Trip to Johns Hopkins University

As most of you know, I spent the last year of my 50 state marathon journey raising money for the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins University.  This is where my Uncle Ron was treated and he chose this nonprofit organization to be the recipient of my fundraising efforts.  They are doing amazing work there and were able to give him a great quality of life for more than 2 years after his initial diagnosis.  They invited me to visit the Center when I was in the area for my 50 state marathon and I asked my Aunt June to join me.

Before I write about the trip, I want to say how helpful and supportive they were during the last year of my marathon journey.  Unlike some large charities such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Center, etc. the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center doesn’t have any specific marathon team or program for “regular” people like me to fundraise for them, so they worked with me individually to support my efforts.  In particular, the two people who were most central to my efforts were Dr. Ralph Hruban and Sandy Markowitz.  Dr. Hruban is the Baxley Professor and Director of Pathology, and Professor of Oncology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  He is currently the Director of the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center which has received recognition for discovering many of the fundamental genetic changes that drive pancreatic cancer.  He was also just named as one of the world’s most highly cited researchers in 2017; see this article for more information.  Sandy is Dr. Hruban’s assistant and graciously tracked all of the donations made in honor/memory of my uncle.  She sent me regular updates and answered any questions I had.  She also organized the itinerary for my visit and sent me lots of helpful maps and information.  Finally, she also greatly encouraged me for my final marathon and even apologized for not being able to make it to the race because she was out of town.

I heard from several people who donated about the thank you letter they received from Dr. Hruban after they made a donation.  This letter was not a standard acknowledgement; Dr. Hruban wrote a personalized letter about my 50 state marathon journey and the efforts I was making to fundraise for the Center.  I even had a couple of people send me a picture of his letter because they were so impressed by it.  Not only did he write such a thoughtful letter, but he called me twice to check in with me and thank me for my efforts.  He also invited me to the Center and organized lunch, a meeting with researchers, and a tour of the research facilities.

I knew that Dr. Hruban was an amazing man even before I met him.  Yet upon meeting him I was even more impressed.  He greeted me and my Aunt June with a hug and introduced himself as Ralph.  Sandy had set up a wonderful catered lunch for us and we got a chance to meet with some of the top researchers who are helping to diagnose and fight pancreatic cancer.  It was so interesting to hear about the work they are doing and the progress they are making.  After lunch and a photo (see below), several of the doctors escorted Aunt June and me over to the research building.  From there, Dr. Laura Wood showed us around the various research rooms.  I can’t even begin to understand the complexity of their research, but you can see from the pictures they are using lots of high-tech equipment in their work.

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Dr. Ralph Hruban in white coat.  Aunt June and I in the middle.

Aunt June and I were so impressed with everything we saw and everyone we met.  This was her first trip back there since Uncle Ron passed away and I am sure it was very hard for her.  However, it was a very positive visit and she got a chance to visit with some of the nurses who had helped Uncle Ron (she did this on her own before we met up for lunch with Dr. Hruban).  It was such a wonderful kick-off to my 50th state marathon weekend.  I felt so uplifted to learn about the work they are doing there, and how the money I had raised would be put to good use.  I wondered how “only” $8,000 could make a difference when they sometimes get grants much larger than that, but they explained that the smaller donations pay for the research that gets them the results they can use to campaign for the larger donations.  That made sense to me, and I hope that everyone who donated, no matter how small the donation, knows that their money made a difference.  There really is no overhead there and the donators will not be constantly bombarded with solicitations in the mail.  Despite the huge difference they are making in the field of pancreatic cancer research, this is a relatively small operation in terms of administration as they want to dedicate most of their funds to the actual work of finding a cure!

If you would like to donate, it’s never too late.  Just be sure to mention that your donation is in memory of Ronald Kiss.  You can click here to learn more about donating.  Thanks!

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Marathon Celebrations

This blog post is about my marathon celebration dinner and additional post-marathon events/notes.  I’m not even sure where to begin because I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness and generosity!  It was such a wonderful dinner and I received so much recognition from so many people that I don’t want to forget anyone.  I guess I’ll just start writing and hope I don’t forget anyone.

Elizabeth was kind enough to drive me to the celebration dinner which was at an old Italian restaurant in Rockville, Maryland.  The dinner was scheduled to begin at 4:30pm so I wanted to get there by 4:00 to set up.  I had reserved a private room for 28 people and pre-ordered everyone’s meals.  We got there before 4:00 and met the woman who owned the restaurant.  We had plenty to do so we had to get going.  I had bought party favors for everyone: red, white and blue pins of the United States map, bookmarks with all states and their capitals, and silver key chains in the shape of the United States.  I had also purchased decorations including various red/white/blue stickers and flags.  I brought a bunch of marathon pictures from throughout the years, starting with my very first marathon.  I had asked the restaurant to put a table off to the side where I could display these pictures.  For a tablecloth I used the beautiful fabric with the United States map that Nancy Wentink from the Marathon Maniacs had sent me.  The table didn’t have enough room for all of the pictures so I tried to display a representative sample and also tried to include some pictures that featured people who were attending the dinner.  Elizabeth and I tried to quickly distribute the party favors, set up the pictures, put out the decorations, etc.  We also had seat assignments to put on the tables since the restaurant had asked where people were sitting so they could bring out the food to one table at a time.  We were wrapping things up as people started to arrive.  Special thanks to Elizabeth for finishing up with these tasks as I greeted the guests.

The guests including various friends, family members, and Marathon Maniacs (also friends).  The family members in attendance were:  my siblings Jennifer, Patricia, and Robert (and Pat’s husband Art); my cousin Tim, his wife Betsy and their daughters Lauren and Ashley; my cousin Tom, his wife Mary Beth and their daughter Charlotte; my niece Danielle; my Aunt June and her nephew Bryan Zelley.  Friends included:  Elizabeth; my friend Laurisa who I met working at Gettysburg College 20 years ago and her husband Jefferson and their kids Elijah, Jade, and Cheyenne; my friend from the Boston area Jen Fields and her husband Chris;  my Marathon Maniacs friends Kip Eldridge, Jody Reed, Karen Goetchius and her boyfriend Bob; my brother’s friend Punchman.  Many of these guests had come from far away (Florida, New York, Massachusetts, southern Virginia, New Jersey) and I was so grateful that they were there to celebrate with me.  In fact, I was more worried about the dinner and the logistics and everyone getting there and having a good time than I was about the marathon that morning!  (Side note about the logistics and people traveling: my sister Jennifer brought a HUGE bunch of balloons that my parents had bought.  She drove them all the way down from NJ and they were so big she could barely see out of her windows.  Special thanks to her for doing that.  She also brought a card from my parents that they had sent to her.)

The room was small but it suited our needs and it was fairly private.  It got a bit warm but Chris turned the fan on over our heads and that really helped.  Leave it to a tall man to notice the fan!  🙂  There were 4 tables of guests and I had ordered a bunch of appetizers for each table.  People were milling about chatting and meeting each other but once the food started to arrive everyone sat down.  The appetizers were delicious—and filling!  We then got to the soup/salad course and there was a lot of confusion about who had ordered what but I had a list and so did the restaurant so we worked everything out.  I got a salad and it was absolutely delicious.  It had golden raisins and almonds, among other things.  By then I think everyone was getting full but there was still the main course to come out!

