My Profile

@RunnerMeg

Midlothian, VA Raving since 2017 Boston Marathon finisher, 50 states aspirant/finisher, Marathon Maniac #10193 active 1 day, 21 hours ago

About Me

  • Running club(s):

    Marathon Maniac, 50 States Club

  • Rave race:

    Missoula Marathon, Jackson Hole Marathon

  • Race that's calling my name:

    Antarctica!

  • I run because:

    I’m goal oriented and love that sense of accomplishment when I cross the finish line. Finishing 50 states will be huge, and I can set my sights on other countries, continents, and distances.

My races

Organize, track & review your races and personal bests here.

Personal Bests (1)

Race Distance Location Date Result
8 hr Spotsylvania, VA 2013 33 mi

Future Races (6)

Race Distance Location Date Paid
Marathon Gilsum, NH Sep 24, 2017
Marathon St. Charles, MO Oct 1, 2017
Marathon Hartford, CT Oct 14, 2017
Marathon Indianapolis, IN Nov 4, 2017
Marathon Lahaina, HI Jan 14, 2018
Marathon London, United Kingdom Apr 22, 2018

Past Races (48)

Race Distance Location Date Result My Raves My Performance
Marathon Malvern, IA Sep 9, 2017
Marathon Frenchtown, MT Jul 9, 2017
Marathon Fargo, ND May 20, 2017
Marathon Lincoln, NE May 7, 2017
Marathon Severna Park, MD Mar 26, 2017
Marathon Cape May, NJ Mar 26, 2017
Marathon Lafayette, LA Mar 12, 2017
Marathon Lake Village, AR Feb 11, 2017
Marathon Huntsville, AL Dec 10, 2016
Marathon Memphis, TN Dec 3, 2016
Marathon Huntington, WV Nov 6, 2016
Marathon South Hero, VT Oct 9, 2016
Marathon St George, UT Oct 1, 2016
Marathon Jackson Hole, WY Sep 3, 2016
Marathon Lead, SD Aug 21, 2016
Marathon Aspen, CO Jul 16, 2016
Marathon Traverse City, MI May 28, 2016
Marathon Cincinnati, OH May 1, 2016
Marathon Louisville, KY Apr 30, 2016
Marathon Olathe, KS Apr 16, 2016
Marathon North Kingstown, RI Apr 10, 2016
Marathon Chattanooga, TN Mar 6, 2016
Marathon Apache Junction, AZ Feb 14, 2016
Marathon Milwaukee, WI Jan 31, 2016
Marathon Oakridge, OR 2016
Marathon Little Rock, AR Dec 19, 2015
Marathon Rehoboth Beach, DE Dec 5, 2015
Marathon Tulsa, OK Nov 22, 2015
Marathon Columbus, GA Nov 7, 2015
Marathon Bar Harbor, ME Oct 18, 2015
Marathon Chicago, IL Oct 11, 2015
Marathon Ashton, ID Aug 22, 2015
Marathon Snoqualmie Pass, WA Jun 14, 2015
Marathon Hopkinton, MA Apr 20, 2015
Marathon Austin, TX Feb 15, 2015
Marathon Kiawah Island, SC Dec 13, 2014
Marathon Staten Island, NY Nov 2, 2014
Marathon Anchorage, AK Aug 17, 2014
Marathon Two Harbors, MN Jun 21, 2014
Goofy Challenge (39.3 Miles) Lake Buena Vista, FL Jan 11, 2014
Marathon Avalon, CA 2014
Marathon Richmond, VA 2013
Marathon New Holland, PA 2013
Marathon Chesterfield, VA 2013
50K Williamsburg, VA 2013
8 hr Spotsylvania, VA 2013 33 mi
Marathon Kitty Hawk, NC 2012
Marathon White Sands, NM 2012

My Raves

Wabash Trace Marathon

Wabash Trace Marathon

This was my 45th state and 51st marathon, getting Iowa checked off the list. It's very small but that's a good thing in my opinion. Here are the pros and … MORE

This was my 45th state and 51st marathon, getting Iowa checked off the list. It’s very small but that’s a good thing in my opinion. Here are the pros and cons as I saw them:

Pros:
-Small – low key race production and minimal communication until the week of. No spam just important info leading up to race day.
-Easy packet pickup day of or day before. Took two minutes.
-Pasta dinner was at a restaurant and was actually pretty good. Could buy ahead of time or there.
-Transportation to the start – only about 100 marathoners so pretty easy. They had buses that took us to Malvern.
-Start was at a school so indoor hangout area and real bathrooms.
-Good amount of aid stations, about every two miles and then about every mile after mile 20. Gatorade and water with some food and power blocks.
-Great course! There are about two miles on roads in Malvern, shaded and easy, then a rail to trail fine limestone surface for the next 22 miles or so. It’s all blessedly shaded for the first 23-24 miles with only some gaps of sunshine. Scenic and peaceful, I was alone or nearly so for much of the run which is ok with me. You’re running by corn fields and farms. Supposedly bugs can be a problem but I sprayed myself down and didn’t notice or hear about any issue on this day.
-Medal – it’s a wooden medallion with the logo. Very unique and pretty. The shirt was okay, not a fan of the color but long sleeve and technical with the great logo on the front.

Cons:
-We started a bit late, not sure why.
-Mile signs were off on the trail portions but seemed fine and on target by the end. I logged over 26.35 miles.
-Age group awards only went two deep. I got third. But it’s a small race so this is understandable.
-Heat. Certainly not the race’s fault but be aware. The start was cool, about 60. Warmed up to above 80 by the last few miles. The shade and breeze made the difference but the last couple of miles were warm.

