A hydrangea bush laden with melon-sized blossoms and our desire to support an important cause along with a general wish to send some good vibes out into the world prompted my “Flowers for Goodness’ Sake” pseudo-flower cart at the end of our driveway. The chalkboard sign and framed note encouraged people to “Take what you want – Leave what you’d like” and explained that all donations would go directly to the Cady Tucker Run in the Spirit Race that we had signed up for in Idaho.
Running the Head for a Cure race last summer in St. Louis solidified our commitment to choosing races that support a meaningful cause. So when we searched for a race in Idaho this summer we were immediately drawn to the Cady Tucker Run in the Spirit 5K. Their website has an eloquently written tribute to Cady who was tragically killed in an auto accident. It also outlines the race’s excellent mission which includes purchasing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for area schools.
So in the week before we traveled to the race I started my day by cutting fresh flowers and setting them in old sap buckets by the edge of the road. And as the days passed we received generous donations and thoughtful notes from our friends and neighbors.
We arrived in Idaho late the night before the race and appreciated the 9:15 start time and the two hour time zone difference the next morning as we headed to the race. When we arrived we were impressed by the number of runners, volunteers, and supporters in attendance. The sense of community and passion for the cause was clearly evident.
The event included a 5 mile relay, 5K and 5 mile races, and a kids’ fun run. We opted for the 5K race which was run along a quiet paved path lined with waterways, greenery, and occasional residences. The course was tranquil and flat-just perfect!
The after-race refreshments included a delectable array of fruit and artisan breads which were sliced to order by an enthusiastic crew of volunteers.
I opted for a slice of lemon blueberry bread and Mike was in heaven with his choice of whole grain bread with natural peanut butter-his absolute favorite! These options were clearly a notch above most race fare.
During the race we had run near a couple and their two young children-one in a stroller and the other a little guy who zipped past us repeatedly. We had a chance to chat with them after the race and it came up in conversation that we were from Maine and had chosen this race for our Idaho race. We were encouraged to meet Pat Tucker, Cady’s mom, whom I had communicated with online prior to the race.
It was a true honor to meet Pat. After a few photos she kindly introduced us to the crowd as the couple that was trying to run a race in every state and then asked us to say a few words. Although public speaking is not my forte I was happy to express how much it meant to us to be a part of an incredible event that honored such a special person and that had an outstanding mission.
After we had left the race and continued on our travels I emailed Pat to tell her about our Flowers for Goodness’ Sake endeavor and to let her know a check would be on its way. Her reply was incredibly gracious as she expressed her gratitude for the additional donation. I replied that it had truly been our great pleasure to have been part of their race and to send along some additional goodness from Maine.
Adding this new activity to our racing gave it a whole new dimension beyond our own personal quest. Although this action was small we hope that perhaps those who contributed as well as those who may benefit enjoyed the spirit in which it was offered…for goodness’ sake.
Quest Race #: 36
Date Run: July 21, 2018
The Bottom Line: We will remember this race as one of the most poignant and meaningful races we have done in our quest. Our connection with the people involved with the race as well as the kindness shown by our neighbors and friends at home in Maine will remain a highlight of our adventure. Thank you!
After considering a number of options for our run in Tennessee we decided the Zen Evo Chocolate Lover’s 5K would be a good choice. Our goal was to coordinate so that Amelia could run a race with us. Knoxville is about a 3.5 hour drive from their home in North Carolina so it was a good option. We met Amelia there and drove to Knoxville along with their sweet pup, Jameson.
We took turns snuggling with him in the backseat.
We had booked a house for the weekend through Airbnb and couldn’t have been happier with our decision. The home was spotlessly clean, cozy, and full of welcoming details.
Judy, our host, even left a goodie bag of treats for Jameson, as well as goodies for the humans in our group. The pint of Bluebell ice cream in the fridge with a note saying “in case of emergency” really made us feel pampered-and luckily we did experience an ice cream emergency. Thanks, Judy!
Since the race didn’t start until 10:00 on Saturday morning, I had plenty of time to put the finishing touches on our couple’s costume.
