A New 4th of July Tradition…Continued

IMG_2842Last year I wrote about our new Fourth of July tradition of doing  our own (Independent?) 4 on the Fourth.  Mike and I are looking forward to doing the same run this year, as well.  I also proposed the idea of celebrating the Fourth by doing other “fours”on the Fourth -swimming 4 laps in the pool, reading 4 chapters of a book, trying 4 yoga poses, doing 4 random acts of kindness,  catching 4 fish (which is Mike’s goal), lighting 4 sparklers…you get the idea.

Perhaps you’d like to give this “Fours on the Fourth” idea a try as well.  If you do, we’d love to hear about it.  You can leave a comment here to tell about your celebration and you can also post a photo on Instagram and tag us @runningfifty #independent4onthe4th.

Whether you enter a race, run four miles on your own, or try some other “Fours on  Fourth” we wish you a fun-filled, safe Fourth of July!

Halfway To 50 States!

With only a couple of weeks to go before Amelia and Matt moved away from Pittsburgh, we finally arranged a race in nearby Ohio. Matt’s M.B.A. graduation from Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University offered the perfect opportunity to coordinate a visit and a race.

Perusing our traditional trusty race resource, Runningintheusa.com  failed to locate any Ohio races in the area close to Pittsburgh.  But after doing a little research, I found the Austintown Lion’s 21st Annual “5K in May”.  With less than an hour and a half drive from Pittsburgh and a 9:45 a.m starting time, this seemed like exactly what we needed to check Ohio off of our quest list.

Matt’s parents, Bill and Terry, kindly offered to accompany us to the race.  We all enjoyed the scenic rolling farmland and the opportunity to visit during the drive to Austintown. Thanks to excellent details on the race entry form,  we arrived exactly at the starting location right on schedule, thus sparing Terry and Bill the “excitement” of navigation challenges that we have endured when traveling to a few other races.

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The rainy forecast made us particularly thrilled to discover that registration and other race activities took place in an attractive heated building with indoor facilities. It proved to be the perfect spot for our spectators to be able to watch the race and stay cozy and dry.

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We seldom have companions for our races so this was a real treat. Bill had the foresight to take a photo of us before we headed out into the rain to document our pre-race status.

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He even got a shot of us at the starting line. Normally if we have any visual documentation at the start it’s an awkward selfie or a random shot of the crowd.

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The group of runners who lined up at the start may have been small but it was undeterred by the weather.  After a few brief announcements, we were off and running.

ohio Start

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The race took place at the Austintown Township Park and was run on a pleasant gravel trail that wound through woods and past a small pond.

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The person in the bright jacket ahead of us was a lovely woman whom we chatted with who ended up winning our age group division.

The route  is a double loop that goes past the main building where registration and awards took place. Terry and Bill were able to see us four times during the race without having to leave the building. But being the great sports they are, they even popped out to cheer us on as we ran by.  There was excellent volunteer support along the route, including a water stop which we ran past twice.

We loved the course, despite the rain, and were pleased with our time.  Here is our post- race shot where we are looking (and feeling) decidedly soggy.ohio after

Numerous door prizes were distributed and Mike and I were lucky enough to both win something.  I  won a bucket packed with Avon treats.

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The prizes also included many gift certificates to local restaurants. Since we were all getting hungry we were keeping our fingers crossed that Mike would receive one of those…and he did, which allowed us to later redeem his prize at the Korner Restaurant on our way home.

I was thrilled  to win second place in my age group.

ohio medal

As I went up to receive my medal I commented to the announcer that we had chosen their event for our Ohio race in our quest to run a race in every state.  There was a kind response from the other runners and spectators when he shared this with the group.  I think it drives Mike crazy when I do this but I can’t resist sharing our enthusiasm for our adventure. I also have found that people seem to appreciate knowing that their race had a special attraction.