Overall I thought this was a great low key marathon. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for an alternative to a city marathon. They do a nice job in the organization and it’s a cute little town with a few good places to check out. I recommend the pasta dinner the night before and The Sanctuary restaurant is great for lunch or post-race meal. The Shenandoah Inn and Suites is great for the start and bus loading as well as the finish – two blocks away.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3
My Media

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Missoula Marathon

Missoula Marathon

This was a big deal for me - marathon #50, state #44, so I'm going to start by mentioning that the week leading up to race day, the forecast was … MORE

This was a big deal for me – marathon #50, state #44, so I’m going to start by mentioning that the week leading up to race day, the forecast was calling for 100 degree high temps, higher than normal morning temperatures, and no end in sight to the heat wave. This was of course disconcerting! The RD handled this well, reassuring those that contacted the organization that this wasn’t too unusual for the area and time of year and explaining that the medical team would be involved in any adjustments that were made in the next few days. They posted on social media and in emails to participants as well.

The race org did decide to make some adjustments, including shortening the course cutoff time from 1:30 to 12:30. They also allowed deferrals and distance changes after the deadline. As a fifty stater on my last six marathons, I didn’t want to defer; it is an expensive place to travel to and we had other plans after the race so I decided to take my chance with the temperatures.

Back to the days leading up to the race: depending on your plans and budget there are some options for getting to Missoula. You can fly into the town’s airport, fly to Spokane and drive, or fly into Kalispell/Glacier airport which is what we did since we’d be visiting after the marathon. It’s about 2.5 hrs to drive to Missoula.

There are several hotel options. We stayed in the Doubletree which was unfortunately over-priced but convenient and on the river. You can walk to the bus loading area and back from the finish. There are several great restaurants and breweries within walking or cheap Uber distance.

Friday has a Beer Run event which is in the afternoon. I didn’t run it but it was probably 98 degreees for that event! Saturday has the 5k and expo which is held at a park by the river next to the farmers’ market. There are several vendors and great race merchandise. At this point the forecast was still showing high temps for race day and sunny skies.

Tip: Go to Ciao Mambo for pasta Saturday night but show up a few minutes before they open. It fills fast but the food is great!

So, Sunday rolls around. Bus loading is between 4:15-5:15. It’s a smooth loading and drop off process to the start. There are tons of portajohns and tables with water and cups available. The temperature was a lovely 62 degrees. The National Anthem was played, the fireworks went off and the race started at 6am sharp.

The course is beautiful, with mountains, river views, farmlands, and lovely homes. There is one large hill and a few rollers but it’s not bad. There was a lot of shade along the course, more than expected actually, and a nice breeze. The 3:50 pacers did a great job and were fun to run with. And amazingly the temperature was not that bad, but probably close to 80 by 9:45. It is a dry heat though! The absolute best part, other than the large number of aid stations (roughly every two miles until the last 10k when they were every mile), was the community support. Cold, wet sponges at a few stops and tons and tons of sprinklers, misters, and hoses. It made such a huge difference. Yes, my running buddy and I were drenched but dried pretty quickly at the end! The cold water was amazing and frequent the last six miles.

The finish is on the bridge by the park where the expo was and is festive with good food and beer. The medal was very nice – I love the Run Wild Missoula logo and they did a good job with the bling. The shirt was pretty good too.

Bottom line is that it’s a very well done race. It’s well organized and marked, and the half is its own race basically; they start farther down the course and you don’t really merge with them unless you’re running really fast; the course is not congested but they also mark lanes for half and full after the merge point. There’s lots of support from police, volunteers, and the community. The event organizers took precautions when it looked like the weather might affect the welfare of the runners but they didn’t panic and cancel it like some races might have done. It ended up being a great day to run and well worth the trip! I highly recommend the race, especially if you’re a fifty stater looking for a summer race / Montana marathon. Also, the race photos are included, and it’s a short drive up to Glacier – it’s worth it!!

Well done, Run Wild Missoula!!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
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Fargo Marathon

Fargo Marathon

Fargo was my 49th marathon and honestly it was so perfectly organized I was taken aback a little bit. I'd heard good things but really, I thought, how good or … MORE

Fargo was my 49th marathon and honestly it was so perfectly organized I was taken aback a little bit. I’d heard good things but really, I thought, how good or different can it be compared to the other 48? From start to finish, it was fantastic.

All of the pre-race communication was helpful and timely leading up to marathon day. There are lots of other events during the week for anyone interested. There’s also a pub crawl after the main events on Saturday. The expo and packet pickup was super smooth and quick, and there were lots of vendors and merchandise.

I stayed at Candlewood Suites right next to the Fargodome; super conveneient as I walked to the expo and start/finish in just a couple of minutes. There’s also a grocery store and CVS nearby for last minute necessities. Pre-marathon dinner at Grazie’s was excellent too (drive not walk).

Weather forecasts were predicting rain up until the day before and lo and behold, it stayed off until well after noon. Awesome cool and overcast conditions, couldn’t have been better!

The start and finish in the Fargodome is so nice. Plenty of bathrooms, warm, lots of space. They start loading up the chutes early enough to get everyone in and do a staggered start. Wheelchairs went at 7, then a couple of minutes later the rest of the marathoners went. Half runners went at 7:15 and 10k a few minutes later.

