Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon-The Beginning of Our Quest

Today marks exactly four years since Mike suggested the idea of beginning this quest to run a race in every state.  Here is a recap of the race that started this adventure.

We had been loving running in Philly while visiting our daughters who were attending college there.  I don’t recall how we first became aware of the race but after looking at the course map, we decided we were up for the challenge of the Philadelphia Marathon (me) and Half Marathon (Mike).

Although we had both run half marathons before, neither of us had done a marathon.  As a runner, the thought of running a marathon had been something I’d often considered in a vague way. Suddenly, the thought of running the Philadelphia Marathon filled me with excitement and enthusiasm.  Being familiar with the route somehow made running the race seem like something that we could truly accomplish.

Mike and I trained individually during the week and did our long runs together on the weekends.  As my long run miles increased, I attempted to plot out courses that would allow us to run together for the first half and let Mike detour back to our starting spot while I continued on to complete that week’s required mileage.  Despite my sincere efforts to do this, there were a number of runs where Mike’s designated mileage for that run ended several miles from where he planned to finish his run.  As a result, on race day he was fully trained for a half marathon and beyond, having logged more than his requisite training miles.  I felt confident in my 16 weeks of training, as well.

It was still dark as we made our way to the starting line in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art the morning of the race.   The excitement among runners was intense.  As we waited for our wave to head off, the sun rose and reflected off a skyscraper ahead of us.  It was beautiful and seemed symbolic of the momentous event ahead of us.

Since we were running different races, Mike’s wave started ahead of mine. After waves of runners had crossed the starting line, finally my group was off and running down Ben Franklin Parkway, high-fiving the mayor who cheered runners as they crossed the starting line.

Before I even felt like I was truly underway, I was passing the first mile marker where incredible, giant puppets greeted runners. Throughout the race, there was some sort of organized entertainment at every mile.  I remember listening to the Mummer’s band early on and being especially thankful for the pumping music played by frat boys as we headed up a small hill in University City.  And throughout the entire course, there were crowds and crowds of cheering spectators.  At one point, someone yelled something like, “Looking good, Karen” and I know I looked up with a stunned expression on my face, forgetting that my bib had my name printed on it.


Since I had never run a marathon, I was unaware of the tradition of spectators holding inspirational and humorous signs. Some of the ones that I loved were:

For a good time call 555-5555.  For a better time, run faster.

26.3…now that’s just crazy!

Worst parade ever!

Go, random stranger!

The course runs through the city, past historic sites, into University City, through parts of Fairmount Park, and then back to the Museum of Art.  At that point, the half marathon finishes and the marathoners turn left up Kelly Drive toward Manayunk.  I can remember the noise level dropping significantly as we made that turn past the Museum to finish the second half of the race. Running past Boat House Row, beside the Schuylkill River, and along the tree-lined streets of Kelly Drive has been one of my favorite places to run in Philly.  Running through the narrow Main Street of Manayunk was festive as spectators sitting at sidewalk cafes called encouragement as they enjoyed their libations.  At about mile 20 I began having some pretty strong cramping in my right quad but I was able to work it out by stopping to stretch and massage that muscle.

 Our daughters, Amelia and Hannah, arranged to be at two points of the course to cheer us on, despite being in the throes of intense vet and design school workloads. Somehow, I missed seeing them at about mile 9, although they were there.   They were at mile 20, though, and seeing them was just the perk I needed as I headed down Kelly Drive for the last six miles.  Their signs (below) were priceless.



She had just run the NYC marathon in a little over 5 hours and I hoped to finish faster than that....and I did!

She had just run the NYC marathon in a little over 5 hours and I hoped to finish faster than that….and I did!



As I ran the last six miles I remember thinking, “I’m really going to do this!”  The crowds got thicker as we got closer to the finish line. I had been listening to music quite a bit during this second half of the race.  I put on my favorite running song, I Got A Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas (a song Hannah had put on my running playlist a while ago) with about 2 miles to go but as I got closer to the finish I turned off the music and just soaked up the cheers of the crowds and savored the wonderful emotions of traveling the last distance to cross the finish line.  When a volunteer put my medal over my head, I remember just smiling with pure contentment and joy at accomplishing this milestone run. My time was 4:47:15 which was just what I had hoped for.  Even as I was covering the last few miles of the course I was thinking, “I would do this again”.

Mike was at the finish having completed his half marathon run with a strong PR more than 4 minutes faster than his previous best time!  He walked with me as I got the chicken broth they handed out after the finish.  At that moment, it was one of the most fabulous things I’d ever tasted. The support of family and friends was overwhelming. I had gotten encouraging texts from  relatives and friends throughout the day. My cousin, Tom, had waited at the finish with Mike. It meant so much to have others share in and acknowledge our accomplishments.

We eventually headed back toward our hotel in University City with the intention of hailing a cab.  Somehow we ended up walking about 9 blocks before getting a cab, but I was fine with that.  We just kept walking and talking about our races. I was wrapped in my Mylar blanket and we were wearing our medals proudly. Perfect weather, cooperative bodies, amazing crowds and entertainment, and incredible support from family and friends had resulted in a life experience that was everything we had imagined and more.