What started out as a random race to check Ohio off of our quest list, once again became an event filled with unexpected bonuses.  It was a well organized race with a pretty course and generous awards and prizes. We had an opportunity to meet wonderful people, including the woman who won my age group who is on her own quest to run twelve races this year. Having Terry and Bill join us made the trip much more fun and provided vastly better race photography!

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We nabbed another runner to snap a shot of us with Bill and Terry after the race.

Ohio is the 25th state in which we have run. It seems fitting that rather than marking this halfway point milestone with a fancy race in a flashy destination, we once again were treated to the unexpected pleasures of a small race in a less famous location. Our experience here solidified the philosophy that has emerged during our adventure. It is the journey, not just the destination, that truly matters.

State: Ohio

Quest Race #: 25

Date Run: May 14, 2016

The Bottom Line: We loved everything about this race!  We only regret that it’s unlikely we will have a chance to see the people we met again and that Bill and Terry aren’t going to be able to accompany us to and provide outstanding support at the next 25 races.

 

Janji Pop-up Store

janji window

When Mike and I were in Boston on Saturday we unexpectedly came across the Janji pop-up store. I had seen some Instagram posts recently and had been vaguely aware of a Newbury Street location.  However, I was unfamiliar with this company and the work they are doing.  So when we walked by their storefront with their company motto on the window, I was excited to have a chance to go in.

We were met by Eugene, the engaging store manager, who filled us in on the company’s mission.  Every piece of clothing that is purchased provides quality drinking water for a person in a designated country for an entire year!  After hearing that, I was determined to buy something -a real sacrifice, I know!

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As I began browsing through the nifty racks created from metal water pipes the challenge became narrowing down which item(s) to buy because the clothing is so uniquely appealing.  I decided on a long sleeve shirt adorned with giraffes that will provide water for someone in Kenya and a windbreaker that benefits someone in Guatemala.

giraffe shirt

Thank you, Hannah, our fashion designer daughter, for the use of your dress form to showcase this great shirt.

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windbreaker

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I love the lining of this windbreaker.

We had an opportunity to meet the company founders, Mike and Dave, as well.  They were enthusiastic and welcoming.  Their passion for their mission and running was  contagious.

I am thrilled to have became aware of this incredible running apparel company and I look forward to continuing to support their efforts.  Janji apparel is available in a number of running stores but they also have a website where you can view their extensive line of running clothing and learn more about their inspiration and work.

The pop-up store on Newbury Street in Boston will be there until May 8.  It is located just around the corner from the Boston Marathon finish line.  They are offering a variety of upcoming events related to the marathon, running, and fitness.  Check out their website for more details.

I encourage you to learn more about this inspirational company. Supporting their mission is easy. Their apparel is exquisite and affordable. By making a purchase you receive the benefit of cool running apparel for yourself while helping another person have the even greater gift of access to water.

Janji means “promise” in Malay. For me, running provides me with the promise of accomplishment, strength, health, and peace.  Now when I head out for a run in my Janji apparel I will also carry with me the knowledge that I am indeed “running for another”.

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Running in Two States (Actually, Three) in One Weekend

With a hand shake, the deal was sealed.  Mike and I were enjoying drinks at our hotel in Boston the night before we were due to fly to Pensacola to begin our trip to run races in Mississippi and Alabama.  But the forecast was predicting a winter storm to begin the next morning pretty much at the moment our plane was due to depart. Mike was so sure that our flight would be delayed at least 2 hours that he wagered footing the bill for lunch the next day.  I was betting we would be able to escape just in the nick of time.