The course has a lot of turns but was perfectly marked with road paint, signs, and volunteers. I never felt crowded or like I couldn’t find my stride. Plenty of water stops every 2 miles or so with lots of volunteers on either side of the road. The roads were also marked to direct half/10k/full runners and keep us separated to a certain degree.

The course was very nice as well. There were some very pretty neighborhoods and a few places where we ran in a great scenic park. Just a really nice, varied course with only a few small hills.

The finish area back in the Fargodome was nicely appointed with chocolate milk, pizza, fruit, etc. The medal is very nice and the marathon shirt is a great hoodie.

I highly recommend the Fargo Marathon. Great atmosphere and organization!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5
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Lincoln Marathon

Lincoln Marathon

Weather can play a huge role in Lincoln, NE and this year's race was a good example. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and the … MORE

Weather can play a huge role in Lincoln, NE and this year’s race was a good example. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature climbed quickly from 60 to 75+.

Aside from the weather, the race is very well organized and the course very well marked. The start is adjacent to the football stadium and there’s an indoor practice field with bathrooms where you can hang out until the start. The finish is on the 50 yard line of the football field which was very cool.

Runners are supposedly organized by pace and bib color though I saw zero indication that this was enforced which is too bad. There is a wave start with a minute or so in between each wave. The gun went off at 7 and I crossed the line around 7:10 in the 8:00-8:59 pace wave.

The first several miles felt kind of congested, with lots of weaving and dodging slower runners. I’m not saying I’m a speed demon but people weren’t seeded very well and one of the half marathon pace groups had a huge group taking up most of the road. After four or five miles things spread out some and by the 13 mile mark it was wide open!

This race did water stops very well, with not just one or two tables but several spread out over a significant distance with alternating water and Gatorade. I loved this. If you missed your shot at the first table it was ok, there were a few more chances just steps away. They also had lids and straws on their paper cups which was crazy to me at first but so nice. Additionally, it was a hot day and the water was SO nice and cold. It was kind of amazing actually. Pouring it on my head felt great. People were giving out bags and cups of ice too, which was a lifesaver in the second half as there was little to no shade. I also snagged an otterpop which tasted divine.

Overall the course wasn’t bad. There were some pretty park areas, residential streets, downtown etc. I would not call the course flat at all though. It’s not a monster but there are several hills and the back half has some rollers. I’m okay with hills but it shouldn’t be called flat.

Finishing in the stadium was cool and the medal was pretty good. Water and Gatorade, Pepsi, chips and chocolate milk were among the food options at the end. I think half runners cleaned out the cookies and other treats though, those tables were empty.

Again, weather could make or break a race here but I squeaked in under 4 and call that a win. It’s a good race with great support from the National Guard and community. I’d recommend it, especially for those running the states. Sign up early, it does sell out.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
3
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B&A Trail Marathon & Half Marathon

B&A Trail Marathon & Half Marathon

I ran the 25th B&A Trail Marathon in Severna Park, Maryland (basically Annapolis). This was an easy add for my race calendar as it's a relatively short drive from home … MORE

I ran the 25th B&A Trail Marathon in Severna Park, Maryland (basically Annapolis). This was an easy add for my race calendar as it’s a relatively short drive from home and I needed Maryland for my 50 states quest.

B&A is put on by the Annapolis Striders running club, and it is obvious they know how to put on a race. This event, from start to finish, was great. It was extremely well organized, the course was well marked, and they clearly know what runners want to see at a race. To me, it’s not all about bands and entertainment on the course. It’s about the little things – having a warm place to sit and stretch before the start; having easy access to bathrooms before the start; marking the course well and having enough water along the way, etc. There’s nothing glitzy about it, it’s just a very well run and enjoyable race.

In keeping with my preference for low-stress, low-hassle events, I found the small packet pickup/expo to be perfect. The expo, start, and finish are all at Severna Park High School, there’s ample parking, and it’s fast. I was in and out of there in about 5 minutes after getting my shoe chip, bib, and awesome zip-up fleece (in place of a t-shirt they offer a different premium each year), and exchanging some pleasantries with the volunteers. Packet pickup was available the day before and the morning of if needed (a nice amenity that few races seem to offer).

The start was low-key and awesome. My husband dropped me off so I can’t speak to ease of parking, but it looked like if you arrive a little early it wouldn’t be a problem as the school lot was large. I hung out in the warm school cafeteria, used the school bathrooms (there were also portajohns outside) and then made my way out to the start, literally right outside the front doors. This is a half and full marathon and we all started together (there were no corrals, as this was a small race of no more than 750 half runners and 300 full runners, but there were helpful pace signs to seed people). After the National Anthem, we were off right on time.

About the course: don’t let the word “trail” in the name fool you or scare you off. This is actually a rail-to-trail paved running/biking path so nothing technical or even dirt. We all ran a mile or two in the neighborhoods before jumping on the path for the next 6 or so miles, turning around, and running back. At around 12.9 the half runners turned left toward the finish at the school while the rest of us kept straight past the halfway point before turning back around mile 19.5. It’s basically two out and backs but in different directions. The path was open for others to use but there weren’t any problems. Also, technically headphones were prohibited as the path intersects with roads a few times so runners needed to be alert. I didn’t bring mine though I did spot some runners who wore them anyway. I thought I might be bored without music but surprisingly, it wasn’t a problem.