Good luck to everyone running the Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon this weekend!  Enjoy every moment!




This race shirt is a cherished possession because of what it took to obtain it.

This race shirt is a cherished possession.


My journal entry for race day.

My journal entry for race day.

Date Run: November 21, 2010

Quest Race #: 4

State: Pennsylvania

The Bottom Line: Completing the Philadelphia Marathon is truly one of my greatest accomplishments.  I cannot imagine a better course, crowd, entertainment, or volunteers.  Mike loved the course, as well, and had a stellar race with a strong personal record.  This race was the beginning of our 50 state quest which has, so far, been an experience that has brought us unanticipated excitement, enjoyment, and fun.


A Week in Pictures

Even though I’ve run past this spot probably a hundred times, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks  by the combination of trees and lighting.




On Tuesday, Hannah and I went to Boston and happened to arrive just when the Veteran’s Day parade was taking place.  These photos don’t convey the pride and enthusiasm that was present.


The two small boys holding flags eagerly called out, “Thank you!!” to every passing marcher.  It was priceless.


My lovely warm(ish) runs came to an end this week when the weather became frosty.


Although I loved the stunning foliage this fall, I am enthralled (my family may say, “obsessed”) with silhouettes of trees.


One morning this week I woke up to snow.  The roads were only wet but the landscape had been transformed.


This is the same location as the first photo in this post.


The ice was really emerging in the marsh when Mike and I did our really early Saturday morning run.



I scheduled myblood donation after our weekly long run.

I scheduled my blood donation appointment for after our weekly long run.

Hannah was a natural at driving the tractor we rented to move our compost (AKA manure) pile.


I put in my time on the tractor as well.  I think I want one for Christmas!


Bentley adores this frosty weather.


But he was happy to snuggle up later that evening.



Nature truly provides the most spectacular visions.


Veteran’s Day Race-Delaware

In November 2012 we were in Philadelphia visiting our daughters who were both in college there.  Amelia’s “White Coat Ceremony”, which celebrated the Penn vet students’ transition from their classwork to clinical work, was on  Friday evening.

University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinarian Medicine White Coat Ceremony

University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinarian Medicine White Coat Ceremony


Proud family

Proud family

My brother and his wife joined us for the ceremony and the following celebration at The White Dog Cafe. We thought the name of this restaurant was perfect for a vet student who had just received her white coat!  The food and service were fabulous and we loved our table in the private nook.



After a fun weekend of celebrating this accomplishment we drove to nearby Delaware for the CSC Veteran’s Day 5K in Wilmington on Sunday.  Since we had been staying in Philly and would be driving back to Maine after the race, our time in Wilmington was really brief.

Mike at the CSC Veteran's Day 5K

Mike at the CSC Veteran’s Day 5K

The race headquarters were at Kelly’s Logan House which is a pub close to the starting line.  It was a gray, blustery day-typical for a November run.  The course started off through residential streets but then switched to paved roads that ran through a hilly park.  We liked the park portion of the run which was quiet and scenic.  But most memorable were the members of the Air Force  who ran the race and chanted running cadences.  It was certainly the first time that we had run with the chant of a cadence following us.  It was a nice addition and made the essence of Veteran’s Day much more real. We were glad that our entry fees would be supporting veterans.

Post-run photo

Post-run photo

There were some awards, beer and pizza at the end of the race at the pub. It was a small race with what appeared to be mostly a local crowd. Before we knew it we had checked Delaware off our list and we were heading home to Maine.

What is the most unique addition to a race you’ve run?

State: Deleware

Quest Race #11

The Bottom Line: This race ended up being a “check Delaware off the list” kind of run.  We enjoyed the course and the addition of the Airmen runners. Being able to visit with family and celebrate Amelia’s vet school accomplishment in Philly the same weekend was a definite bonus.



Our adventures in Michigan continued the day after running the 13.Wine Half Marathon.  We enjoyed breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe which was just minutes from the Lakeside Inn on the Red Arrow Highway. The food was appealing and the service was prompt and friendly.

Fruit, granola, and yogurt breakfast.

At the suggestion of our new 13.Wine Half Marathon friends, Ron and Lori, we continued north on the Red Arrow Highway to St. Joseph’s or St. Joe’s as the locals seemed to refer to it. We were impressed by the immense sandy beach and the recreational facilities such as a fountain pool and a remarkable carousel housed inside a glass enclosure.  We walked out to the end of the jetty (?), pier (?) that offered a chance to venture out into Lake Michigan without leaving land.  After our stroll, we thankfully sought refuge in the air conditioned carousel building to escape from the still oppressive heat.  Sitting in comfy chairs watching the carousel whiz by with enraptured children was an ideal way to recover from the heat before meandering up the hill to choose a spot for lunch.


View looking down into St. Joseph’s


Mike on the jetty.

We settled on Caffe Tosi which is a bakery, restaurant, and coffee shop.  The atmosphere was welcoming and the food was just what we were looking for.