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When we arrived at the airport early the next morning (or what seemed like the middle of the night), our flight was still on time. The plane was boarded on schedule just as the snow began.  The pilot informed us that we just needed to go through de-icing and we’d be on our way.  After an interesting but slow de-icing process we finally took off…about an hour late.  We had about an hour layover for our connecting flight in Charlotte so this delay did not bode well for making this connection.  Throughout the flight I was able to monitor the status of our next flight (on time, of course) and determine which gates we would arrive at and depart from (different terminals, of course). We landed with 20 minutes before our next flight was due to depart.  Figuring we had nothing to lose, we opted to try to make it to the plane before it left.  We bolted from the plane and began running through the terminals to our next gate.  You might think that as runners, we’d be all set for this type of challenge.  Our problem is that we had not had the foresight to include running with a backpack and pulling a suitcase into our training.  We did learn that you can make really good time when you run on the people-mover conveyor belts.  Once we were in the right terminal we only had to run past 28 gates before reaching ours.  As our gate came into view the area was alarmingly empty with the exception of the gate attendants at the desk.  I waved to them as we careened up to the desk “Home Alone” style. They greeted us by name and called down the boarding tunnel to alert the crew that we were on our way.

As we boarded the plane, the flight attendants pointed out the two remaining seats. I settled into my seat beside a gracious stranger, gratefully caught my breath and said a silent thank you that I had remembered to apply deodorant after I showered at 3:00 a.m.

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I took a few photos on the plane to send to one of my small clients who loves planes.  (I do, too!)

We had signed up for the Bob Coleman Winter Run 10K in  Mississippi on Saturday so planned to drive to Jackson on Friday.  Our route went right through Mobile, Alabama where we were running on Sunday so we decided to stop for lunch there on our way.  The Dumbwaiter Restaurant came up as a good option on Yelp so we decided to give it a try.

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We loved the cool atmosphere and the excellent service.

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This gumbo was divine.

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The chocolate bread pudding had Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Heath Bar pieces in it. Oolala!

Mike, being the gracious gentleman that he is, made good on our earlier wager and paid for lunch since we had miraculously arrived on time.

It was chilly, even by Maine standards, the next morning when we arrived at the start of the Bob Coleman Winter Run 10k in Clinton, Mississippi.  The drive from Jackson along the Natchez Trace Parkway was beautiful and serene and gave us a preview of our course since the race is run along that road.  As we picked up our numbers and shirts and made the inevitable trip to the (amazingly short) port-a-potty line I was struck with the thought that no matter where we are running, runners are always the same.  It was somehow reassuring to be surrounded by a group of like-minded, enthusiastic, pleasant individuals even though we were in a completely unfamiliar location.

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Somehow Mike ended up being #1, confirming what we’ve known all along.

The relatively small group of 10K runners gathered at the start and after a few announcements we were on our way along the scenic route.

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We ran along the side of the road since the route was not closed to traffic. Several police cars traveled up and down the course to ensure that drivers were cautious as they drove past us.  The biggest obstacle for us (me) was watching out for raised reflective markers along the painted line.  We don’t have these very helpful traffic markers in Maine due to repeated plowing of the roads so it was a bit of a new experience.

We felt great as we ran along the route.  Although it was chilly and there were no leaves on the trees, the sound of songbirds definitely made it feel more spring-like than the weather we had just left.

The race benefited CARA-Community Animal Rescue and Adoption which is a local no-kill animal shelter. Having adopted many animals over the years from shelters in our area, we were pleased to be able to support this cause. Mike continued his lucky streak and won a nifty neon orange knit cap in the after-race raffle.

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Here is our requisite awkward post-race selfie.

After quickly showering and packing up we left our hotel and headed to the nearest Waffle House for our post-race breakfast. Being Northerners,  we had never been to what I’ve heard is a veritable institution in the south.  Bon Appetit had a great article about Waffle Houses and I had heard on NPR that FEMA actually rates a disaster based on the level of operation at the local Waffle House. Getting to the closest one meant driving about two miles. They are everywhere, not unlike Dunkin Donuts in the north.