Full disclosure, this is not the race for you if you’re a crowd-driven runner. Basically the only people out there were the volunteers who were awesome and enthusiastic, but other than that it’s you and the other runners, and after the half split off, it got pretty quiet. I don’t have a problem with that and in fact prefer it most of the time so I found it serene, but just be aware of the type of race you’re signing up for. In terms of scenery, it’s mostly residential around the path; not mind blowing scenery, but pleasant. As for difficulty, I found it to be a nice mix of flat, downhill, and uphill: just enough variation to keep it interesting and let your leg muscles change it up from time to time. There was really only one “big” hill around mile 7. As for aid stations, they were located about every 3 miles which ordinarily would make me carry me own fluids, but I chanced it and it worked out just fine in the cool temps. Plenty of water/gatorade available.

The finish line was just the other side of the start line back at the school. After crossing the mat, I collected my nice medal (which doubles as a bottle opener) and went inside to peruse the results. There were massage tables, water, and a variety of food available. Usually I don’t feel like eating right after a race but the pizza smelled too good to pass up. I grabbed a slice, checked the results, and met my husband outside. The finish and exit from the scene was a breeze.

My bottom line is that it’s a great race, especially if you want to run in Maryland and maybe avoid the bigger events. This is a very well organized event and as far as I could tell, went off without any problems. Even the weather cooperated: after a week of forecasting rain and snow on race day, it ended up cool and overcast: perfect running weather! I applaud the RD and team for a great event tailor-made for runners and highly recommend the B&A Trail Marathon to anyone looking for a solid event.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
5
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Ocean Drive Marathon

Ocean Drive Marathon

I'll start by saying that yes, I would recommend this marathon, but only if you know what you're getting into. ODM used to be a point to point race run … MORE

I’ll start by saying that yes, I would recommend this marathon, but only if you know what you’re getting into. ODM used to be a point to point race run from Cape May to Sea Isle City. After a few years of runners complaining about the nonstop headwind, the race decided to make it an out and back course starting and ending in Sea Isle City. I can’t speak to the original course, but based on over half of this event, I can imagine it was even more of a meat grinder then! Elevation-wise, it’s a piece of cake, but as for *course* difficulty, the wind makes it tough. Pros and cons:

Pros: Well organized and well marked course; turns obviously marked with signs and cones.
Aid stations every 2.5 miles – decent given it’s generally cool this time of year.
Some nice scenery; you run the boardwalk towards the end and the bridges have nice views, but you’re also in a lot of neighborhoods.
Great shirt, decent medal, nice AG award.
Race day bib pick up if needed.
Warm tent for awards and food after the race, good options (pastries, sandwiches, broth, coffee, water, and other items).
Instant results.
Nice size event; there is no half, it’s a marathon and a 10 miler.

Cons: not a lot of communication – one email after registering, one after they decided to change the course, nothing leading up to the race.
Expo was hard to find, just need to narrow down its location within the conference center (venue personnel there were not helpful until someone showed up who knew where the race expo was).
Plastic cups instead of paper made it difficult to drink on the move without sloshing water or Gatorade all over yourself. Paper lets you pinch the top together to sip more easily while running.
WIND WIND WIND. Since they changed the course, there were a few isolated spots that had a nice tailwind so the first half felt pretty fast. As soon as you round the cone at the halfway point, it’s a vicious headwind the entire way back. I was somewhat mentally prepared based on previous years’ reviews but it’s still like running into a wall.

The location itself was pleasant; nice little restaurants, inns, and local flavor in Sea Isle city. I would have preferred a little bit more communication leading up to the race, but it worked out just fine. I don’t have plans to run this race again, it was to cross off New Jersey, but I’m glad I ran it. I felt like I accomplished something more than the usual sense of accomplishment after finishing a marathon. This was number 47 and it was one of the toughest but I was proud of my time and the struggle made it more meaningful. If you are looking for something similar, I’d recommend it. If you’re looking for big crowds, lots of on course support, and an easy day, probably not your cup of tea.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
3
My Media

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Zydeco Marathon & Half Marathon

Zydeco Marathon & Half Marathon

Zydeco Marathon is a great small town race in Lafayette, LA. It's a good size, not more than a few hundred full runners I'm guessing, with maybe two or three … MORE

Zydeco Marathon is a great small town race in Lafayette, LA. It’s a good size, not more than a few hundred full runners I’m guessing, with maybe two or three times that number in the half and other distances. It’s well organized and well run on a decent course. The city itself has lots to offer in terms of lodging and restaurants, and if you have the time it’s probably worth spending a day or so trying to hit a few local spots.

Pro’s: Good communication leading up to the race; they even mailed “in training” soft cotton t shirts out weeks before the race. Great surprise!
Decent expo, efficient packet pickup day before, and offered day of
Nice medal and shirt, and a second medal for age group awards
Very well marked course with plenty of volunteers and police
Lots of turns – I was worried about this going in, as a misplaced cone could screw the distance up (like in Chattanooga their inaugural year), but they nailed it and it actually kept things interesting
Decent course – some nice areas, lovely neighborhoods, around the university. Not bad, and only small hills
Generous beer and food tickets
Staggered start
Great weather – cool, overcast, and the threatening rain never came in
Lots of water stops!