I decided that while we waited for the entrees to come out that I would get up in front of the group and thank everyone for coming.  I also wanted to introduce the guests because not everyone in the room knew each other.  I started out with the introductions and then went on to thank everyone.  I shared a little bit about my journey and then when I got to the part about my uncle I started to cry.  You see, I had originally planned to finish the 50 states in Hawaii but once my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer I decided I wanted to finish in his home state (which I had conveniently not done yet).  I also realized that more people would be able to make it to Maryland anyway.  I also decided to raise money for pancreatic cancer research during the final year of the journey and my uncle had chosen the charity (the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins University).  By the time of the dinner I had helped to raise almost $8,000.

Unbeknownst to me, two other people in the room had planned to speak as well.  The first was my friend Jen, who had written her comments down.  She said the nicest and most thoughtful things, not all of which I can remember because I was so emotional listening to her.  However, I think she said something about my determination and also my personal marathon record in New York which she and Chris witnessed (and filmed).  She also included two quotes from my dear friend Rich Busa, who just turned 88 years old.  Rich is a legend in the Boston-area running community and I was so touched that he sent the quotes with Jen.  Jen also presented me with the most special gifts.  She had already given me a specially-made medal at the finish line, so I wasn’t expecting anything else.  The medal was enough!  She presented me with this beautiful etched glass “plaque” that commemorated my 50 states finish.  It is gorgeous!  (Side note: Jody said it was nicer than the one the 50 States Marathon Club gives out and that made me laugh!)  She also printed up a list of all of my marathons and said she was going to frame it.  And she gave me a gift that I opened later, which turned out to be a specially-made necklace with “50 States” on one side and “Marathon Finisher” on the other side.  What amazing and thoughtful gifts!  She is such a special person who put such careful thought into these gifts.  I was overwhelmed by her generosity and kindness!!

The next thing I knew, Kip stood up and said he had some gifts for me.  Keep in mind that this is the man who flew up from Florida who I had just met two days earlier (though we had been connected on Facebook).  Kip told everyone that Facebook is a great way to learn about what people like and the next thing I know he was handing me this gorgeous framed photo of Arthur Ashe that had been signed by Arthur and had a certificate of authenticity.  I was speechless.  Arthur is my hero and this was such a tremendously thoughtful and special gift.  I had actually just put up a quote by Arthur in my office at the start of the semester so the gift will look great in my office.  But Kip didn’t stop there.  He had also hand-carved a map of the United States and carved “50 States” into the top of it.  Yet he didn’t stop there either!  He had also hand-carved a butterfly for my aunt!  I was beyond floored by his kindness and generosity.  Kip is an AMAZING human being and I will never forget his thoughtfulness.  (More on other gifts later.)

On to the rest of the dinner, which had come while me, Jen, and Kip had been talking.  Most of us had ordered chicken parmigiana but there were a few other menu items ordered (eggplant parmigiana, chicken marsala, and a pasta dish).  I wasn’t able to finish my dinner because I was very full.  However, the food was delicious!  I went around to each table to see how everyone was enjoying the food and to take pictures.  I took a lot of selfies with people!  I wanted to make sure to have at least one picture of each person who attended the dinner.

We had to be out of the room by 7:00 and we were running out of time, so I asked Jen to inform the restaurant that it was time for the cake, which they were storing back in the kitchen.  You see, Jen had not only flown to Maryland, attended the marathon start, given me all of these amazing gifts but she had ordered a cake too.  (To be honest, I had asked her to do that as a big favor to me; however, when I asked her I hadn’t known she was doing all of these other amazing things.)  I suggested she just go to Costco or Stop & Shop but in true Jen style she found a wonderful bakery called Jennicakes in Kensington, MD.  It was nicely decorated with a running theme and she even added a cake topper that Jody had brought as well as a “finish line.”  So thoughtful!  It was beautiful and it was DELICIOUS!!  Once everyone ate their cake it was time for us to clear out of the restaurant.  It took a while for me to say goodbye to those people who were heading home, and to clean up the decorations and pictures.  Again, thanks to Elizabeth, who so generously helped clean up as I said goodbye to people.  There was quite a bit of stuff to pack up and Elizabeth kindly helped with all of that as well.

dinnercake

Everyone was invited back to my Aunt June’s house for continued socializing and food, but not everyone was able to make it.  Those who came included Jennifer, Danielle, Tom, Tim, Betsy, Marty Beth, Ashley, Charlotte, Elizabeth, Bryan and Kip.  Aunt June had an incredible spread of food in her dining room (which I actually didn’t notice until later in the evening).  She also had a ton of beverages and my sister and cousin brought some drinks too.  It was nice just to relax and hang out.  Some of us played a game using a smartphone which Danielle introduced us to and which was a lot of fun.  As the night wore on, I became more tired so I think Elizabeth and I headed out around 9:30.  Kip left at the same time too.  Tim and Betsy live nearby and Tom, Mary Beth, Charlotte and Danielle were staying at my Aunt June’s house.  I said goodbye to everyone and then headed back to the Airbnb to organize, pack and sleep.

The next morning Elizabeth had an early flight so I got up to say goodbye to her.  My flight was scheduled for 10:55 that night but because it was supposed to rain all day I was able to book an earlier flight for no change fee.  My new flight was at 4:25 that afternoon.  My original plan was to go to the zoo in Washington, D.C. but because of the weather forecast I abandoned that plan.  I had also wanted to go to Top Chef Spike Lee’s burger restaurant but that was in the city too so I wasn’t able to do that.  Instead, I went to brunch in Rockville and then went to Aunt June’s house where we relaxed and read the newspaper.  From there I went to the airport.  I checked my bag (free on Southwest) so that I would be able to put my backpack in the overhead compartment.  The backpack contained some of the special gifts I had received and since they were fragile I wanted them with me on the plane.  The flight was delayed slightly but it still got me to Boston much earlier than my original flight (which would have arrived after midnight!).  I later found out that my original flight was cancelled so I am REALLY glad I changed flights.  I had a full day of appointments at work the next day so it would have been inconvenient to miss any time at work that day.

Back to the gifts I received.  In addition to what I wrote about above, I got a beautiful silver engraved frame from Laurisa; she said that she and her son Elijah had picked it out.  It had the date of my marathon on it.  It was so thoughtful!  She also gave me the most perfect card: it was purple and it had a saying on it that was absolutely perfect for the occasion!!  I am so thankful for her generosity.  My sisters gave me a gorgeous silver bracelet with charms on it, and one of them said “She thought she could so she did.”  This was also a perfect gift and so perfect that my friend Elizabeth gave me a similar bracelet!  However, the charms on the bracelet and the font used for the saying were different so it was just fine!  I was really thankful for the cards and gifts I received.  I really was not expecting anything, especially after people had traveled and given up their time to attend the dinner.  I am a card person, and people know that, so I would have been happy with some cards!  I should also note that a HUGE gift was from my parents who paid for the entire dinner!  That was a big expense!  However,  I joke that since I haven’t gotten married (yet), this was my reception.  LOL.