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I’m blaming it on the post-race high but I was almost giddy to be eating at a Waffle House. I could hardly keep from blurting out that I was a newbie to our waitress.  (Well, I think I may have actually told her but, like everyone else we encountered on our trip to the south, she was very friendly and hospitable despite having an endorphin-crazed Northerner on her hands).  Pathetic, I know, but true.

Because Mobile was in the midst of its Mardi Gras, we had decided to head back there after the Mississippi race in order to experience more of the festivities. Once in the city we noticed that the majority of people were carrying empty bags. We knew that beads were often thrown off of floats but we were intrigued that spectators were clearly anticipating some significant loot.

We hadn’t eaten since our Waffle House experience so happily returned to the Dumbwaiter Restaurant.  Since we just wanted a drink and appetizers we sat at the bar where we chatted with the bartender who filled us in on the Mobile Mardi Gras,  which is actually the country’s original Mardi Gras.

Mike sampled a couple of beers including a Lazy Magnolia that he loved.

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We liked this glass so much I bought one to add to our collection.

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The Dumbwaiter’s green tomato stack and baked oysters bienville were a perfect pre-parade indulgence.

The Dumbwaiter Restaurant is just around the corner from the parade route so finding a spot to view the parade was easy.  As we waited for the parade to begin we were surprised to be entertained by the Mobile motorcycle police officers as they drove in circles, zoomed up and down the road, and generally “cowboyed around” (Mike’s phrase) as they patrolled the area prior to the start of the parade.  I later wondered if the Mobile police department is able to recruit new officers readily when young parade spectators are inspired to join the force after watching the fun the department exhibits during the parades.

Once the parade began, Mike and I were stunned by the incredible floats that the Mystics of Time presented.

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flowers float

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knightMasked riders on horseback preceded most floats.  As horse owners,we were truly impressed with the calm, steadfast horses that didn’t seem phased in the least as their riders flung strings of beads into the screaming crowds, while marching band drums beat so loudly they reverberated in our chests, and spectators hung from open second floor windows and called for things to be thrown to them.

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You can see the masked throwers on this float.

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People were at every second story window.  Some even held nets out in order to collect the flying goods.

The high school marching bands were plentiful and impressive.

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As the parade continued we went from casual spectators to completely enthralled participants as we waved and yelled to encourage them to “Throw me something, Mister!”. We were rewarded with beads, Moon Pies, a glow stick, giant sunglasses, a huge plastic toothbrush, a plastic oinking pig, a ball, and a plastic cup which conveniently listed the next five Mardi Gras dates. Luckily, a small boy was standing next to us so we were able to share/unload the items we didn’t want to pack into our suitcases.  But we left the parade festooned with beads and more.

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This building was lit up in changing Mardi Gras colors.

We had chosen to run in Mobile after reading about the Joe Cain Classic 5K race.  The Mardi Gras theme appealed to us (even before we knew there was a full-fledged Mardi Gras in the city, as well). So it was not surprising to find the race volunteers dressed in extravagent Mardi Gras attire.  Mike and I adorned ourselves with the beads we had nabbed the night before and felt ready to join the festivities.

The out and back course is billed as flat, fast, and ugly…and I don’t think they were just referring to me in this photo, although that certainly is awful! We ran past the jail and as the race website describes it, “a scenic scrap yard”.  The proceeds from this race benefit challenged athletes.

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Photo credit: Tim Ard

We had a good run and were pleased with our efforts.

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But the best part of the race was the block party after we ran. We have run a LOT of races and we’ve decided this was definitely the best after-race event we’ve ever been to. The block party was held on a little side street a few blocks from the end of the race.  Houses were decorated for Mardi Gras.

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The non-stop music was fabulous and absolutely added to the very festive vibe.  There was a huge array of food including Southern treats like grits and pimento cheese sandwiches. We had enjoyed two beers by 9:30 a.m. and it seemed perfectly normal given the party atmosphere.