Mike’s enthusiasm for wearing any sort of costume is non-existent. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight and he worried that agreeing to run with 6″ conversation hearts on his back may not allow that anonymity. Undeterred, I persevered with my project in case he relented but I, uncharacteristically, refrained from pestering him into agreeing.
When this wording popped into my head I thought I might have a chance.
He decided with that disclaimer he would go ahead with yet another of my whacky plans…definitely “true love”.
The race was held at the Victor Ashe Park which was about a 20 minute drive from the house. The forecast sounded dire.
It is was dark and threatening rain when we arrived.
We opted to take our requisite awkward selfie before the race.
Although he had relented and agreed to the hearts on the back of his jacket, I didn’t even ask him to add the heart headband.
The course was an out and back on the paved path through the park.
We appreciate out and back courses when we run with Amelia because we can watch for her on her way back while we are still heading out. When we found her she was the third woman but she pushed it up the last hills and ended up coming in as the overall second place female finisher! After completing her race she looped back to us on the course and then dashed back to the end to snap a few photos of us finishing.
We’re crossing the finish line hand-in-hand as we do with all of our quest races. Besides being kind of special, it keeps me from lagging too far behind.
The rain picked up after we finished so we were grateful the awards ceremony was held under a pavilion. We thought the addition of several heaters was brilliant and wished more races offered this luxury.
Apparently stuffed bears are a signature feature of this race. We were handed a bear after we finished. We received one for placing 4th in the couples’ costume contest. Mike placed second in his age group and I got third-and we each got another bear.
But even more exciting was Amelia placing as the second overall female and receiving this gigantic bear. It plays a Shakira song and has flashing red lights! I love the sequence of her expressions as she received the bear.
There was a post-race party at the Hexagon Brewery later in the day which we happily attended.
Although the crowd was a bit small when we were there we enjoyed talking to the bartender/owner who impressed us with the number of activities at the brewery and with the variety of beers they are producing.
Our plan was to venture out into downtown Knoxville for dinner. When we inquired about restaurant recommendations our bartender had enticed us with a multitude of options. However, as we drove back to the house for the afternoon through a downpour the thought of walking around the city in the rain became less appealing despite our sincere desire to explore and experience Knoxville. Eventually we somewhat reluctantly conceded that the option to have dinner in our cozy house and watch the Olympics sounded the most appealing.
We awoke the next morning confident that our decision to stay in had been the right one but feeling really disappointed to be heading home without having visited the center of Knoxville. A quick trip into the city for donuts and coffee gave us a tiny (and sweet) taste of the city. Thanks to Amelia’s research we arrived at a perfect donut shop, Makers Donuts.
They had a delectable array of options.
Although they didn’t sell coffee they were connected to another hip establishment that did.
Amelia and Matt drove us back to Charlotte while we enjoyed some more quality time with Jameson.
As we waited in the security line at the airport Amelia sent us this shot of Jameson looking out the car window after us.
We were sad to be leaving, too.
Date: February 10, 2018
The Bottom Line: Although our plans to experience Knoxville didn’t transpire as we had hoped, we loved having a chance to spend the weekend with Amelia, Matt, and Jameson. Our Airbnb home made the weekend exceptionally comfortable. The race was fun and filled our suitcase with more stuffed bears than we’ve ever traveled with. Mike was a great sport by once again putting up with my crazy ideas and showing his “true love”. What a guy!
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.
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.
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! 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!We also got to observe portions of an intriguing event in Iowa called the Tweed Ride. We had no idea such a thing existed!
When we ran in Seattle we were able to see the famous flying fish in Pike Place Market.
And 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.
Po’boys, hurricanes, and beignets in New Orleans were basically a requirement of visiting NOLA.
Gumbo in Alabama was incredible.
Bill and Terry took us to one of their favorite BBQ joints when they hosted us in Houston.
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.
5. Experience the beauty and diversity of the country I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Deception Pass, Washington
Green Lake, Wisconsin
Mississippi River- Davenport, Iowa
New Orleans, Louisiana
Mount Rainier, Washington
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Cliff Walk- Newport, Rhode, Island
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.
When 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“It doesn’t get more simple than this: walk / jog / run … drink beer … and raise money for local non-profits!”