The gifts didn’t stop at the dinner.  When I returned to work on Monday we had a staff meeting and I was surprised with a card and gifts there.  Very surprised.  I thought maybe they would congratulation me in person but I didn’t expect anything beyond that.  They gave me a bar of dark chocolate, a beautiful medallion, a wonderful card, and a gift certificate to a local spa which I used a few days later for a massage.  I was really touched by their thoughtfulness and I especially loved the card!

giftcard

A week later I was invited to my running club (Greater Framingham Running Club) to share my 50 state marathon story.  I hadn’t been that involved in the club in the past year because I’d been focusing my time and energy on the 50 states (and the half marathons I was doing to train for them).  I was really touched that President Bob Cargill invited me to the meeting.  I was on the agenda at the end of the meeting, and it had been a long meeting so I tried to keep my remarks short.  However, I ended up speaking for over 9 minutes!  I felt badly about that as I know people wanted to go.  J  Unbeknownst to me, Bob filmed my remarks which I was grateful for because I could then show my parents.  He asked if he could post the video to Facebook and I said yes.  I’m glad I was at the meeting because I was able to thank some club members in my remarks, as so many people in the club had been so supportive and encouraging.  I don’t want to name names here for fear I’ll leave someone out, but I think they know who they are.  Even though I had to stop running and start walking due to a knee injury, many people in the club still cheered me on and made me feel valued.  Bob had gotten a cake for me with a thoughtful decoration but since we ran out of time I was able to bring the cake home and then to the office to share with others.

giftgfrccake

I’m not sure I can put into words how thankful I am to everyone who congratulated me on the completion of my 50 state marathon journey, and to everyone who helped me along the way.  The BEST part of this journey was all of the people it involved.  I met some amazing people along the way and there were so many people who had already been in my life who supported and encouraged me.  I still don’t think it’s truly hit me that I completed a marathon in all 50 states; I think I’m still processing the whole thing.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me because I know many people through the Marathon Maniacs who have completed a marathon in all 50 states (some more than once).  However, so many people made me feel like it was a big deal and I am grateful for their recognition and support.  I am truly blessed to be a part of the running community (even though I’m now a walker) and I’m also blessed to have so many special people in my life beyond that community.

What next?  Everyone asks me that.  My next goal is to finish 100 half marathons.  I’m already at 80-something so it won’t take that long.  Half marathons are actually my favorite distance.  I decided to finish in a place where my parents can get to, so I’ll be finishing in Kiawah Island, SC next December.  I’m glad they will be able to be a part of my completion of another big race goal.  After that?  I’m not sure what I’ll do but I’ll be sure to write about it.  🙂

 

50 State FINISH!!

I have been so busy since I returned from my 50th state marathon that I haven’t had time to properly write this blog post.  I didn’t want to rush it because I had so many things to so and I didn’t want to overlook anything.  I also wanted to include some photos and I knew that would take time to put together.  I’m starting this on Wednesday, November 15th but I don’t know how long it will take me to write and publish it.

There were three major events that occurred when I traveled to Maryland during the last week in October.  The first is that my Aunt June and I went to Johns Hopkins on Thursday, October 26th to meet with the doctors and research team at the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins University.  I will write about this visit in a separate blog post because it was an amazing experience and is worth an entire blog post.  The second is the marathon, which I will write about below.  The third is the celebration dinner which I will write about in another post.

The marathon was on Saturday, October 28th in Bethesda, MD.  After an exhausting Thursday at Johns Hopkins, I wanted to take it easy on Friday.  Besides, I usually try to rest the day before a marathon.  I lounged around in bed on Friday at my Airbnb in Bethesda until around noon.  I then went to lunch at a tavern in Rockville I had picked out online.  It was packed so I knew I had found a good place!  Their homemade chips and dipping sauce were the highlight of the meal!  Then I went to get some groceries (lots of fluids!) and after that to pick up my race number and shirt.

Later in the afternoon I met up with my friends Elizabeth and Kip for pizza in North Bethesda.  Elizabeth is from the Boston area and we have traveled to many marathons together.  She flew down to be my support person for marathon weekend.  Kip is a fellow Marathon Maniac from Florida who was doing the marathon as his first one back since knee replacement surgery.  He has already finished the 50 states.  The place I had picked out for pizza was a local dive.  Elizabeth got there first and she texted me that it seemed like a local hangout for high school kids. Lol!  I had picked it because their pizza was highly rated and because they had tons of pinball machines.  I thought that would be a fun place for dinner.  It was definitely “different” and that made it memorable!  We played some pinball and ate some pizza.  It was very casual and that was fine with me.  After dinner I picked up a few things for the celebration the following night and then met Elizabeth at the Airbnb because she hadn’t been there yet.  We went to bed early as we always do the night before a marathon.  I was doing an early start at 7am so I wanted to get to bed super early.

I had a hard time sleeping (no surprise there) and we made it to the start area by 6:35am.  We had agreed that we would meet Kip there as he was also starting at 7am.  He apparently got lost on the way there and was a little late getting organized, so I took the short walk in the woods to the start without him.  I wanted to be sure to start on time because there was a strict 6 hour cut-off for the marathoners who were starting at 8am which meant a strict 7 hours for me.  It was really dark and this was a trail marathon.  I had forgotten to bring a headlamp or any other type of light.  I was able to find the start, and the personnel there didn’t seem too organized.  They didn’t really seem ready for our 7am start (there were 2 other people starting at 7am for a total of 4 of us).  Everything seemed a bit chaotic and I was ready to go so I just decided to start and time myself.  I didn’t have time to wait around past 7am while they got organized and I didn’t care if I was in the official results.

I should note that when I arrived at the start my friends Jen and Chris (married couple) were already there.  They had flown all the way down from Boston to be a part of my 50th state marathon weekend and Jen was doing the half marathon which didn’t start until 9am.  They kindly showed up to wish me well at the start, a whole two hours before Jen would be starting.  That was SO nice of them–not only to fly down from Boston but to show up before 7am in the morning to see me start!!! Elizabeth took a picture of me and Jen and I was off.  I was wearing my red, white, and blue Marathon Maniac short-sleeved shirt, black shorts and my Boston Red Sox dri-fit hat.  I also had a blue jacket on for the early morning chill that I planned to leave at an aid station when I didn’t need it anymore with the hope that it would be donated.

potomacstartfields

I started by myself before Kip was ready to start but he quickly caught up to me.  He had his phone with him which provided us with a little bit of light.  But the sun was starting to slowly rise so it wasn’t too dark for too long.  It was a trail, though, so it was a little uncomfortable not seeing where my feet where landing with each step!  It was a little chilly but I had been running around so much in the morning getting things organized that I was actually sweaty at the beginning.  You can see that in the picture below: lots of shine on my face!

potomacstartsweat

The other people staring at 7am were Jim and Karen (husband and wife) who are also pursuing a marathon in each state.  Jim was hoping for 15 minute miles so went a bit ahead of us.  He told us that Karen was more along the pace of 3 miles per hour so she dropped back behind us.  The course was out  6.55 miles, back 6.55 miles, out 6.55 miles and back 6.55 miles—basically the same stretch of trail 4 times total.  I knew that Kip and I would be alone for at least the first 6.55 miles or so as the next start was not until 8am and that was supposed to be for marathoners who were going to take more than 5 hours.  Kip had ear buds but he also enjoyed talking which was fine with me as long as he understood that I didn’t have the energy to talk.  At that point I still had the energy to listen.  J  However, at one point his phone rang and I was wondering who the heck was calling him so early.  Turned out it was my college friend Suzanne who is Kip’s massage therapist in Florida!  I had known they were friends so it wasn’t a total surprise that it was her, but it was a surprise that she called.  It was great to talk to her for a few minutes!!!

potomacstartliz

The course was along the Potomac River and it was really beautiful and peaceful especially at that time in the morning when hardly anyone else was around.  We saw lots of birds, including geese, mallard ducks and a wood duck.  Kip swears he saw something like a donkey but I’m not so sure about that.  J  Around mile 4 Kip ducked into the woods for a pit stop and I saw some spectators up ahead waving at me.  At first I thought it was my friend Laurie from NH and her husband and daughter but as I got closer I realized it was my Aunt June, cousin Tim, and his wife Betsy.  This was just past 8am so I was really surprised to see them on the course that early.  In fact, I didn’t even know they were going to come to the marathon so it was a huge surprise in general.  It was AWESOME to see them!!!  It was such a nice surprise.  They thought I was all alone but I told them that Kip was taking a pit stop and they eventually saw him pass by.