Con’s: not a lot of these
Some bumpy roads out there, watch for potholes, but not the race’s fault
It’s southern LA, the weather could do anything
Because it was cold and windy, hanging around the finish area wasn’t going to happen; space blankets would have been nice

Overall: I thought they did a great job with the race. Number one in my book is correctly measured and marked, especially with lots of turns, and they definitely accomplished this. They kept runners informed leading up to the race, the route never felt too crowded and there were plenty of police and volunteers along the route. Great attention to detail. I’m guessing this RD makes his race better and better each year. I’d definitely recommend it for Louisiana.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4

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Mississippi River Marathon & Half Marathon

Mississippi River Marathon & Half Marathon

Mississippi River Marathon starts in Lake Village, AR and finishes in Greenville, MS. It's a very small race in the deep south but for such a small event, they do … MORE

Mississippi River Marathon starts in Lake Village, AR and finishes in Greenville, MS. It’s a very small race in the deep south but for such a small event, they do a fantastic job with the details, which can make or break a race. The cons:

Weather is unpredictable, which goes for any race, but it got unseasonably warm for this year’s race. The saving grace was cloud cover and wind, which helped cool runners, but the sun could bake you if there were no clouds! There’s no shade along the course.
Scenery is so-so. It’s mostly along a lake and river which is okay, and crosses the Mississippi which is very cool, but otherwise there’s not a whole lot to see.
Porta-johns: I know they have this on their radar to fix for next year, the line at the marathon start got long before the race.

Pros:
Fantastic RD and organization. There were water stations almost every mile, which on a hot day, makes a WORLD of difference. Great volunteers and lots of police manning the intersections.
Nice pull-over quarter zip top.
Cool medal!
Great awards for age group winners.
Race day packet pickup if needed.
Half marathon started at a different spot so there was no congestion or merging.
Lots of food at the finish – great spread!
Free race photos!

I’d recommend the race for all of those ‘pros’ listed above. The cons were fixable or out of their hands. Bottom line is it’s a nice low-key race to knock out either Arkansas or Mississippi.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
2
SWAG
5
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Rocket City Marathon

Rocket City Marathon

I thoroughly enjoyed the Rocket City Marathon. I think the best part was it's just that...a marathon. There isn't a half or 10k at the same time which seems kind … MORE

I thoroughly enjoyed the Rocket City Marathon. I think the best part was it’s just that…a marathon. There isn’t a half or 10k at the same time which seems kind of rare. My understanding is the course changed a few years ago so I can’t compare, but this one was nice. The start/finish at the Von Braun Center was awesome. It was about 24 degrees race morning and having a place to stay warm was a great perk! Plus indoor bathrooms, always a benefit. The finish line is actually inside the arena which lets friends and family have a great (warm) place to watch their loved ones cross the line. The rest of the course wasn’t bad. You run through some very pretty neighborhoods and also some pretty typical city/suburban scenery. The highlight is the space and rocket center followed by the botanical gardens which is scenic and also near the end, so it’s something to look forward to. There are some rolling hills but I thought elevation-wise it was a nice course.

There weren’t a ton of people on the route, but that may have been partly due to the cold temps. There were a few bands and spirit teams, volunteers at 13 aid stations, and of course traffic control. All of those folks were great and supportive, standing out in the cold for us.

Post-race they actually printed out finisher certificates on the spot which I haven’t seen before but appreciated! The medal was great, a 40th anniversary celebration of the race. The shirt was short-sleeved tech and not bad. They had lots of finisher food, chocolate milk, bagels (with things to spread on them!), grapes, and several other items. The concession area was also open for friends and family (or if you craved jalapeño poppers yourself!).

Overall I thought it was great race. Huntsville is a nice town with several hotel and restaurant options, including some within easy walking distance of the start/finish (no rental car needed!). It was well organized and supported, and all of that showed during the race. It’s a great option for Alabama!

PS – free race photos!!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
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St. Jude Memphis Marathon & Half Marathon

St. Jude Memphis Marathon & Half Marathon

I think the other reviewers have said it all but I'll just add that it was a very nicely done race. Memphis is a cool town and you can stay … MORE

I think the other reviewers have said it all but I’ll just add that it was a very nicely done race. Memphis is a cool town and you can stay close to the start and finish (not having to rent a car is great). The start is downtown and there are places to stay warm and dry until the start. The course itself isn’t bad, but the real highlight is running through the St. Jude Children’s Hospital campus. It was cold, windy, and drizzly this year so there weren’t many kids out in that kind of weather, but still, the spirit and enthusiasm from the crowds there brought tears to my eyes. It’s definitely the best part of the race and comes around mile 11 or so. That spirit carries you through the rest of the route.

If there is any negative to the race, it’s just that it’s so crowded, especially at the start. There are more half runners than full, and people don’t always seed themselves correctly so there’s a lot of weaving and dodging for a while, but once you split off the crowd thins considerably! One of the best parts, is the amount of aid stations! I think there were 25, which is just incredible. My only complaint is they served Nuun as the electrolyte drink which I thought was pretty gross…but some people like it.

The finish was in the stadium downtown. It was a neat venue to end the race and on a less cold day, a fun place to hang out afterwards. The medal was very nice, and the shirt for the marathon was awesome (long sleeve tech with thumbholes).

Overall, a very nicely done marathon that really takes care of all of its runners to the max! It’s for such a great cause which makes it special by itself, but they don’t stop at that. The organizers truly go out of their way to make it a great race for the entire 26.2 miles and I think they succeeded. I’d highly recommend it for other fifty staters looking for a Tennessee marathon.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
5
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Marshall University Marathon & Half Marathon

Marshall University Marathon & Half Marathon

I ran Marshall for my WV race and selected it for two reasons: first, it fit into my race schedule and second, it's not billed as "hilly and hot" like … MORE

I ran Marshall for my WV race and selected it for two reasons: first, it fit into my race schedule and second, it’s not billed as “hilly and hot” like another WV race that’s popular out there. The weather was ideal, and the course had only small hills, enough to keep it interesting and not wear out the same muscles for 26.2 miles.

