehensive reviews written by folks who completed the course more recently (including this great write up from maine. the magazine: https://www.themainemag.com/features/milestone-miler/), but this is what I remember:

I had recently been diagnosed with celiac disease.  Back in 2005 and up in Eustis, Maine, there weren’t a lot of good dining options.  So my pre-race TV frozen dinner of Amy’s Gluten Free Mac and Cheese sticks out in my mind!  So do my pre-race jitters.  I had driven the course earlier in the day with a co-worker who was also running and I marveled at how long 26.2 miles is, even in a car.  You sort of lose track of how far you’ve gone when you are up there.  It is absolutely beautiful but the road just goes on and on.  I’ve only driven a marathon course one other time since Sugarloaf and candidly, I wouldn’t recommend driving the course.  It can be a little overwhelming, just seeing how the road stretches on.

Sugarloaf is fairly flat course for about 5 miles.  There are then a couple of miles of rolling hills, followed by a decent climb of around 400 feet between miles 8 and 10.  It’s all downhill from about mile 10, however.  Having never done a marathon before, I had no idea what running downhill for 16 miles would do to my legs.  I distinctly remember not being able to go down a set of stairs for several days after this race.

Because I live in Maine, I know a fair number of people who have run Sugarloaf.  They have all said that it gets lonely.  In fact, a very experienced runner told me that he was on track to qualify for Boston when he started to hit a wall and just stopped.  There was no one out there but the birds to keep him going. 

Because Sugarloaf is a small race in a remote area, there can certainly be times when you might not see very many, if any, other runners or spectators.  That said, it is a point to point race and the road is open to traffic.  For me, this was ideal.  I thought this was going to be my one and only marathon, so everyone came out to support.  My team included my husband, my brother, my parents, my husband’s parents, and my husband’s brother and sister.  I was never alone.  (Even when I wanted to be.)

I’m not sure if finishing this marathon sparked my love of running.  It did, however, teach me a few important lessons about persistence and introduced me to the running community, which I found welcoming from the get-go.  When I announced my intention to run Sugarloaf, I immediately had the support of all of the runners in my law firm.  I distinctly remember one 8-mile training run where a senior partner took me through hill repeats on Portland’s Munjoy Hill.  Tough love, I guess.  It’s a funny thing – running is an individual sport in a lot of ways, but it connects you to a community of kindred spirits – a community that I have found to be incredibly supportive and uplifting. 

If you are looking for a spring marathon and enjoy a quiet run in gorgeous country, consider Sugarloaf.  The visit to Carrabassett Valley is worth the trip and given the overall downhill conditions, you could have a very good race.  Give me a shout before you go, as I’m looking to return for the 15K that they hold at the same time.

Until next time, go for a run!

“Happiness is different from pleasure.  Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.”  – George Sheehan

Seattle Marathon – State #16 – Nov. 25, 2018 – Seattle, WA

This is my first post, but clearly not my first marathon. I’m a little late to the game with this blog idea and will need to spend some time catching up. Accordingly, things might be out of order for a bit and when I start posting about state #1 through #10, the reviews might be less detailed. Better late than never!

My family was excited to head out to Seattle, because it meant combining a marathon trip with a visit with friends who we don’t get to see very often, as we live in Maine. We’ve done a combo marathon/visit with friends in other states, and it makes the journey a lot more fun!

My girls are 12 and 10, so they are at good ages for a cross-country trip. We left on Thanksgiving, leaving Boston around 7 p.m., as this was a decent-priced flight option. It was also kind of fun, traveling on a holiday. We had an early Thanksgiving lunch and packed pie for the road. It was sort of peaceful, in an odd way. We had a direct flight out to Seattle, where we stayed at one of the airport hotels for the night since we got in so late.

The next morning, I let the girls swim and get their fill of the all-you-can-eat breakfast before exploring the city. We picked up my packet at the expo, finding the parking surprisingly easy on the street. This was a good expo, which is measured by how much fun the girls have. Verizon had a booth set up where we could take a picture and send a message to service men and women. They enjoyed doing that AND got $5 Starbucks cards for completing a survey, so there you go. There were a few other freebies, including Ice drinks, cooling/heating packs, and some other random things. I was not in the mood for shopping, but there were plenty of vendors. They also had race shirts from previous years for a steal. Of note, the design on the shirt for 2018 was a little underwhelming, and the sizing ran big. But I’m not really doing this for the shirt.

We then did a very touristy Wings Over Washington 3-D indoor flying ride: https://www.wingsoverwa.com/ It was pricey and the actual ride itself is only a few minutes long. However, the girls loved it and it was a fun way to see some of the areas of Washington that we were not going to get to on our trip. It had a cute introduction to the ride with an animated Forest Ranger and good information about Washington’s history. I thought it was well done and had no regrets.

We had to go to Pike Place Market, where we bought flowers for our hosts, took pictures outside of the original Starbucks, and put gum on the famous gum wall (I brought plastic gloves to be prepared).

Pike Place can be a little overwhelming – it’s crowded and there’s a lot going on – but it is worth a stop. You can spend as little or as much time as you would like there.