I hadn’t seen Elizabeth up to that point so I was beginning to wonder where she was.  I had given her a map of the course and the different places she would be able to stop along the way to take pictures and provide me with fluids.  I found out later that she got a little lost and ended up in Washington, DC!  Anyway, my Garmin showed that it was getting to 6.5 miles so I was starting to wonder where the turnaround was because it was supposed to be at 6.55 miles.  I started to wonder if it was even marked!  Since we had started early I thought maybe it wasn’t set up yet.  Someone rode by on a bike coming from the opposite direction and he said that there were some people and a cone up ahead.  Turns out that they were located at closer to 6.8 miles so I knew that the course was going to be long.  They took down our numbers as they were tracking everyone to make sure everyone made it to the turnaround.

Around this time we started to get passed by people; clearly the 8am starters didn’t just include the slower marathoners because there were a number of really fast people in that wave of runners.  I saw in the results later that even a couple of half marathoners had started at 8am.  I guess the race director let them start early.  The half marathon participants were all supposed to start at 9am.  It was fun to start to see people; I even saw someone with a Kenyon tank top (I went to Kenyon).  She was thrilled to hear that I had graduated from Kenyon.  I also saw several fellow Marathon Maniacs which was really fun.  I knew some of them but many of them were just wearing the Marathon Maniac shirt so I said hello.  I was wearing a sign for my uncle on the front of my shirt and a sign for my 50th state on the back of my shirt (see pictures below) so I got some comments.   Apparently the race director gave a speech about me during the regular start so some people asked if I was the one finishing the 50 states.  I was honored that the race director said something but sorry I wasn’t there to hear it.  Some people wished me a happy birthday so I guess they mis-read my signs!

One of the people I saw along the way was Dan Ruiz from the Marathon Maniacs.  I had stayed in a house with him and a bunch of Marathon Maniacs in Alaska a couple of years earlier.  I knew he’d be there in Maryland;  it was SO great to see him!  He even stopped and took a couple of pictures which I was really grateful for because I still hadn’t seen Elizabeth.  Eventually I saw my friend Jen who gave me such a big hug!  I didn’t recognize her at first, but she sure recognized me!  (I was kind of hard to miss in the outfit I had on.)  I also saw my friend Karen Goetchius from the Marathon Maniacs who had traveled with her boyfriend Bob from Syracuse NY to be a part of my special weekend.  (She was also in the house in Alaska and she and I went sightseeing together and shared a rental car there.)  She and Bob were doing the half marathon.  What a pleasure to see her on the course!  Another friend I saw was Laurie from NH.  I can’t remember when I first saw her or how many times I saw her as things became a blur.  But I know I saw her at least twice in the same location.  She is a professor so she brought some papers to grade while she waited for me.  It was SO nice of her to be there!!  She and her husband had traveled down to the area and while he went sightseeing in DC she came to the marathon.  I was so grateful to see her and hear her cheers.

potomacwalking

As I approached the half-way mark (which was at the start/finish area), I saw Scott Barco (known as Barco) from the Marathon Maniacs approach me. Barco was a surprise visitor as I hadn’t known he’d be there.  I did know that he lived in the area, and I had told him what race I was doing, but he hadn’t said he’d be there.  He had the pink flamingo that he always carries with him during marathons.  He wasn’t registered for the race but ended up walking a few miles with me and Kip.  It was great for Kip because then he had someone to talk to since I didn’t have the energy to talk.

potomackipscott

I eventually found Elizabeth at around the half-way mark and from there on she was a constant presence on the course.  She did a phenomenal job of taking pictures and videos, playing music, cheering, and giving me what I needed.  I was so thankful for all of that because I decided to do the second half of the race by myself.  Barco asked me if I wanted him to join me for some of the second half of the race but I told him not to worry about it so he headed out.  I then told Kip he could go on ahead as I was ready to do the second half alone.  And go ahead he did!  He was so fast!  I was so happy for him that his knee did so well!!!

potomacturnaround

I certainly wasn’t alone the entire second half of the race as there were other marathoners out there who had started later than me.  Plus, that trail is a popular one so there were a lot of local walkers, bikers, and runners.  It was a beautiful day and the next day was predicted to rain all day so I bet all of the locals were out because it was going to be the one nice day of the weekend.  There were definitely stretches where I was alone, but never for very long.  Walking on the same stretch of trail for the fourth time became a little tedious, especially as I approached the later miles.  However, once I headed back for my final 6.8ish miles to the finish line, I knew I wouldn’t see the trail again.  Looking for the geese and ducks kept my mind occupied.  My father really likes birds, so whenever I see birds during a marathon I think of him.  And even though my mother absolutely hates squirrels, seeing one during a marathon makes me think of her!  LOL!

The last few miles were tough, as they always are during a marathon.  I started to slow down a bit, in part to savor the last few miles of my final marathon.  It was starting to get warm, too, so that made me go more slowly.  I started to wonder when I’d start to see the finish line.  I knew the course was long (according to my Garmin) so I didn’t know exactly when I’d hit the finish line (turns out it was 26.7 miles).  As I got closer to the finish line, I saw that there were a bunch of people there.  I also heard some music and some cheers of “So Good!  So Good!  So Good!” from the Neil Diamond song “Sweet Caroline” which is always played at Fenway Park during Boston Red Sox games.  I had actually been fine emotionally up until that point, but seeing the people waiting for me at the finish got me emotional.  I saw a big Congratulations banner and giant “50” balloons and I also saw people I didn’t know were going to be there—my niece, cousin, and his wife and daughter.

Elizabeth captured my finish on video and you can see me wiping away the tears as I approach the finish line. I think it finally started to hit me that I had finished a marathon in all 50 states!  And I was so touched that so many people were at the finish:  Jen, Chris, Laurie, Kip, Karen, Bob, Tom Kiss, Mary Beth Kiss, Charlotte Kiss, and Danielle Black (my niece).  I hope I’m not forgetting anyone!  The first person I saw as I crossed the finish line was Jen, who had a special medal for me that she had made (see picture below).

nikemedal

I ended up hugging every single person who was there for me, despite the fact that I was very sweaty.  I was just so thankful and grateful that they were there.  We talked a bit and took pictures and I was given a special gift by the timers (a portable light that was given out to age group award winners).  I was also given a medal by the race but it was the wrong one as they had forgotten a box of medals.  (I finally got the correct medal and a finisher’s certificate in the mail the other day.)  We then headed back to our cars so that we could go back and get ready for the dinner.  All of the people at the finish line were joining me for my celebration dinner except for Laurie.  Elizabeth and I had less than 2 hours to get back to our Airbnb, shower, and get to the restaurant to decorate for the dinner.  Thanks to Elizabeth for driving me so that I could relax in the car and eat my favorite post-marathon snack:  sour cream and onion potato chips!

