10 Reasons to Do A Quest

Doing this quest to run a race in every state has literally been life-changing. When Mike suggested it at the Philadelphia Marathon seven years ago we had no clue what an amazing adventure this would become.  We have become passionate about sharing our experiences and encouraging others to join the fun because we LOVE it!

If you’re intrigued by this concept but running doesn’t appeal to you don’t dismiss the idea. There are a multitude of ways to approach this goal.  My friend, Anita, has begun her quest to hike in every state. We met someone who has their sights set on playing golf across the country. Others are planning to visit every national park.  The great thing about a personal quest is that you can mold it into whatever inspires and works for you.

For us this quest has given our lives a whole new dimension.  It has added a fun spark to everyday life. So regardless of how you approach this endeavor, we would like to offer 10 reasons why we think you might want to launch your own quest.

  1. Increase your geographical knowledge  Although Mike’s geographical skills definitely exceed mine, I will confess that given a blank map of the United States a few years ago I would have failed miserably at filling in the location of many states.  Now I can solidly fill in virtually all of the states with confidence. Of course, spending a little time memorizing a map could have had the same result. However, the spots on the map wouldn’t be associated with actual visual images and memories of each location.
  2. Take part in regional activities When we chose our race in Alabama we had only a vague idea that Mobile had any connection to Mardi Gras.  But we got to experience an incredible Mardi Gras parade and atmosphere first hand in what we learned is the first official city to celebrate Mardi Gras.  It was fabulous!flowers float    We specifically went to Iowa during a presidential primary season since its first in the nation caucus is so famously a part of the political process.  By chance we had an opportunity to go to a Bernie Sanders rally and concert right next door to our hotel!IMG_5615We also got to observe portions of an intriguing event in Iowa called the Tweed Ride. We had no idea such a thing existed!IMG_5639.JPG

When we ran in Seattle we were able to see the famous flying fish in Pike Place Market.

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IMG_6841And these are just a few of the experiences we’ve encountered.

3.  Conversation Starter Whether it’s telling race organizers that we’ve chosen their race to check that state off our list, chatting with fellow runners after a race, or conversing with a waitress during our travels, we’ve loved the conversations that have followed. I’m pretty sure we’ve sparked the urge to try this quest in a number of people. We have been amazed by the enthusiastic responses we receive when we talk about our experiences.

4. Try Local Foods and Drinks  We are devoted to trying local cuisine when we arrive at a new destination.  Cheese curds in Wisconsin were delicious.  Eating them the night before the 13 Dot 1 Half Marathon, may not have been such a good idea, however.

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Po’boys, hurricanes, and beignets in New Orleans were basically a requirement of visiting NOLA.

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Gumbo in Alabama was incredible.IMG_6071

Bill and Terry took us to one of their favorite BBQ joints when they hosted us in Houston.

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We had our first taste of a Waffle House breakfast in Mississippi.  I think the waitress was puzzled by my inordinate level of excitement at dining in a restaurant that is as common as Dunkin Donuts are up here in the north but I was thrilled to experience this icon of the south.

Sampling local beers has also become an integral part of our travels. IMG_5633

5. Experience the beauty and diversity of the country  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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Deception Pass, Washington

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Green Lake, Wisconsin

Baroda, Michigan

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Mississippi River- Davenport, Iowa

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New Orleans, Louisiana

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Mount Rainier, Washington

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Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

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Cliff Walk- Newport, Rhode, Island

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Portland Head Light- Cape Elizabeth, Maine

6.  Meet Incredible People This benefit has truly been one of the most rewarding parts of our quest. The people we met in Maryland couldn’t have been more welcoming and encouraging once they heard about our quest. Multiple people approached us to wish us luck and ask about our adventures-even as we began to drive away!

The couple we met in Michigan after the 13.Wine Half Marathon gave us terrific tips for the rest of our trip. The fellow runners we chatted with at the awards ceremony in Ohio were so congenial we were disappointed not to be returning to visit with them again. And when we gave our name at the packet pickup in Wisconsin the woman at the table exclaimed, “You’re the people from Maine!’ and promptly took our picture.

7. Long Run Conversation Topic Many miles of running have been spent reminiscing about races we’ve done and places we’ve visited.  Debating which race was our favorite or how many half marathons we’ve done has kept us occupied for miles and has provided us with the fun of reliving our adventures.