Our friends live just outside the city. We rented The Hummingbird Cottage through Airbnb for our stay. I highly recommend this rental to anyone going to the area. It was cozy for our family of four, but accommodated us well. Clean, new, and super efficient. Close to the city but in a great little suburb with really everything you need right there. It was also very well priced. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22107747?guests=1&adults=1

On Saturday, the girls and I headed out to hike Snoqualmie Falls. It was a glorious trip and perfect for the day before the race. Just enough of a walk to get your pre-race jitters out, but not too much to stress your legs. It’s not far from the city and it is free. We parked at the top and walked down to the bottom and then back to the top – the walk is a beautiful 1.3 mile out and back wooded trail.

We also went to the Woodland Park Zoo for a couple of hours. Of note, we found coupons for the zoo in one of the various brochures we got at the hotel. I wouldn’t necessarily add a zoo to my list of things we must do when touring a new city, but the girls really wanted to go and in the end, I was glad we did. It was well laid out, low-key, but with a good variety of animals. That night we had dinner at Duke’s Seafood and Chowder, 2516 Alki Ave SW, Seattle, and had a great meal. I have celiac disease and so need a gluten free meal, especially before a race, and they were very accommodating.

Onto the race! My husband and kids dropped me off near the start line and then they went back to the Airbnb for breakfast. It was a 15-20 minute drive and no traffic at that time of the day, so it was easy peasy. When I got there, I followed the crowd without any real sense of where I was going. Turns out, everyone was headed into the Seattle Center. This was great! It was warm, there were plenty of real bathrooms, and lots of areas to sit and stretch. Some of the coffee joints inside the Center were open in case folks wanted coffee or a snack. I stayed there until the last possible moment, dashed over to drop my extra shirt at the gear check, which was super easy and close to the start, and got in the pack.

I can’t say I loved the first few miles. You spend a mile or so in the midst of the downtown area, and that part was fine. You then do a couple of miles on some on ramps and in a tunnel – that’s the part I really didn’t like. Plus, my GPS watch wasn’t working and so I had no idea how fast I was going. Turns out, I was so concerned about starting too fast that I was going much slower than my target pace and I needed to work hard to make up time after about mile 8, when my watch turned on. That was sort of aggravating and led to me feeling a little stressed to meet my target – a feeling I’m not a fan of.

After 6 or so miles, you end up on the Burke Gilman Trail (which is paved – don’t worry, this isn’t a “trail” run). Most of the course is on this Trail, and it is delightful. You don’t have to compete with traffic and the scenery is very nice in many areas. I personally did not find the course to be too hilly, but I live in an area with a lot of hills so I train for them. I did not carry any fluid and found there to be plenty of water/fluid stops. I also thought there were plenty of port-a-johns on the course. One thing that was noticeably absent – there were no timing clocks anywhere! This was really aggravating because although my watch started working, I had zero idea how long it had been from the start. Plus, most people’s watches got all messed up during the long stretch running through a tunnel, so lots of folks were off. Timing clocks would have been super helpful.

There are places on the Trail where you see other runners who are ahead of you, which is motivating. I love it when the lead folks have gotten to the turn-around and are coming back the other way. You lose sense of your pain and struggles when you see how hard they are working. And depending on where you are in the pack, there are times where you pass by folks who are not as far along, and that’s motivating too, as there are typically a lot of “great job,” “looking strong,” etc. comments and smiles flowing back and forth.

You finish in the stadium, which is quite convenient, as there is a lot nearby to occupy anyone coming out to cheer you on. My husband and kids did the Space Needle thing while I ran, since it is right there. That was great for me, as I hate heights and was happy to avoid that.

It wasn’t very clear where I needed to go to get my gear check bag back (turns out it was in the same place where I left it as the race starts and ends in the same place) but you had to go up lots of stairs to retrieve it. So send someone who likes you to go get it, because I for one did not appreciate the stairs! There was also an area that appeared to have a ton of food – we did not stay so I cannot review that part. The medal was nice, and because I placed in the top 10 finishers for my age group, I’m supposed to be getting an award in the mail. It’s been almost two months, however, and I haven’t seen it. But I think it’s nice that the awards go so deep.

A couple of other thoughts for folks who might be going out to Seattle for the race with kids in tow. After the race we went to Lincoln Park to skip rocks and take a walk. It was beautiful – Washington is truly a majestic state and that is a peaceful area with a lots of trails. There was also indoor ice skating at Seattle Center, which the girls enjoyed. Seattle Center is also home to a IMAX theater, which proved to be a great way to spend an afternoon when it was raining heavily. My youngest and I took in a 3-D movie about Australia’s Outback and then explored some of the areas of the Pacific Science Center while we waited for our other half’s longer movie to get out. I really, really wanted to get to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, but planned poorly and it was shut on the day we could go. What I could see from peeking in the windows looked amazing. Plus, it’s free, so it’s a good option for the budget-savvy traveler.

There’s so much to do in Seattle and we only touched the surface, as we got to spend some great quality time relaxing with friends during this trip too. As far as marathons go, I thought it was well-organized and I would do it again if in the area, although I wouldn’t make another trip across the country just for the marathon.

Until next time – happy running!

Years ago, women sat in kitchens drinking coffee and discussing life.  Today, they cover the same topics while they run. — Joan Benoit Samuelson