 

50statesfinishcrew

I’ll post the next part of my marathon weekend blog as soon as I can.  The next part will be about the celebratory dinner that night.

 

Marathon Superlatives

One of my friends who finished a marathon in all 50 states a couple of years ago came up with a list of marathon superlatives so I thought I would do the same.  It was fun to reminisce about my journey as I thought about these different categories.  Happy reading!

 

Alison Black’s Marathon Superlatives

Most Scenic: Mt. Desert Island (ME), Maui Oceanfront (HI), and Breakers (RI)

Hottest: Casper (WY) felt the hottest but the hottest in terms of actual temperature was Missoula (MT) (real feel of 106 degrees)

Coldest: Luckily I didn’t run any really cold marathons.  The coldest ones I can remember were Rocket City (AL) and Little Rock (AR) but they weren’t too bad.

Wettest: New Jersey Marathon (NJ) and Des Plaines River Trail Marathon (IL)

Cancelled: St. Jude Memphis Marathon (TN) (due to ice)

Toughest Hills: Tennessee, West Virginia, and Maine

Favorite Medal: Freedom’s Run (WV), Route 66 (OK), Newport (OR), and Maui Oceanfront (HI)

Most Remote:  Shiprock (NM)

Flattest: Gasparilla (FL) and Kiawah Island (SC)

Largest:  Boston Marathon (MA) (25,000+ runners)

Smallest: Backcountry Trail (NV) (17 marathon runners but there was also a 50K going on)

Best crowd support:  Boston (MA) and Twin Cities (MN)

Best shirt:  Maui (HI) and Oakland (CA)

Best post-race food: Des Moines (IA) and Little Rock (AR)

Most boring: Desert Classic (AZ)

Made the most new friends: Richmond (VA) which was my first Runner’s World Team experience, Utah Valley (UT) which was my first Marathon Maniacs reunion, and Yakima River Canyon (WA) which has a lot of Marathon Maniacs and friendly people

Best overall trip:  Anchorage, (AK) (amazing scenery, wildlife, sightseeing and stayed in a house with a bunch of Marathon Maniacs) and Maui Oceanfront (HI) (ran with 2 of my best friends and spent a week in paradise)

Best communication:  Steamtown Marathon (PA) (the emails from the Race Director were hilarious)

Best signs along the course:   Des Moines (IA) and Indianapolis Monumental (IN)

Earliest start:  3:45am (unofficial early start) in Missoula (MT); 4:30am official early start at Maui Oceanfront (HI)

Latest start:  Boston Marathon (MA) (somewhere between 10:30am and 11:00am)

Toughest overall:  Crazy Horse in SD; from miles 11 to 19 it was a gradual uphill in high elevation.  It was the one marathon I considered quitting.

Most unique friends made on course:  Walked most of the Chattanooga Marathon (TN) with two police officers who were serving as the “sweepers” of the race.

Craziest story:  Omaha (NE).  Started early with a friend (with race director’s blessing); turns out the official marathon start was delayed because someone was shooting at cars who were on the way to the race.  Luckily we learned this after the marathon was over; we also learned later that we were only a block or so away from the shootings at the time they happened (thankfully no one was injured).

Best lodging experience:  Hallmark Resort in Newport (OR).  Stayed in an Oceanside hotel with a view of the ocean; could hear the ocean waves at night.  Coeur d’Alene (ID).  Stayed at the Flamingo Motel which has themed rooms and is incredibly charming and quirky.

Craziest Weather:  Indianapolis Monumental (IN) (hailed in the middle of the marathon) and Des Plaines River Trail (IL) (thunderstorms, flooding, mud, and torrential rain)

Most logistically-challenging to travel to: Maui Oceanfront (HI) and Shiprock (NM)

Most fun overall: Mystic Places (CT) (my first marathon!  Had a blast!) and Boston 2011 (I knew it would probably be my last Boston Marathon so I had so much fun with high-fives, hugs, pictures, etc.  Smiled the entire time.)

Most painful:  Mississippi Blues (MS) (I went to sit down on the toilet at the finish line and screamed out in pain.  My knee was in severe pain.  Eventually I learned that I had no cartilage in that knee so I have been walking all marathons since then.)  Maui Oceanfront (HI); got a severe blister on the bottom of my left foot.  Ended up having to go to Urgent Care where I got two antibiotics and a cream and had minor surgery on my foot as it had filled with rocks and sand.

Best expo:  Boston Marathon (MA)

Most frequent roommate/travel companion:  Elizabeth Trask (originally from ME, now lives in MA).  We experienced many marathons together:  WV, IA, WI, NE, MO, and WY.  We also communicate a lot during marathon trips that we don’t do with each other.  She’s a great support!

Nicest race directors: too many to list but I will point out the RD of Clarence DeMar (NH) who mailed me my backpack I had left at the race, Bill Morton from Runs with Scissors (CO) who is a super nice guy who is very supportive, and Kaz from Tobacco Road who was so nice, friendly, well-organized and who ran me in to the finish line.

Inaugural marathons run:  Chattanooga (TN) and Savannah (GA)

Best friend made on course:  Lori Hatcher Furr, my “running angel” at the Savannah Marathon (GA); I wasn’t feeling well and stopped at the medical tent.  Lori and I met up and walked the last ~6 miles together.  This was at a time when I was running marathons so walking was not something I was used to, but it got me to the finish line.

Most animals seen during marathon:  Casper (WY), Maui Oceanfront (HI), and Big Wildlife (AK)

Worst overall experience:  Louisiana Marathon (LA) (got lost, was sick, and got hit by a car; don’t panic, it was very minor and basically just tapped me) and Utah Valley (UT) (super early bus ride to the start, lots of unexpected hills, very hot, and ran along a highway with exhaust from cars)

Best carbo-loading meal: Indianapolis Monumental (IN) (restaurant with Marathon Maniac friends) and Yakima River Canyon (WA) (pasta dinner organized by race with speaker Kathrine Switzer).

Most Emotional:  Indianapolis Monumental (IN) (occurred a week after Hurricane Sandy so I wore a sign supporting the Jersey Shore); Running on Middle Path at my alma mater Kenyon College (OH) was very emotional.  I’m sure the last one will be most emotional but I haven’t done that one yet (typing this on 10/19/17).

Best Organized:  MANY of them were very well-organized but the ones that stick out the most are Rocket City (AL) , Tobacco Road (NC), and Steamtown (PA)

Most Surprising City:  Des Moines, IA—best farmer’s market I’ve ever been to and amazing restaurants; also was surprised by the great food scene in Grand Rapids, MI

Fastest time:  4:44:37 at the Mohawk Hudson Marathon (NY)

Slowest time:  7:17:46 at the Casper (WY) marathon (my official slowest time is 7:27:13 at Des Plaines River Trail in IL but I did 26.92 miles there because I had gone off course to get my rain jacket)

Best volunteers: Garmin Marathon (KS) and Des Plaines River Trail (IL)

Least favorite shirt:  Hartford (CT) and Little Rock (AR)

Best local support:  Steamtown (PA)

Most unique starting line: Steamtown (cannon) and Garmin (hot air balloons)

Most unique finish line:  Fargo (ND) (finished in the FargoDome and was on the Jumbotron)

Best swag: Mississippi Blues (MS)

Most walker-friendly:  Little Rock (AR), Des Plaines River Trail (IL) and Grand Rapids (MI)

Missed the Start:  Nevada.  Got lost trying to find the marathon and started 20 minutes late. (long story but my GPS didn’t work in the desert and there were no houses or businesses there; I was about to give up as I was driving away from the desert when I saw a lady walking her dog who ended up helping direct me.  If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have made it there.  She was an angel.)