8. Reward for training in winter We have frequently tried to schedule a winter race in a warm(er) climate.  Since we live in Maine that is not too difficult.  As we crank out our snowy miles we try to keep images of warmer, non-snowy destinations in mind.

007When we step into a relatively tropical climate where the monochrome winter landscape is replaced by lush vegetation and the sun thaws our chilled bodies we agree it was worth every frigid mile we ran at home.

9. Chance to Visit Family and Friends Some of our most favorite trips have been ones that have included an opportunity to visit family and friends.  Janet and John and Bill and Terry provided southern hospitality when we ran in Houston. We paired our Vermont race with a visit with Katie, which is always a treat. Annie was a superb tour guide for our whole family when we ran in Virginia.

Attending our nephew, Branden’s, graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy allowed us an opportunity to run in Maryland.

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When we traveled to Pittsburgh for our son-in-law, Matt’s, graduation from Carnegie Mellon we popped over to Ohio for a fun race with the added bonus of having his parents join us on our side trip.

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The opportunity to spend some time with Jessey when we were in Washington ended up truly being a highlight of a trip that is one of our very favorites.

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10. Really Making a Difference Some of the races we have run have been very small but have been among the most meaningful events. The Hope for Hunter race in West Virginia was a tiny local race that was organized to support children with Hunter Syndrome, a genetic condition that primarily affects males for which there is currently no cure.  An absolute highlight of the event was meeting a young boy with this condition.

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We ran a similar type of race in New Jersey to support research for ALD.  The daughter of the gentleman who founded the Run for ALD foundation and who sadly had passed away from this condition spoke eloquently about her passion for supporting research for a newborn screening that could save hundreds of lives each year.  Mike and I left feeling so pleased that we had contributed to this effort.

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Our most recent race in St. Louis, Head for the Cure, is devoted to raising awareness and funding to support the brain cancer community. Listening to incredible tales of people impacted by brain cancer once again confirmed that signing up for races that had a direct impact on others has truly been one of the most fabulous outcomes of our quest.

We began our quest seven years ago and have run in 34 states so far.  Although we are hopeful that we will cross the finish line in our 50th state race at some point, we can unequivocally state that the journey itself is actually what it’s all about for us. We wish you safe travels and memorable adventures no matter what your journey may be.

Would you like to do a quest?

Are you working toward a goal?

What’s your favorite part of traveling?

Lagomarcino Cocoa Beano 5K-Iowa

Even though we can get to New Hampshire from our home in Maine on foot without considering it our long run, we thought that heading to Iowa in this election season would be a classic time to visit. We had scrolled through possible options on Running in the USA and settled on the Lagomarcino Cocoa Beano 5K. (I just love saying that name!). When a race registration form asks if you want dark or milk chocolate and if you understand that your $39.00 entry fee includes a fleece jacket, it’s a pretty good sign that you’ve chosen the right race. The race was held in Davenport, Iowa which is just over the border from Illinois.  Thanks to a travel tip from my sister, Kate, we realized it would be an easy drive from Chicago where we had found good deals on flights.

The scenery along the drive was miles and miles of farmland which was an interesting contrast to our wooded, hilly Maine landscape.illinois farm land

We arrived in Davenport just prior to the beginning of the packet pickup which gave us an opportunity to stroll around the lovely village of East Davenport and enjoy lunch at Lagomarcino’s.

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We loved the quaint feel of the restaurant.

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The array of home-made chocolates was delectable.IMG_5599

By the time we had finished lunch, the packet pickup had begun at the theater across the street.  The place was packed!  Messages from the race directors had indicated that registration had been closed at 3,700 runners.  It is obviously a very popular race.

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After getting our numbers and wonderful fleece jackets we made a little detour to 11th Street Precinct where we began work on our other quest (sampling local beers).

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About a week before our trip, I had done a quick search for campaign events that we might be able to hit while in Iowa.  I was thrilled to see that there was a concert event called “RockintheBern” which featured a number of local musicians AND an appearance by Bernie Sanders in Davenport on Friday night…and it was free!  So on our way to our hotel, we dropped by the Bernie Sanders campaign headquarters and retrieved our tickets.