Race communication was excellent with lots of updates coming from the RD, especially on Facebook. The swag was also great – a nice Asiacs jacket with the logo plus a gym bag, and you could buy a t-shirt for $8 after the race (worth it, it was a good shirt). The medal was cool too, with the head of the buffalo on it (Marshall’s mascot). PLUS race photos are included! Such a nice perk!!

The course itself is not particularly exciting, but it’s not bad. It’s two loops starting and ending at the football stadium. Obviously at the 13 mile mark, the half marathoners go finish while the full runners keep going for another loop, which is slightly disheartening but not the only race to do it that way. Parts of the course are blah, with old industrial buildings and some homes lining the roads, but a big chunk of the loop is in a park, which is very nice, and makes up for the other less interesting areas. The highlight, I’d say, is finishing the last .1 miles or so inside the stadium where they give you a football to run into the end zone – very cool! Great volunteers and 11 aid stations on the course rounded out the support side, so definitely no complaints on any of that.

The after-party was small but complete. Massages, water, beer tent, etc. They were also grilling burgers and hot dogs – I scarfed a burger before hitting the road back home, and it hit the spot. You could also buy merchandise that was leftover which is when I got the shirt. As far as parking and getting in and out of the area, that was a piece of cake, especially if you arrived early; lots of parking at the stadium.

Overall, I thought it was a nice race. The organization and swag were great, the course was pretty good, and the weather was beautiful. There are several hotel options (pretty cheap) nearby, and some good restaurant options as well. Definitely worth doing, and especially a great option for fifty staters.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
5
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Green Mountain Marathon & Half Marathon

Green Mountain Marathon & Half Marathon

GMM is another example of a great, small, low key race put on by runners, for runners. There were only a few hundred runners total, half and full, and I'd … MORE

GMM is another example of a great, small, low key race put on by runners, for runners. There were only a few hundred runners total, half and full, and I’d say the majority were in-state residents and locals with a few out of towners like myself. I chose it as my Vermont race for my fifty states and it was a great choice!

South Hero and the surrounding area is beautiful and very scenic, especially in October. There are a few B&Bs near the race (I stayed at Annie’s B&B found on AirBnB, and it was actually walking distance to the start and finish, plus the owners are distance athletes themselves and put on a great breakfast spread!) There is parking at the school, which is the start and finish, but it’s nice to not have to run with car keys.

For the record, there was pretty much no email from the race organizers leading up to race day. I just find it funny, the differences between small and large races. Packet pickup was either in Burlington or at the school. Burlington is worth a visit, especially on Saturday for the farmers market. It took just a minute and the race shirt is kind of cool; long sleeve and cotton, but baseball t style and fun.

The weather was lovely, partly sunny and the high in the low 50s, though windy in some spots. The race starts later than most, at 8:30, but with cool weather it didn’t matter. The marathon course is out and back along paved and hard packed dirt roads. It travels by the lake, by lovely cottages, large homes, vineyards, orchards, and farms. It’s flat to rolling without any huge hills but a few rollers at the beginning and end. Aid stations were at every two miles and well staffed and stocked. The course was well marked and the half and full turn arounds were impossible to miss. The medal was nice.

Honestly this was a lovely race. No hiccups, nothing complicated. You could show up race morning and pick up your bib if you wanted. You get to see some beautiful scenery and have the opportunity to enjoy some other Vermont spots like Stowe (an hour drive) and Burlington (20 minutes). Soak up the fall foliage and enjoy a small town race put on by runners!!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4
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St. George Marathon

St. George Marathon

This was my 40th marathon and there was a lot of hype going into it. I think it lived up to part of the hype but not entirely. I'll preface … MORE

This was my 40th marathon and there was a lot of hype going into it. I think it lived up to part of the hype but not entirely. I’ll preface this by saying that I had run Jackson Hole Marathon three weeks earlier, which is probably the most scenic race I’ve done yet and in my top 3 favorites overall. My expectations were high given the reviews of STG.

Great expo; nice size and lots of vendors. It was crowded but bib and shirt pickup was efficient. Best Western Coral Hills was a convenient place to stay; walking distance to some good restaurants (walk to the Iceberg burger and shake place across the street after the run; giant thick milkshakes!!) and if you’re inclined, a shuttle to the park where bus loading is, plus an early 3:00am runners breakfast. I walked to Worthen Park the morning of and after the finish, only about ten minutes away on foot.

I think I was on one of the first buses out on race morning at 4:00am. Simple process. The start area had lots of bonfires ready to be lit as runners filed in. It was fun sitting there chatting with other runners, though if you’re an earlybird like I am, you’ll be there about two hours! RD had space blankets and free pairs of gloves, hot chocolate, coffee, Gatorade, and water at the starting area, though the temperature was not too cold that morning. Also TONS of portajohns which was great given the size of the race.

We started about 7 minutes late due to a bus on the course. The course itself is pretty fast, but do not underestimate the hills! There are a couple of big ones, and then some rollers later on. Once the sun comes up, there’s not much in the way of shade, and it was a warmer day this year. Great aid stations with Gatorade and water, some kind of gel if you wanted, also fruit at several of them. Towards the end in St. George there were people with Otter Pops (AWESOME in the heat), bags of ice, and wet towels. There were also misters near the end and after the finish line. Great crowd support at certain spots during the race and throughout the last 3 miles.