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“Joe Cain” was at the party, as well!

partyWe would have loved to stay longer and hang around for the official Joe Cain Day parade but, alas we had to head back to Pensacola to catch our flight. It was tough to leave such a great party but we consoled ourselves with lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp on our way out of town.

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IMG_6130This provided us one more chance to drink sweet tea and sample more Southern cuisine. The atmosphere was fun and the service was excellent.  We left Mobile reluctantly but grateful that we had, once again, had an opportunity to explore a new region with all of the varied food, drink, and experiences that it had to offer.

States: Mississippi and Alabama

Dates Run: Bob Coleman Winter 10K-February 6, 2016

Joe Cain Classic 5K  – February 7, 2016

Race #: 23 and 24

The Bottom Line: Arranging to run two races on consecutive days took a bit of planning but the effort was totally worthwhile.  The Bob Coleman Winter Run was a lovely 10K along a scenic, quiet historic route.  We were pleased to be able to support CARA, the local animal shelter, with our registration fees.

Serendipitously ending up in Mobile during the height of Mardi Gras was a true highlight of our adventure.  Although being on this quest to try to run a race in every state tends to interfere with our desires to return to places we have visited, we have already earmarked the Joe Cain Classic as a race we truly hope to run again.

 

 

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A Month in Pictures

 

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If you look carefully you can see our spiffy “Running Fifty” shoe tags that were created for us by Run Inspired Shoe Tags.  I ordered a pair for Mike for Christmas and got a set for myself, too. The tags arrived within a few days with a lovely hand-written note commenting on our quest to run a race in every state.  We love having such a personal, hand-crafted item tagging along (pun intended) on our runs!

As I assembled these photos I realized there was a definite theme to most of these…skies with silhouetted trees or as the Instagram hashtag I saw yesterday puts it…#stickseason. The majority of these were seen on my runs.

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Bentley and I took a walk in the woods and I was able to snap this portrait of him.

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Mike and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch in Boston at Piattini Wine Cafe.

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black and white

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snow and sun

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Vermont-Maple Leaf Half Marathon and Kotler 5K

Considering that my sister, Kate, lives in Vermont and that it is an easy three hour drive from our home in Maine, it was surprising that we didn’t run a race in Vermont until three years into our quest.  However, we eventually chose the Kotler 5K which is part of the Maple Leaf Half Marathon event.  Running in Vermont gave us the chance to visit with Kate at her spacious country home in the quiet village of Windham.

katie lrBecause her home is just a few doors down from the town church which has the distinction of being the church situated at the highest elevation in Vermont, running from her home offers a wicked hill workout.

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The view from her home across to the mountains is gorgeous.

On the day of the race, we made the scenic half hour drive to Manchester, where the race took place. It is a terrific Vermont town that offers a multitude of restaurants and shops in a stunning valley setting surrounded by the dramatic Green Mountains

We arrived at the Dana Thompson Recreational Park in Manchester where the race began and enjoyed the lovely amenity of ample on-site parking.  As we waited to begin the race, a young trumpeter played the national anthem which provided a truly moving send-off. Our 5K course went through the town and down pleasant residential side roads. At one point, a string trio serenaded us at the side of the road. Near the end of the course we ran on a gravel path through the woods.  As we approached a small wooden bridge we could hear the familiar notes of “Anchors Away” wafting towards us.  Crossing the bridge, we spotted the trumpeter from the start tucked down beside the stream  It was such a fun surprise at the end of our course.  We crossed the finish line hand-in-hand back at the recreational park and were surprised to be presented with this gorgeous pressed-glass medal that was crafted by a local artisan.

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We hadn’t anticipated a medal for completing a 5K and we certainly had not expected the bonus of this exquisite craftsmanship.  At the awards ceremony, winners received slate squares and age group winners were given wooden cutting boards.  (I was 4th in my group…so close!)