When we arrived at our hotel, less than 2 miles from the race, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was in an area surrounded by brew pubs, restaurants, and other attractions. But better yet, as we wandered around the hotel, we realized our hotel was connected to the theater where the concert was to take place by a skywalk.  We could get to the event without even having to venture out into the drizzly night. We couldn’t stop exclaiming over how perfectly it had worked out completely by chance. (There is a possibility that is was just me that kept exclaiming about it…but you get the idea.)

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As we entered the theater later that evening we were caught up in the phenomenal excitement and enthusiasm of the crowd. After hearing about Iowa in election news, it was thrilling to actually be in the midst of true life campaign events.  The concert featured a number of local musicians who all sang politically poignant songs that supported Bernie’s campaign message.

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The audience went crazy when Bernie arrived on stage.  It was exciting to see him in person and to listen to him speak passionately about the issues which are the cornerstones of his campaign.

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My photography skills really suffered during the excitement of the moment.

We left the event feeling a bit stunned at the incredible good fortune to have been able to so easily attend this outstanding event.

The race started at 9:00 a.m. the next day which allowed us the greatest luxury of sleeping in a bit (after having gotten up at 2:30 a.m. the day before to catch our very early flight) and still having plenty of time to get to the race.

It was a bit drizzly as we waited for the race to begin.

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But the crowd waiting to run was enthusiastic and the village was picturesque.

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Apparently the designated national anthem singer had not shown up but after a brief pause in the announcements someone began to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” over the PA system.  They sang beautifully. But even more moving was the moment when the PA system cut out and you could hear all of the runners quietly singing along.  I was completely choked up as I sang, too.  We had a beautiful view of the Mississippi River as we started the race.

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The course traveled through pretty residential (periodically hilly) neighborhoods. We had seeded ourselves back a ways so between plotting our path around fellow participants and enjoying the local architecture and scenery the time zoomed by. The course features a long downhill finish which it felt like we flew down.  The same live band that had sent us on our way added to the festive feel as we headed to the finish line.We happily veered to the side to high five the row of children lining the end of the course. The race benefits the Mississippi Valley Boys & Girls Clubs and having a chance to connect with some of these kids was a highlight of the race. We crossed the finish line holding hands and then were sent into separate lines to collect our milk (me) and dark (Mike) chocolate turtles.  We enjoyed some stretching with a view of the Mississippi River.

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and then stood in line for a cup of Lagomarcino hot chocolate.  This is truly the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted!

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I cajoled Mike into taking a selfie which I am only including here due to it’s hilarity.

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I then insisted we pose for our official race finish photo and nabbed some poor passerby to take our picture.

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We were pretty chilled after the race and happily returned to our hotel for hot showers before venturing out to explore Davenport. Our first stop was Front Street Brewery where we had terrific local beers, good food, and fabulous service.

IMG_5633After lunch we went to explore the bridge that crosses River Drive. I’m sure it has a name but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

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There was a great view of the Mississippi from the bridge.

We were still yearning to return to the ice cream parlor at Lagomarcinos so hopped in the car and drove the short distance back to the Village of East Davenport. We happily indulged in ice cream sundaes with their home-made ice cream and famous hot fudge sauce.

IMG_5638When we were walking around Davenport near the river we had noticed a number of people dressed in tweed riding bicycles.   When we arrived in the village we were pleasantly surprised to find many more participants in what we realized was the Tweed Ride.

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We came across this sign in the village which made me laugh.

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Later in the day we spent some time walking around downtown Davenport and happened upon Cru, a fabulous wine bar.

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As we walked back to our hotel the sky began to glow with that rare combination of light and color.  I literally ran to the river to try to capture the sky before it evaporated into darkness.

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The Mississippi River at sunset.

The next morning we went for an early run and captured the sunrise on the river.

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Before departing for home on Sunday we snapped a few more photos of this wonderful mid-west town.

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Our initial expectations of what we would experience in Iowa were far surpassed.  We never imagined the excitement, fun, and festivities that would unfold on this short but exceedingly terrific trip.

State: Iowa

Quest Race #: 22

Date Run: October 24, 2015

Bottom Line: The Lagomarcino Cocoa Beano 5K is an exceptionally well organized race that offers runners wonderful treats including famous Lagomarcino chocolates, high quality fleece jackets, and truly outstanding hot chocolate.  Our time in Iowa was filled with unexpected bonuses and a surprising opportunity to really embrace the excitement of politics at a personal level.  Once again we were struck by how fortunate we are to be on this quest to run a race in every state because we have found it really is about the journey.