We had lunch at Caffe Tosi.



Caffe Tosi

After lunch, our travels continued to Saugatuck, the second place that we had been encouraged to visit.  We found it to be an enchanting water-side town with a multitude of galleries, wineries, and restaurants.


Uncharacteristically, we had no lodging reservations – a situation that we found liberating.  After strolling through the town and scoping out a few establishments, we stopped for tea and then perused the local Yelp listings for some suggestions.


We enjoyed refreshments here while we contemplated our lodging options.

Stellar reviews and a quick call answered by a most welcoming innkeeper directed us to the Beechwood Manor Inn.  A drive of only a few blocks brought us to a quiet, tree-lined residential street.  The Inn was beautiful and as soon as we walked in the door, we knew we had made a wise decision.

The Beechwood Manor Inn



Our room was gorgeous, spotless, and luxurious.


Quiet new-age music was playing when we entered causing me to instantly feel I was in a spa. Bliss!


We enjoyed coffee on the porch the next morning before savoring a gourmet breakfast in the dining room.

Our hosts could not have been more welcoming and accommodating.  They provided suggestions for activities and dinner.  They offered beach chairs and towels for a visit to the beach and had a bottle of wine ready for us after we returned from more touring.  They recommended the Everyday People Cafe for dinner and arranged for us to have a table within moments of arriving there.  The restaurant was buzzing – obviously the hot spot of the area.  We loved our waiter whom we decided was a toss-up between Richard Dreyfus and Billy Crystal.  He was personable and unobtrusively attentive.  Perfect!  The food was, as my grandfather used to say, “an epicurean triumph”.

As we drove back to the inn we had to stop to take pictures of the stunning sunset.  It had been a truly outstanding evening.


The next morning we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast at the inn then began our travels back towards New Buffalo where we planned to  spend the night before flying out of Chicago the next morning.  We had been reading about the dunes as we traveled in this southwestern area of Michigan but had not really encountered them first hand.  The Warren Dunes State Park was on our way to New Buffalo so we decided to stop to see if we could actually experience the dunes.  We were pleasantly surprised to discover that there truly are impressive dunes in the area.





When we reached the top of the first dune we were greeted with more dunes.


The view of Lake Michigan from the top of the dunes was impressive.



The weather had been threatening all day but as we walked near the beach some impressive cracks of thunder and bolts of lightning sent us scurrying for the car.  Our next plan was to visit more of the wineries in Baroda.

Gravity Winery was our first stop. The skies were becoming dramatically dark and thundery as we entered the winery.  We were met by an enthusiastic employee who explained their tasting system where you choose 4 wines and they pair them with cheese for the whites and chocolates for the reds.  After making our tasting selections we enjoyed the weather excitement as we sat on the covered patio to do our wine tasting.031

We were impressed with all of the wines that we tasted and after some pondering we purchased a bottle of Lemberger to take with us.

We had run past Free Run Cellars during the race and we knew we wanted to visit it.  The name caught our attention and also provided a photo op for the typically camera-shy, Mike, who volunteered this perfect pose.



We sampled the wines and loved them.  Sadly, we were unable to ship them home so we left with only a cork screw.  We were truly impressed with all of the wines we tasted while on the Michigan Wine Trail.  We had been clueless about this fabulous wine country. The ability to visit multiple sophisticated and distinct wineries within one town was an unexpected surprise. We loved the intimate feel of these small wineries which clearly invested so much personal devotion to their products.

Our trip continued the short distance back to New Buffalo.  What a difference a couple of days made.  What had been a town teaming with tourists on Saturday was now, on Tuesday, a relative ghost town.  Apparently midweek in late August was not the peak of tourism.  We ventured down to the beach and were met with literally hundreds of seagulls covering the beach…as well as signs indicating that the beach was closed due to E.coli.  Ah ha!  That may have explained the shocking difference in tourists.


Once again, we did not yet have plans for where to stay.  After some research we happened upon the Lake Country Inn.


The Lake Country Inn, New Buffalo, Michigan

Due to the quiet pace of the town there was a sign directing visitors to call a number if interested in the inn.  We called and were assured the owner would be over momentarily…which she was.  She gave us a tour of the available rooms which are all a different, distinct color.  They were all lovely but we/I selected the “Green Room”.  The inviting over-sized chair and ottoman were a big selling point.




This inn also offered towels for the beach, as well as a community kitchen with a fridge for saving leftovers or chilling wine, wine glasses, cork screws, dishes, etc. A continental breakfast is served in the kitchen in the morning.

We settled in and enjoyed our bottle of wine from Gravity before heading across the street to Brewster’s Italian Cafe for dinner.



We needed to leave for the airport early the next morning so we enjoyed a quiet last vacation evening in our indulgently cozy room.




The Bottom Line: What had started out as a chance to run a fun race in Michigan evolved into an enlightening and highly enjoyable mini vacation.  We would highly recommend a visit to this region for a chance to taste fabulous wines, view the stunning beauty of Lake Michigan and the dunes, and to experience the establishments, sights, and culture of the local towns.