That first line of the race website described exactly what we were looking for and when we arrived at the brewery we knew we had made a great choice for our first race. Instead of handing out race bibs with numbers, we were given a blank bib and asked to write our answer to the question of the day.
“What would you bring to a desert island?”
And my sweetie wrote “My Swiss army knife” which made my choice even better! It was amusing to read other runners’ answers. “Beer” was absolutely a popular suggestion.
When the race started at 11:00 a.m. the temps were already in the 80’s.
The not very shady but otherwise pleasant course crossed the Mississippi River twice before heading back to the brewery where we were treated to beer, music, and other festivities.
There were a number of shirt options to choose from. I think the one I chose perfectly describes our quest.
We were happy to add another glass to our collection.
Earlier in the summer a perusal of our trusty runningintheusa.com website had enlightened us about Mainly Marathons. It is a company devoted to helping runners reach their goal of running races in every state by organizing a series of races on consecutive days in various regions around the country. By offering races mid-week in adjoining states it’s possible to run in up to seven states in a week.
We signed up for four races in their inaugural Prairie Series.
Our first race of their series was in North Dakota. This race actually ran in Minnesota and North Dakota and runners were able to choose which state they wanted it to count for. All of these races start at 5:30 a.m with an optional early start at 4:30. Although we had happily opted for 5K races, many runners were doing half and full marathons. The temperatures were sweltering so the early start helped runners beat some of the later day heat.
All of the Mainly Marathon races are held off-road in parks, at schools, and similar locations. Runners do a specified number of short loops to cover the designated distance for the chosen race. The races we did had loops of about 1.3 to 2.2 miles.
They use a rubber band system in which after every loop you pick up a rubber band to keep track of your distance.
We gathered with our fellow runners in Minnesota for the start of our North Dakota race.
Before we walked across a short bridge to North Dakota where our race would start we received our instructions:
“Take this Dixie cup and run with it back to the rubber band table and then head out on the full loop. Turn around at the zebra cage and come back for the next rubber band. When you are finished with your race go to the timing table and say, ‘I’m done!’ and they will give you your time.”
These are, without a doubt, the most unusual directions we have ever heard at the start of a race. To be honest, we were a bit foggy about the details, but we followed other runners and asked volunteers as we went along. We did turn at some sort of cage in what I believe was the Chahinkapa Zoo but alas, there was no sign of a zebra although we did hear peacocks. We also heard thunder which got progressively louder and was soon accompanied by flashes of lightning. Part way through our race it began to rain but we were able to enjoy a rainbow and sunrise before it began to pour.
The next morning as we entered the park in South Dakota the sight of figures with single lights on their foreheads moving silently towards us was a bit eerie and made us think of aliens for an instant. Quite a few early runners were already on the course. As the sun rose we were once again treated to a beautiful sunrise and a scenic location.
In all of these races there is one main aid station that runners go past as they do their loops.
Since we were only doing 5Ks we didn’t need much but there appeared to be an extensive selection of food, drinks, (including individually marked bottles and cups for specific runners) as well as first aid and comfort items like bug spray, sunscreen, and Vaseline.
We finished our portion of the Mainly Marathon series with races in Nebraska and Kansas .
We found the runners and volunteers to be exceedingly kind and encouraging. No one was disparaging to us for “only” doing 5Ks. The atmosphere was very low-key. There are no awards for placing. In fact, given the number of loops that runners complete I think it would be hard to keep track of who was ahead of you. Timing is casual-no chips, just a volunteer at the table at the end who gives you your time when you tell them you have finished.
The medal system is quite a collection of hardware! You start with a medal and then add state medallions as you complete them.
We really appreciated the opportunity to run consecutive races in neighboring states to avoid making multiple trips from home. And we found the series to be virtually stress-free (except for remembering how many loops to do and where the course went). But I think we’ve probably done our last Mainly Marathons race.
Mainly Marathons is a for-profit organization (although they noted that they do donate a portion of their income to “various organizations”) and our impression of the event was that the focus of the runners was to complete their races. While those are entirely acceptable reasons for races, we missed the feeling of participating in something beyond our own goals. One of the most rewarding parts of our quest has been to run races which benefited specific causes.