Worst Overall trip:  Arizona; got sick after the marathon (food poisoning or a stomach bug) and was in bed for almost 3 days

Most historical:  Freedom’s Run (WV) (ran through Antietam Battlefields)

Did Not Start:  Running from an Angel (NV) (got a sinus infection)

Thanks to all of my friends and family who came to one or more of my marathons to spectate:  Scott Rowe, Christina Carico, Robert, Rosemary and Shane Black, my parents, Jennifer Limone, Peter Bunnell, Danielle Black, Christy Boese, Chris Setters, Mark Zaremba, Kathy Weber Stickney, and anyone else I have forgotten!

Thanks to my friends who came to run and/or walk a marathon with me or who traveled to a marathon with me (who aren’t named above as a spectator):  Don Yeaton, Bill Paradis (R.I.P.), Laurel Valley, Jen and Chris Fields, Mary Ruhl, Laura Gorycki, Elizabeth Trask, Seanna Kerrigan, Deborah Peters, Carla Birnberg, Kip Eldridge, and anyone else I have forgotten!

Thanks to the MANY friends I met along the way.  Thanks to the many people I shared hotel rooms, rental cars, etc. with! Thanks to the many hardworking volunteers and race directors who made all of these races possible!  I could not have done this without the support of so many people!!!!

 

Marathon List

I finished the 50 states!!  I haven’t had the time to write a blog post about it but for now I thought I’d provide this list of marathons that shows what I did to complete a marathon in each of the 50 states.

 

Alison Black’s 50 State Marathon Journey

October 26, 2003:  *Mystic Places Marathon in Mystic, CT

May 30, 2004:  Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT

October 14, 2006:  Hartford Marathon in Hartford, CT (2nd time for CT)

April 16, 2007:  Boston Marathon in Boston, MA

October 20, 2007:  Breakers Marathon in Newport, RI

April 21, 2008:  Boston Marathon in Boston, MA (2nd time for MA)

September 28, 2008:  Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, NH

May 3, 2009:  New Jersey Marathon in Long Branch, NJ

October 11, 2009:  Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA

February 18, 2010:  *Gasparilla Marathon in Tampa, FL

April 25, 2010:  *Earth Day Marathon in Gambier, OH (home of my alma mater, Kenyon College)

October 10, 2010:  Mohawk Hudson Marathon in Albany, NY (this occurred on 10/10/10, was my 10th state, and they gave me bib number 1010)

November 13, 2010:  Richmond Marathon in Richmond, VA (part of Runner’s World team)

April 18, 2011:  Boston Marathon in Boston, MA (3rd time for MA)

May 15, 2011:  Delaware Marathon in Wilmington, DE

May 21, 2011: Fargo Marathon in Fargo, ND (this race qualified me for the Marathon Maniacs by completing 3 marathons in 34 days)

October 16, 2011:  Mt. Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor, ME

November 5, 2011:  Rock ‘n Roll Savannah Marathon in Savannah, GA

December 10, 2011:  Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL

April 28, 2012:  Derby Festival Marathon in Louisville, KY

June 9, 2012:  Utah Valley Marathon in Provo, UT

October 7, 2012:  Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, MN

November 3, 2012:  Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, IN

November 18, 2012:  Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, OK

January 20, 2013:  Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge, LA

February 24, 2013:  Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, TX

March 3, 2013:  Little Rock Marathon in Little Rock, AR

April 20, 2013:  Garmin Marathon in Olathe, KS  (this marathon qualified me for Iridium level in the Marathon Maniacs by completing 9 marathons in 9 states in 365 days)

December 14, 2013:  Kiawah Island Marathon in Kiawah Island, SC

March 16, 2014:  Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC

April 5, 2014:  Yakima River Canyon Marathon in Yakima, WA

October 4, 2014:  Freedom’s Run Marathon in Harpers Ferry, WV

October 19, 2014:  Des Moines Marathon in Des Moines, IA

April 25, 2015:  Runs with Scissors Marathon in Brighton, CO

May 24, 2015:  Coeur d’Alene Marathon in Coeur d’Alene, ID

August 16, 2015:  Big Wildlife Moose’s Tooth Marathon in Anchorage, AK

September 20, 2015:  Fox Cities Marathon in Menasha, WI

October 18, 2015:  Grand Rapids Marathon in Grand Rapids, MI

December 5, 2015:  *Backcountry Trail Marathon in Las Vegas, NV

January 9, 2016:  Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS

January 30, 2016:  Desert Classic Marathon in Surprise, AZ

March 6, 2016:  Chattanooga Marathon in Chattanooga, TN

June 4, 2016:  Newport Marathon in Newport, OR (birthday marathon)

September 18, 2016:  Omaha Marathon in Omaha, NE

October 9, 2016:  Crazy Horse Marathon in Hill City SD

November 6, 2016:  Bass Pro Conservation Marathon in Springfield, MO

January 15, 2017:  Maui Oceanfront Marathon in Kihei, HI

April 2, 2107:  Oakland Marathon in Oakland, CA

May 15, 2017:  Shiprock Marathon in Shiprock, NM

June 4, 2017:  Casper Marathon in Casper, WY (birthday marathon)

July 9, 2017:  Missoula Marathon in Missoula, MT

October 14, 2017:  Des Plaines River Trail Marathon in Lincolnshire, IL

October 28, 2017:  Potomac River Run Marathon, Bethesda MD

 

*this marathon no longer exists

49 Down, 1 to Go!

desplaines

State #49 was my second-toughest marathon to date.  I did the Des Plaines River Trail Marathon in the Vernon Hills area of Illinois.  The trail was absolutely beautiful but unfortunately the weather was not.  There were thunderstorms, floods, mud, and torrential rain.  I can deal with most of that but I have a huge fear of lightning so that was incredibly scary.  Trail races are small so I was often out in the woods by myself.  I was so worried that a tree would get struck by lightning and fall on me.  There were a few open air sections where I was the tallest thing around and that was scary because I know you are supposed to keep low to the ground if you are outdoors during a thunderstorm.

I had seen the forecast all week but I tried not to worry about it because forecasts often change.  Unfortunately this one didn’t.  I got to the parking lot near the start of the race and it was raining so hard I just sat in my car and waited for it to lighten up before I headed out of the sheltered car to get my race number and shirt.  Luckily I had a rain jacket and a poncho with me.  Once I got my number and shirt I went back to the car to try and stay dry before the race started.  I decided to leave my rain jacket in the car but wore the disposable poncho.  A few minutes before the race started I went to look for some Marathon Maniac friends who I knew would be there.  We took a picture and then headed to the starting line.  It was a wave start so the slowest people (including me) started in the back.