Scenery-wise, I guess it was just okay, in my humble opinion. Around mile 14-15 you see some beautiful red rock canyons which was stunning, but that was the highlight for me.

Overall assessment: great organization, with an RD and team that understand runners and what’s important to us. A fast course with some significant uphills but net downhill so PR potential if your’e ready. Great aid stations and support from volunteers and crew. Comfortable starting area with lots of amenities. The medal was nice and unique and the shirt is long-sleeve technical; lots of goodies in the expo bag. I think it’s definitely worth doing and is a good choice for Utah if you’re knocking out the states.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
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Jackson Hole Marathon & Half Marathon

Jackson Hole Marathon & Half Marathon

I absolutely loved Jackson Hole Marathon, and I'd say it probably earned the top spot of my all time favorite marathons both in terms of organization and scenery. I prefer … MORE

I absolutely loved Jackson Hole Marathon, and I’d say it probably earned the top spot of my all time favorite marathons both in terms of organization and scenery. I prefer smaller and more scenic as opposed to crowded city runs and it definitely fit the bill. From the beginning:

I flew into Salt Lake City and drove the 4.5 hours to Jackson (cheaper than flying directly into Jackson airport). The Wyoming Inn of Jackson Hole was a beautiful, quiet place to stay, and convenient to downtown, the grocery store, and everything else. Jackson isn’t a cheap place to visit but it’s totally worth it with lots to see and do, and great restaurants and beer. The bib pickup location was the Chamber of Commerce downtown on Friday afternoon. Very quick and efficient – and great t-shirt for 2016!

The start is in downtown Jackson (about a mile from Wyoming Inn – my husband dropped me off but shuttles also run from the finish to the start area). The town square is lovely with the antler arches on each corner. I think there were supposed to be heated bathrooms in the visitor center open that morning but that didn’t happen for some reason. There were portajohns and I found an open hotel with easy bathroom access! There are lots of fellow Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters at this race so the start was a fun, casual few minutes before the gun went off at 7:07am. The weather was cool but not cold, and mostly clear.

The course itself is point to point, running from Jackson to Teton Village on mostly paved paths with only a few manned road crossings. It’s absolutely breathtaking and not at all crowded. I carried my phone and took several pictures. It’s not a downhill course, but not terribly challenging either. You are at about 6600 feet and there are some hills but nothing bad. There are several aid stations but the most important consideration is that it’s a cup-less race, so you need to carry your own water system with you, either a bottle, hydration pack, or hydra pouch. Volunteers were very helpful and supportive the entire way.

Again, the course was beautiful, within sight of the Tetons, pastures, the Elk Refuge, and lots of other breathtaking beauty around you. You may be alone for some of it, as it’s a small race, but nothing wrong with that!

The finish was in Teton Village which was lovely. My husband met me there and we drove back after hanging out a bit (about 11 miles to Jackson). The medals were very cool, one of my favorites, and there were snacks and drinks available, including the local Snake River Brewing which I fell in love with. It was low-key but festive.

The weather really cooperated with us this year. I can see how it could be a very hot course without a ton of shade in some parts, but it was cool with partly-cloudy skies the entire race, only getting a little warm towards the last couple of miles. Perfect!

Be sure and take the time to see Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We spent time in each and saw tons of wildlife! Well worth taking a couple of days minimum!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
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Leading Ladies Marathon & Half Marathon

Leading Ladies Marathon & Half Marathon

I ran Leading Ladies Marathon for my South Dakota race and it was well worth the travel hassle! It's not easy to get to Spearfish, SD from Virginia. It was … MORE

I ran Leading Ladies Marathon for my South Dakota race and it was well worth the travel hassle! It’s not easy to get to Spearfish, SD from Virginia. It was expensive to fly to Rapid City, so I flew to Bismarck, ND and drove almost five hours to Spearfish. It was a pretty drive, which helped. I stayed at the host hotel, Holiday Inn and Convention Center, which was convenient and quiet. Nothing fancy, but there was a discounted rate and the shuttle picked up/dropped off from there. The restaurant actually has a very good burger too (post-race)!

Packet pickup was also at the Holiday Inn. I was apparently number 33 to get my bib, which made me bib #33, which was awesome because it was my 33rd state. Quite a coincidence! It was fast and efficient with a few vendors present as well.

Race morning: probably my only “complaint,” and it’s minor, is that the bus picked us up at 4:00am. The race didn’t start until 6:00am, which meant we had over an hour at the start area. Luckily the bus stayed so we could stay warm, and it was pleasant chatting with the other runners, and convenient as the portajohns (or trees) were right there. I just would have appreciated another 30-45 minutes of sleep. Not that big a deal though, and they might have their reasons for doing it this way.

The race started right on time and it lived up to the hype of being primarily downhill. There is one kind of large hill around mile 11 or 12 on an out-and-back. The whole course was absolutely beautiful. The route is mostly paved road/path and runs through Spearfish Canyon. Waterfalls, cliffs, lovely homes, rivers and rapids…just gorgeous! I wish I’d had my phone to take pictures. There were aid stations at about every 2-3 miles after the first 3.5 miles of the course. I would have liked a couple more water stops in the last five or six miles, as that’s when it started getting a little warmer.

The weather was lovely – cool start, warming up at the finish, but with a 6am start and a fast course, I was done by about 9:40am which was awesome. The days before and after were significantly warmer, so we lucked out.