While planning this trip, Mike wisely suggested that we run a couple of races that were not part of the series in order to participate in events that had other beneficiaries. As the week progressed and the Mainly Marathon races became “repetitive and redundant” (note the Gilmore Girls line) the thought of running in a “real” race was refreshing.
The Head for the Cure in St Louis, Missouri was our final race and it was exactly what we had hoped for. This race, which is one of many held by this organization, is devoted to raising awareness and funding to support the brain cancer community. As soon as we arrived we felt a bit of relief to once again be running for a cause other than our own quest. The race took place in Forest Park which is a gorgeous venue.
Despite sweltering temperatures
the race organizers were prepared to keep runners comfortable.
The race route traveled through quiet tree-lined roads in Forest Park. The addition of hills after four totally flat prairie races along with the heat made this race a bit more challenging. But we persevered and were thrilled to cross the finish line and complete our 34th state race.
There were many groups gathering to run in honor of loved ones. The stories presented about survivors after the run were incredibly poignant and really reiterated our feelings about wanting our races to benefit a meaningful cause.
We were surprised to hear our names called during the awards ceremony. I (amazingly) won first place in my age group and Mike won second place. This unexpected bonus completely topped off the fabulous experience of this last race in our week of traveling the prairie states.
In eight days we traveled to seven states and ran in six of them. We opted out of the chance to run in Iowa since we had checked that state off in an unexpectedly terrific experience at the Lagomarcino Cocoa Beano race in October 2015.
Once again, this trip provided us with the opportunity to run some terrific races and see new areas of the country-and an extraordinary amount of corn! More about our travels in the next post.
Date Run: July 15, 2017
Quest Race #: 29
The Bottom Line: The Boom Island Brewery Beer Run was the perfect run to start our 6 state adventure. We loved the idea of writing an answer on the bib instead of being assigned a number.
States: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas
Dates Run: July 17, 18, 20, 21, 2017
Quest Race #s: 30, 31, 32, 33
The Bottom Line: Running four races in four states in five days was an excellent way to check several states off of our quest list. It also gave us an opportunity to experience a totally different kind of race. This was our first opportunity to run a race with a Dixie cup and rubber bands!
Date Run: July 22, 2017
Quest Race #: 34
The Bottom Bottom Line: Running in a variety of types of races during the week, culminating with the Head for the Cure, completely solidified how important it is to us to have the races we run benefit a cause much more significant than our quest. Looking back at all of the races we have done since starting this quest, the ones that are most meaningful are the ones where we felt our presence had benefited something much grander than our adventure. And we are looking forward to many more.
I heard the text ping as Mike and I headed into the second mile of the Shamrock Run in Richmond, VA. Although I didn’t look at the message then, I was pretty sure I knew what it would say. When Amelia ran back to us from the direction of the finish line she confirmed what I had quietly been anticipating. She was the first female finisher!
We had known that Richmond would be the site of our Virginia race ever since our niece, Annie, moved there a few years ago. When we chose this race in late January, Amelia signed up for the race, as well, and Hannah and Todd signed on for the trip. Having run the majority of our quest races on our own, it was such a treat to have Amelia’s husband, Matt, Hannah and Todd, and Annie and Sam braving the chilly temperatures and cheering us on.
Having personal photographers was an added bonus. Annie snapped this shot of Amelia at the start.
And Hannah captured this photo as Amelia zoomed to a win and PR finish. I love the outline of her shadow.
Amelia had been putting in the miles and hard workouts to attempt a PR. We were thrilled that she had accomplished her goal and that we were all able to celebrate with her.
My winter training was decidedly less stellar but we had a good run and were pleased with our finishing time. I even ended up with third place in my new age-group.
Hannah took this photo of Mike and me finishing. We’ve decided she should always come along. We love her company and she took one of my best finish line photos. Plus having her take pictures alleviates the need for our signature awkward post-race selfie.
I think that the person behind us looks a bit like a leprechaun, albeit a big one.
We were a bit dismayed to hear the announcement at the starting line that they wouldn’t be holding an awards ceremony after the race as they had advertised on their website. They had also promoted post-race live music at the brewery. That didn’t happen either. But since we had our own enthusiastic crew to celebrate with we toasted Amelia’s win and enjoyed having the opportunity to share our race experience with family and friends.