Around 2.6 miles into the race we passed the starting area.  As I got closer to that area, I was debating whether or not I should leave the race course and get my rain jacket.  It was relatively warm but it was raining so hard I started to worry about hypothermia.  I was only wearing a tank top and a running skirt.  The disposable poncho was soaked and wasn’t giving me any warmth.  I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry so I went to my car.  I knew this would add distance on to my race but figured it was worth it.  I ended keeping the jacket tied around my waist for a lot of the race but I was SO glad that I had it the few times I did feel the need to put it on.

The race was an out and back all on a trail, and there was also a half marathon and 50 mile race going on at the same time.  The half marathoners started after me but eventually caught up to me since I was walking.  However, they turned around much sooner than I did so for most of the race I was by myself.  Trail races usually have fewer aid stations and this race was no exception.  However, the aid stations they did have were awesome and offered all sorts of food and drink.  I got pickle juice at the 14 mile mark and gingerale at two other aid stations.  Those volunteers were real troopers to be out in the rain all day but most of them had tents so at least they could stay somewhat dry.

The worst thunderstorms occurred in the second half of the race.  At one point I was so tense about the lightning that when a 50 mile racer passed me and cheered for me I got so spooked and screamed that she had scared me.  I was so focused on the weather that I didn’t even hear her coming!  I felt badly and so did she.

As the race progressed, I noticed how much distance I had added on to my race because of the diversion I had made to my car.  Plus, Garmin watches in the woods are not always reliable.  In addition, races are measured in a certain way and most runners don’t follow the exact path that the course was measured.  Besides, I had to get around all sorts of flooding and mud so my path along the race course was full of lots of zig-zagging.  One section of flooding was so bad and there was no way around it; it was ankle deep and I had to just plow through.  Many sections were so muddy with no way around the mud; there were several moments were I began to slide in the mud and almost fell.  Luckily I caught myself from falling each time.

When I hit the 25 mile marker and my watch said almost 26 miles I was so disheartened.  I knew that the trip to the car had added distance to my race but I knew it wasn’t that much.  Knowing I still had to go another 1.2 miles when my watch said I was almost at 26 miles was really hard to take.  Mentally it was a real struggle to keep going.  However, as I got closer to the finish line I started getting passed by more 50 mile racers who encouraged me.  I really appreciated that.  I started to very slowly jog, in part because I was anxious to get to the finish line and in part to work different parts of my muscles.  I had been out in the pouring rain for over 7 hours and I just needed to be done.

I wanted to look at my time when my watch said I had completed 26.2 miles and I did:  7:12:09.  That was not my slowest marathon time to date but it was close.  When I finally crossed the official finish line, my watch said 26.92 miles and a time of 7:24:XX (can’t remember the seconds exactly).  That was my slowest official time for a marathon but I like to think it was closer to the 7:12 time since that was the time for 26.2 miles.  I stayed around the finish area long enough to eat a burger and some food, and then I changed into dry clothes.  I threw my running shoes and socks out because they were way too muddy to pack in my bag and take on the plane.  (Side note: I wore an old pair of Altra Olympus running shoes that I hadn’t worn in 2 years because my Hokas haven’t seemed wide enough. I did end up getting blisters that day but that was due to the flooding.  I didn’t have any blisters as a result of the shoes not being wide enough.  After the blisters I got in Hawaii I knew how to treat them and I am happy to report that my feet have recovered by now.)

I had barely enough time to get back to my Airbnb and shower before I had to head out to make it to my dinner reservation on time. I went to Blue Door Kitchen in Chicago which is owned by famous chef Art Smith.  It was still pouring rain that night so I decided not to drive and ordered a Lyft.  I had a WONDERFUL meal and great service and was so happy that the marathon was done.  It was one tough race!

Race Updates

mainehalf

Maine Half Marathon Expo, 9/30/17

Since my last blog post I have completed 3 more races.  First was the Westport Half Marathon in Westport, MA.  This is a beautiful seaside town in southern MA.  The race director kindly let me start the half marathon early since there was a 3.5 hour time limit and I knew I’d be close to that.  This was really kind of him and I was really appreciative of the early start.  The course ended up being really rural so it was a little unsettling to be out in the country by myself.  I barely saw anyone else; the first aid station wasn’t set up either.  However, I knew that was likely to be the case so I had my own fluids as I always do.  My favorite part while I was by myself was seeing cows along the course.  I talked to them as I always do when I see animals, and that was fun.  I pretended that they understood me and were appreciative of my conversation.  Lol! (You do some interesting things to keep yourself from getting bored when you’re walking lots of miles in the country by yourself!)

Eventually the route took me along the ocean and that was such a welcome sight.  It was a little windy but otherwise it was humid and slightly warm.  I was really happy to smell the salt air.  It was strange not to see anyone at the beach but it was off-season and the weather wasn’t great for beach-goers.  That stretch of the route had a lot of trailers along it where I think people live during the winter.  Imagine living next to the ocean!  Even in winter that must be so cool.

Eventually the route took me away from the ocean and it was around this time that the faster runners caught up to me.  In fact, eventually most of the participants caught up to me and passed me.  This is in large part why I wanted to start early—so I wouldn’t be finishing by myself in the way back of the pack like I usually do.  Not many races allow early starts for slower participants so I take advantage of it when I can.  It’s nice to finish while there are still people around, and all of the food and beverages haven’t run out yet.  J

Once I crossed the finish line I quickly grabbed some food and drinks and put them in my car.  I had planned to do another 5 miles to get to 18, so that’s exactly what I did.  I ended up heading back out on the course the same way I started, but I started to get even more unsettled that I was by myself in the country.  I’m not sure why, but I was feeling spooked.  I started to think about Vanessa Marcotte from Princeton MA who was attacked and killed while out on a run in the country last year.  This was obviously not a healthy thing to be thinking about, but it helped me move a little more quickly.  I decided to turn around a little bit sooner than I needed to and finish up the mileage closer to the finish area where there were more people.  As I was heading towards the finish line (again) someone honked and cheered me on.  If I had really been finishing the race it would have been way past 4 hours since the race began!  It was kind of that person anyway even though I had finished over an hour earlier.

I headed back to the hotel for a shower before I drove up to the Boston area to meet up with my friend Elizabeth.  Elizabeth and I met via social media; she is also doing a marathon in all 50 states.  We have traveled to many marathons together and she is a good friend.  We met up in Somerville to see the movie “Stronger” about Jeff Bauman who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.  He was played by Jake Gyllenhall in the movie.  The movie is based on his book “Stronger” which I had signed by Jeff twice (I met him at a book signing and then when he spoke at a professional development conference).  It was very emotional to see the movie but they did a good job with it and the acting was really good.

The second race I completed since my last blog entry was the Maine Half Marathon in Portland, Maine.  I have done this race more times than I can remember.  It’s such a great race; they also have a marathon but most people do the half marathon.  It’s very well-organized and scenic.  I love Portland so it’s a great excuse to go there.  I stayed in an Airbnb near the start, which is located right near the University of Southern Maine.  When I went to pick up my number the day before the race, they told me I was not registered.  WHAT?!  I was sure I had registered many months earlier but I couldn’t find the confirmation email.  Luckily they still had numbers available so I was able to register on site.  I still haven’t had time to go back and check my email and/or credit card statements but I will do that eventually.

I intended on completing 20 miles total so would walk 7 more miles after I finished.  This is exactly what I did.  After I crossed the finish line I grabbed some food and drink and walked to my car to drop them off.  I did drink some chocolate milk which is a great thing to do after a long run/walk but in retrospect I should have waited until after the 20 miles as I think it made me feel nauseous.  While at my car I also changed my shoes and shirt.  It was very warm and I was soaking wet with sweat.  It was nice to be able to change my shirt.