As we waited for the half marathon runners to come in we enjoyed an extensive spread of yummy food including cheddar cheese, fruit, made-to-order sandwiches, bagels and assorted spreads, and more. It was truly a scrumptious after-race “buffet”. Instead of a t-shirt we received a spiffy nylon backpack that we have since used multiple times.  We decided to treat ourselves to matching hats, as well.

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You get a glimpse of the mountains in the background (and the strap of my backpack on my shoulder).

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If there was a dialogue bubble over Mike’s head, I’m pretty sure it would say, “WHY is she making me pose for another photo?”  But since he is an unfailingly great sport, he played along.

Because Kate was still busy selling her famous focaccia at the West River Farmers’ Market that morning we stopped at this adorable bistro in Manchester for coffee before meeting her.

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We were able to make it back to Londonderry to the farmers’ market before it was over. It’s a superb market situated along the West River offering a multitude of food and craft vendors.  Live music and a convivial vibe create a fun and festive atmosphere.

When we met Kate, we couldn’t stop exclaiming over how much we had enjoyed our race. The course, swag, and refreshments were awesome.  It is one of our favorite races and we would highly recommend it.  The chance to spend the weekend with Kate was a huge added bonus.  It is possible for others to enjoy that perk, as well, because Kate is now offering rooms through Airbnb at Windham Maples. Her guests have raved about their stays and although we may be a tad bit biased, we wholeheartedly agree.

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We love sitting on the back deck which overlooks a small ravine.

If you are a runner, we would encourage you to consider adding the 38th Maple Leaf Half Marathon or Kotler 5K to your race calendar on Saturday, September 10, 2016. This year the race is partnering with Make-A Wish.  As of this writing, the half marathon registration is a very reasonable $55.00 and the 5K is $25.

Whether or not running a race is on your calendar, if you are looking for a wonderful Vermont get-away, we’d suggest you consider a trip to Windham Maples.

katie treesThe foliage in the fall is spectacular.  In the winter there are major ski areas close by as well as lovely quiet cross country ski trails just around the corner from Kate’s home. Venturing to Vermont in the late winter and spring offers an opportunity to experience maple sugaring. Kate’s trees are tapped by a local sugarer. And of course, summer in Vermont is fabulous and will allow you to add in a trip to the West River Farmer’s Market, as well.  No matter when or why you go, it’s sure to be a treat.
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State: Vermont

Date Run: 9/7/13

Quest Race #: 14

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a terrific fall half marathon or 5K or even just a lovely destination for a weekend trip, we highly recommend venturing to Vermont.  The race was well organized, offered wonderful perks, and was held in a beautiful location. If you want to be guaranteed top-notch hospitality, I can also personally recommend staying at Windham Maples.  A post-race trip into Manchester followed by a visit to the West River Farmers’Market will round out your weekend experience

Women's Running Community

 

 

South Carolina-Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon

Because we started our blog several years after we began our quest to run a race in every state, I have been adding posts about these earlier races periodically. Now that winter has truly arrived in Maine, I am happy to think back to our lovely visit to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  This was the first race that we chose specifically to begin to visit new states and we loved the experience.

The Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon was a fun, flat half marathon that finished along the beach. Information about the 2016 race indicates that the course now includes 5 miles of ocean-front running.  When we ran, the finish was along a winding boardwalk beside the ocean. Music and libations at the after-party made made it a festive finish.  Being able to stroll right down to the beach afterward was a bonus.

The race is known for its surfboard-themed medals.  Ours is also a hefty bottle opener.

myrtle beach medal

Since that early race we’ve been fortunate to travel to seventeen additional states.  Each trip has offered us unique running experiences, unexpected adventures, and an opportunity to meet many fabulous people.  As our quest continues we look forward to the next steps in our journey.

State: South Carolina

Quest Race #: 5

Date Run: October 23, 2011

The Bottom Line: This race offered a chance to do a fun half marathon in a vacation destination.  We welcomed having one more opportunity to soak up some warm sun in late October and to truly launch our quest to run a race in every state.