We had plenty of time for other fun throughout the weekend. Annie and Sam provided outstanding hospitality and expertly steered us to one perfect restaurant or activity after another.
and dinner at Vagabond on Saturday topped off with a leisurely visit to Carytown on Sunday provided us with a well-rounded sampling of some of Richmond’s delights.
Sure, venturing to unfamiliar locations, exploring the local venues, and chatting with strangers on our own has resulted in many memorable adventures on our quest. But having the opportunity to spend the weekend with people we know and love and celebrate Amelia’s win truly made completing our 28th state race awesome.
Quest Race Number: 28
Date Run: March 12, 2017
The Bottom Line: Running a race accompanied by family and friends is something we hope will happen again. With 22 states left on our quest list there should be plenty of opportunity for more festivities, great photos, and fast finishes.
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.
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.
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.
This gumbo was divine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We liked this glass so much I bought one to add to our collection.
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.
Masked 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.
You can see the masked throwers on this float.
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.
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.
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 extravagant 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.
We had a good run and were pleased with our efforts.
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.
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.
“Joe Cain” was at the party, as well!
We 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.
This 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.
When Mike and I started making plans to run our New York race, we decided we wanted to do a race that was not in the city. After scanning our trusty Running in the USA website, Mike found the Tibbetts Point Run. We were drawn to the location which is on the St. Lawrence River where it meets Lake Ontario. My mother and her parents and grandparents used to summer on the St. Lawrence Seaway, so being in that area had an additional appeal. We signed up for the 10K but there is also a 5K that is run at the same time.
We had the luxury of stopping to stay with my sister, Kate, in Vermont on our way from Maine to New York. That visit and the picturesque views made the long drive much more pleasant.
We stopped in Sackets Harbor, NY where they happened to be having a Canadian-American Festival. We had no idea we would be lucky enough to witness the fire truck pull!
It is a charming town with beautiful views of the lake.
Cape Vincent, where the race is held, is about 25 miles north. After reviewing the somewhat limited lodging options in town I had chosen the Buccaneer Motel for our accommodations. The fact that I had chosen it is significant, because it meant I couldn’t complain. There is a rumor among my family that I have been known to emphatically voice my, shall I say, “not always enthusiastic” opinion when our room didn’t meet my discerning (they say fussy) standards. You would have to confirm that with them.
Although the motel itself was not fancy and offered limited frills (such as soap or shampoo), it was just a few blocks from the race and it was right on the water.
We loved watching the boats on the river heading to or from Lake Ontario and I was completely enthralled with the wind turbines across the river on Wolfe Island.
As we finished dinner the night before the race, I realized that there would potentially be wonderful sunset views at the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse that we had stopped at earlier that day. We raced over just in time and joined lots of others who were there for the same reason.
It truly was stunning.
The race the next morning traveled on a flat course through town and out to a gorgeous route right along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The 10K was an out and back course that looped around the lighthouse. After the race we returned to the lighthouse for a few photos
and then decided to take the ferry across the river to Wolfe Island in Ontario.
Fifteen dollars and 10 minutes was all it took to get us and our car across the river and voila’! We were in Canada!
Wolfe Island is the largest of the Thousand Islands. We loved the quiet, rural feel of the island and the transfixing wind turbines that have such a majestic presence on the island
We wished we had brought bikes to explore the miles of bike-friendly roads.
On the ferry ride back to Cape Vincent we met a cyclist who was heading to Acadia National Park in Maine (our favorite place) and we excitedly shared our suggestions for his visit.
The next morning we followed this small furry creature for a bit
on our way to this coffee shop.
After a tranquil start to our morning, we ended our visit to Cape Vincent and headed home.
State: New York
Date Run: July 21, 2013
Quest Race #: 13
The Bottom Line: This relatively small race features a flat course with a stunning view of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Its proximity to Wolfe Island, Ontario provides an opportunity for a fun, easy trip to Canada.
Although the majority of the races we sign up for these days are in a new state, when Mike suggested we run the Market Square Day 10K again in nearby Portsmouth, NH, we decided it would be a good training run at a festive event.
