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?

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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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!

 

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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.