As for my shoes…well, I did something that most runners know not to do.  I bought new shoes at the expo the day before the race and wore them on race day!  This isn’t as crazy as it may sound because they were the manufactured by the same company that makes the shoes I was used to wearing (a company called Hoka).  However, they were a different model.  I haven’t been able to find any running shoe that fits my wide feet very well.  I always have trouble with my right foot, in the area near the last two toes.  This part of my foot always get cramped and blistered during a long walk.  The Hoka representative convinced me that this different model was wider than most and would work better.  Well, they didn’t.  However, they didn’t feel any worse than any other Hoka model I had worn so I wasn’t upset with my decision to wear them.  I did decide to change them after the race before I headed out for the 7 additional miles, though.  I figured a fresh pair of shoes would feel better on my feet.  And they did!

I was really, really tired after the half marathon and that chocolate milk made me feel nauseous so it took every ounce of physical and mental energy to head out there for 7 more miles.  At least I had somewhere scenic to complete those miles:  the Back Cove in Portland is a body of water surrounded by a crushed gravel trail.  I think it’s about 3.5 miles around so I figured I would have to walk around it twice.  There were lots of people there and even some birds (I love birds!) so it kept things interesting.  Unfortunately, I got a little lost on the trail so I ended up getting off the trail and going on the street at one point.  But it worked out just fine and I literally got back to my car at exactly 20.0 miles!

The third race I completed since my last blog post was just 2 days ago in Newport, RI.  Newport is one of my favorite places to visit so I was really excited about it.  I was staying in an Airbnb about 20 minutes away because Newport is way too expensive.  The race started and finished at Easton’s Beach next to the ocean and this is where number pick-up was on Saturday.  It was CRAZY at packet pick-up and I had to wait in a long line.  At least I had my phone with me to keep me occupied.  And in true Alison form I tweeted about the crowd.  Lol!  I was rewarded for the wait by a really nice goody bag that had drinks, chips, a KIND bar, and all sorts of swag.

After number pick-up I went to my favorite Newport restaurant: Brick Alley Pub.  Newport was crazy-busy with tourists.  I guess there was some sort of festival going on, plus it was a holiday weekend and the weather was really nice.  As usual, Brick Alley Pub had a long line of people waiting but I headed upstairs to the bar and sat down right away.  I got the same thing I have been getting for over 25 years—the buffalo chicken pizza.  I can’t really explain why it is so good but I have never had anything like it anywhere else and since I like to have pizza for my carbo-loading meal it worked out great.

I headed back to my Airbnb and was in bed by 8pm.  The next morning I had hoped to leave for the race around 6:15am but it ended up being more like 6:25am.  The race wanted all participants to park in a satellite lot and take a shuttle to the start but since I knew Newport pretty well I had scoped out other parking closer to the start.  I went to the area I had checked out the day before only to realize that I had mis-read the parking signs and it was resident permit parking only from 6am to 6pm.  Oops.  I drove around a little bit until I found a street that didn’t have a sign.  Another runner was there and he said he’s parked there every year and didn’t have any problems.  I decided to trust him (and didn’t get a ticket!).  It was at least a half mile walk to the start but that was okay because I needed to get my muscles moving.  It was around 90% humidity and warm which was awful.  But at least it wasn’t sunny!

The race officially started at 7:30am but they had 3 different wave starts that began started a few minutes apart with me and fellow slower people starting closer to 7:45am.  The race almost immediately goes up a very steep hill which I knew but it was still awful.  A fellow walked asked if it was my first half marathon, perhaps because I was in the way back huffing and puffing up that hill.  I had to chuckle and tell her that I had completed more than 80 half marathons and more than 50 marathons.  She didn’t say anything more after that.  Lol!

The weather conditions were not great as I don’t deal well in the warm temperature and humidity.  I was close to the back of the pack most of the time, but I did pass several people along the way.  It’s a beautiful course, taking us past the marina, some farms (I saw horses, a sheep, and an alpaca!) past the ocean and then the famous Newport mansions.  The section next to the ocean had an incredible headwind but at least I was rewarded with the beautiful scenery of the ocean and I saw several birds.  At one point the road was flooded because the ocean waves had been crashing off a wall into the road.  Everyone around me tried to avoid the ocean spray but I intentionally got as close to it as I could and ended up getting soaked by a big wave. That was fun and cooled me down a bit.

Eventually some tour buses came along the narrow road next to the ocean, and at first some of use though they were “sag wagons” picking up the slower runners.  I was initially mad about that because I knew I was under the time limit; besides, we had started late because we started with the third wave.  Once we figured out that they were tour buses I felt a sigh of relief.  However, the buses had a lot of trouble maneuvering the narrow road with all of the racers and they were puffing exhaust fumes out of their tailpipes.  I was getting very annoyed by that.  Eventually, once the route turned away from the ocean and on to Belleuve Ave (where the mansions are), the tour buses moved ahead.  Thank God!

By this point in the race (around 9-10 miles) I was tired and ready to be done.  Usually I have very strong mental fortitude during a race but this time around I was struggling.  I started to slow down.  I thought about quitting but I just don’t have it in me to quit (unless there is a medical emergency).  I figured at that point I was going to finish and it was okay if I slowed down.  Right before the finish we were able to walk down that big hill that we had walked up.  I was too tired to even try to jog it.  The race finished right in front of the ocean which was really nice.  This time the 13.1 miles (or 13.32, according to my Garmin watch) would be enough.  I was not adding any miles on because I knew I had my Illinois marathon two weeks later.

It started to rain as I headed towards my car.  I thought I’d take a “short cut” on the Cliff Walk to get to my car but I ended up getting lost.  And it ended up raining really hard. I was completely soaked and I probably walked almost a mile to find my car.  I texted my Airbnb host to see if I could stop by and take a shower on my way out of town and luckily she said yes.  I was completely soaked so it was really nice to be able to shower, especially because I was heading into Boston to meet up with an Emerson College student for lunch.

I forgot to mention that my knee has been hurting me the past 1.5 weeks, the knee that caused me to switch from running to walking in the first place.  I actually woke up on Sunday morning before the race in Newport wondering if it would be a bad idea to do the race because of my knee pain.  However, I decided that it would be best to try because I had two more marathons to get through so this would be a good test.  I iced my knee when I got home after the race, and I’ve been putting anti-inflammatory ointment on it.  It feels a little better today.

I hope to get a couple of walks in this week but I’m really busy so that might be tough.  I leave for Illinois late afternoon on Thursday.  The marathon there is on Saturday.  I have some sightseeing planned on Friday, but most of it will keep me off my feet (boat tour and bus tour).  I still have a lot of details to plan before I leave and I have a lot to do before I leave, but hopefully it will all come together.  Unfortunately right now the weather forecast for the marathon is for temps in the high 70s and possible thunderstorms.  The high temps are bad enough but lightning is the one weather condition I don’t ever run/walk in.  L  Let’s hope the forecast changes!  The marathon is on a trail in the woods so it won’t really be safe to be surrounded by trees if there is lightning.  If worse comes to worse I’ll have to do the 26.2 miles in Illinois on another day when there isn’t lightning.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen!

newporthalf

Garmin watch results and medal from Amica Newport Half Marathon, 10/8/17