The morning of the race was sunny with comfortable temperatures. After a light breakfast on the porch we headed to Portsmouth.
Market Square makes a picturesque starting line.
Just under 2,000 runners finished this year’s race which travels through downtown Portsmouth and quiet neighborhoods. Enthusiastic spectators offered encouragement and welcome mistings from garden hoses along the course.
The race finishes at historic Strawbery Banke Museum. Mike and I were happy with our pace and loved the festive feel to the race. Todd and Hannah were at the finish and obligingly took our post-race photo.
We celebrated at our favorite after-run breakfast place, The Friendly Toast and then ventured into the throes of Market Square Day.
River Run Book Store offered people passing by an opportunity to win a prize if they could type a sentence correctly on this typewriter. There was no time limit and since I have had lots of practice with this type of machine (i.e. these were the norm in my childhood), I did it!
I took my ticket to the book store to claim my prize.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that my prize was this wonderful book, Wine and Dine in New Hampshire by Carla Snow.
We continued meandering down the row of vendors until my attention was caught by the Portsmouth Harbor Cruises booth. As I stood there holding my book, one of the women at the booth exclaimed, “That’s my book!”. She was the author of the book I had just won! We chatted about the cruises offered by her company and she signed my book. How serendipitous was that?
We spent some more time leisurely soaking up the music, atmosphere, and fun of Market Square Day.
We love our traveling adventures but we remembered how nice it is to run in our local races and embrace the familiar events of home.
Do you have a favorite race or local event? Would you rather try something new or stick with the familiar?
This post will have a slightly different format because I am letting Mike join in with the blog post-or as he may say “forcing him” to be apart of it. Since this quest was originally his idea, it seems only fair that his point of view be included periodically, as well.
Karen: Early on in our quest to run a road race in every state, we arranged to spend a weekend in Connecticut to run the Fairfield Road Race. I believe we chose it because it was a convenient weekend and it sounded like a good race.
Mike: We decided to do the 5K. We were pleased to find that Fairfield was an attractive beach area that was not overdeveloped.
Karen: There was a half marathon associated with this event which was run the day after the 5K.
Mike: The race was well organized and the flat course helped everyone’s running times.
Karen: Bag pipers played at the start and finish of the race which added a festive air.
Mike: The post race social with free beer at the beach was enjoyable. We chose to take a refreshing dip in the Atlantic after the race.
Karen: We loved being right on the beach at the end of the race. Later in the day we ventured to Silver Sands State Park which had another scenic beach that we arrived at after a stroll down a long boardwalk.
That evening we traveled through picturesque New England towns to Branford where we found Lenny’s -the apparent hot spot of the town.
We opted for a table on the deck and savored the views of the marsh while we ate our seafood dinner.
Mike says he doesn’t remember exactly which beer he was drinking. He’s pretty sure it was a local beer and he’s positive it wasn’t a Bud. Sampling local beers when we travel to new states has become a little side-bar to our running quest. (The pun was unintentional but acknowledged!)
Karen: On our way back to our hotel we stopped for an impromptu game of mini golf at the impressive Sports Center in Shelton. Our trip to check Connecticut off of our quest list ended up being a fun mini-vacation with a terrific race.
Quest Race #: 9
Date Run: 6/23/12
The Bottom Line: Registration for the 5K (June 27, 2015) and the half marathon (June 28, 2015) is still open as of today. The race website states that it is “annually chosen by running magazines as one of the best races in America”. We would definitely recommend it, as well!
with our bodies covered in snow and our faces numb from the wind
we were rewarded with 13.1 miles of running in nearly perfect racing conditions.
The Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon provided this much needed respite from our extra intense Maine winter. Mike and I chose this race for our Texas race because it gave us a wonderful opportunity to visit with great friends, Bill and Terry (who also happen to be Amelia’s in-laws), another dear friend, Rebecca, and my cousin, Janet, and her husband, John. As an added bonus, Amelia signed up to run the race, too. When Mike and I have traveled to new states to do races, we have often traveled by ourselves. Having family and friends to visit on this trip truly made it much more enjoyable.
We flew into Houston
and immediately understood why they say “everything is bigger in Texas”.
Stepping out of the airport into the sunny 70 degree weather started the thawing process. We traveled to Bill and Terry’s lovely home and eagerly ventured out for a walk, daringly leaving our boots and coats behind!
One of the aspects of traveling that we love is having the opportunity to see regional architecture, landscaping, and sights. Finding palm trees lining the spiffy retail area virtually around the corner from their quiet neighborhood was really unexpected.
Bill and Terry took us to Central Market which is a short stroll from their home. We enviously surveyed the vast array of fresh produce, meat, fish, bread, cheese, wine, beer, and so much more that the market offers.
We bought a local beer and some Texas grapefruit to bring home to Hannah.
Dinner was at the renowned Goode Company where we enjoyed some authentic Texas BBQ. This photo isn’t too great but the food certainly was!
The next evening we were enjoying a glass of wine in the living room when four tuxedo-clad men walked into the house and announced that they were there to serenade Amelia with love songs! Her husband, Matt, had arranged this special Valentine’s Day gift. It was a charming experience to listen to this a capella quartet sing beautiful songs just feet from us. Afterward we were treated to some of Bill’s exquisite cooking as we savored a delectable Mexican dinner.
Our race was the next day. Amelia, Mike, and I couldn’t stop commenting on how novel it was to be outside dressed in only shorts and a shirt. The weather was perfect for our half marathon. Cloudy skies and low 60 temps were just what we had dreamed of as we had pounded the pavement slogged along on snowy roads in Maine while training for this event.
The half marathon course was a double loop which was mostly flat. The only hills occurred when the road dipped under overpasses. There were several bands along the route which made for a festive run. We loved being able to see Amelia three times when she ran past us on the other side of the course. She looked awesome each time we saw her which was especially terrific since it was her first race after coming back from a serious injury after running a marathon.
Bill and Terry had biked to the course and cheered us on each time we ran past. This was such an added treat since we are almost always running in areas where we don’t know anyone. They even took pictures!
It looks like I’m praying but I was actually just clapping.
Here Mike has apparently abandoned me and has taken up with some other women!
One of the perks of this race is that you can download all of the professional photos for free. This is one they took of Mike.
Amelia finished first and took some photos of us as we neared the finish line.
Amelia had a great race, missing a PR by just a few seconds. Our race started out strong but I faded near the end of the race. Mike gallantly slowed his pace and stuck with me till the finish. We nabbed our spiffy spinning guitar medals
and headed to the food and beer tents with out little “good for one beer” ticket that had came with our race bib. BUT they were out of beer! How could that happen?? It seemed that everyone would be guaranteed their token (literally) beer with the ticket system. Alas, this was not to be.
Although I was not thrilled with my run, we did get a snazzy shirt
a bonus hat,
and the especially terrific treat of having Amelia with us.
Later that day we were greeted with more Texas hospitality when we arrived at Janet and John’s beautiful home on the outskirts of Houston. They more than made up for the missing race beer by providing us with a vast array of new beers to sample. Dinner was an “epicurean triumph” to use our grandfather’s famous phrase. Once again, having a chance to visit with family added a wonderful new dimension to our racing quest.
A visit to the St. Arnold Brewery the next day continued to compensate us for our missed race beer. We signed up for the tour which includes tokens to sample four of their numerous beers.
Although all of their beers were fantastic, Janet and I enjoyed their Weedwacker brew, Amelia loved the seasonal Spring Bock, and Mike and John seemed to be especially fond of Ale Wagger Brown. St. Arnold Brewery donates a portion of their proceeds from Ale Wagger sales to local animal rescue organizations.
We flew home on Fat Tuesday which was highlighted by our gate attendant’s attire.
Our flight was delayed several hours due to weather-related issues but we were generously compensated with vouchers for use on a future flight. This was a perfect way to end the trip to our nineteenth quest state as we look forward to our next adventure.
Where should we run next?
Quest Race#: 19
Race: Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon
Date Run: February 15, 2015
The Bottom Line: It was worth training in tough conditions for the reward of running in a warm climate. But the truly best part of running in Texas was having a chance to visit with family and friends!