The medal was nice, and the shirt was good quality and nice navy blue color. You also get a long stem red rose and a scented, cool towel at the finish. There was cold water and a few food options, plus a shuttle to take us back the mile or two to the hotel.

Overall I’d put this race near the top of my list of favorite marathons. It was all women, small, and well organized. The swag was good and the course was spectacular. I don’t know what other options there are for South Dakota marathons but this one is a must-do in my opinion. Oh, and go see some of the sights, like Mt Rushmore, while you’re there!

-Side note: I originally registered for this race in 2015 but had to cancel due to a wedding the same weekend. The RD was VERY generous and accommodating, allowing me to rollover my entry to this year without any fee or hassle. One of the benefits of smaller events is the personal touch. Great people!!

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
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Aspen Valley Marathon

Aspen Valley Marathon

Running all 50 states, I chose Aspen Valley for my CO marathon. I didn't choose it because it's a Boston Qualifier or downhill, only because I read good things and … MORE

Running all 50 states, I chose Aspen Valley for my CO marathon. I didn’t choose it because it’s a Boston Qualifier or downhill, only because I read good things and it seemed to be one of those scenic courses that I can’t resist. It didn’t disappoint.

The good: basically no expo; I picked up my packet in Basalt on my way up to Snowmass Village where I stayed. Quick stop, very simple. It’s a beautiful area and the course is very scenic, especially in the first half, but also in the last half, just a little less so towards the end. The path itself is mostly paved or very small grain dirt/gravel, so good running surfaces. Not many water stops in the first few miles, so be aware. I wore a lightweight hydration pack which was perfect.

The shirt is pretty good, technical short-sleeve, and the medal is pretty – a shiny silver aspen leaf on a white ribbon. The volunteers were great as well, and it’s a peaceful course, with a few spectators and nice vistas.

The not-quite-as-good: I don’t want to say “bad” because there wasn’t anything bad about the race, just observations. You are at a significant elevation to start and even at the end. Aspen is around 8000 ft or so, and even Basalt is around 6000ish. I didn’t feel sick or anything but I think it affected me regardless; my legs felt leaden by halfway and that’s not usually a problem. It was ultimately the heat that got me though. My running buddy and I were cruisin’ for the first 13 miles then hit a heat wall. I think the temps were in the high 80s as we got lower into the valley, and there was little shade. Granted, it wasn’t humid which was a huge plus, and the race started at 6am which helped a lot. I just don’t do well in the heat, so what may be a super fast course and BQ for lots of people was more of a slog for me. I got my slowest time of the year (except for the double I did in KY and OH). I don’t really care about that, just funny to see the differences in peoples’ performance.

Also of note, it can be expensive to stay in the area but worth it for the beauty in my opinion. Parking wasn’t bad; if you aren’t in Aspen, drive to the intercept lot down the hill from Snowmass and take the bus up to the start. That worked perfectly. It’s bit more of a pain to get back, as the finish is about 12 miles past Snowmass. Luckily my friend’s mom was there and we were able to drive straight back. The bus system does operate for runners for free but I was glad to not have to wait around for it in the sun.

Post race food – I didn’t hang around long but I know salad was the main offering (seemed weird), plus champagne. It was a festive area with other things to do – listen to music, etc.

Photos are great – you can download them for free or purchase prints. I love free race photos; I wish every race would factor that into the registration fee somehow.

Bottom line – there are some logistical issues to getting to the race (about 3.5-4 hrs from Denver) and it’s not cheap to visit, but I’m glad I ran it. The beauty in the area, even just on the drive to and from Denver, was breathtaking, and the weather was great (despite the heat later in the day). The marathon is wonderfully organized and I definitely think it can be a fast course, just wasn’t in the cards for me that day.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4
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Traverse City Track Club Bayshore Marathon

Traverse City Track Club Bayshore Marathon

This was my 30th state, 35th marathon. I'd heard great things about the event and learned that it sells out quickly each year (I came to find out that meant … MORE

This was my 30th state, 35th marathon. I’d heard great things about the event and learned that it sells out quickly each year (I came to find out that meant the half marathon sells out in minutes, the full sold out in about a month).

In some ways it reminded me of Grandma’s Marathon. It’s a small town, on the water, and lodging can get expensive. I found it much more scenic than Grandma’s though; for the most part, you are on the water with lovely vistas for about 23 miles of the race.

I stayed within walking distance of the start and finish, TC Central High School, which was awesome (Cambria Suites – expensive rates for that weekend but very convenient). I walked to get my packet, which was quick and efficient. Great tech shirt, a pair of running socks, and bib. Short and sweet. There were vendors too, and a pasta dinner if you bought a ticket.

The start was smooth. The half starts at the turnaround point on the marathon course and they take a shuttle to get there, so that was kind of a nice change; fewer people at the start meant shorter lines for the portajohns, at least initially! The first couple of miles go through the neighborhood near the school before popping you out on the lake drive. Lovely views and some beautiful houses provide the majority of the scenery. There are only a few gentle hills. This is an out and back course so no surprises. The half runners never had an awkward merge with the full; we saw them running back on our way out which meant no congestion or slamming into a crowd. When you get back to the school where you started, you run portion of the track, and then get funneled out to the field for the finisher area.

There were plenty of stocked aid stations, lots of gatorade and water, and also seemed like they were handing out Gu at a lot of them (I carry my own). The medal was nice; not huge, but a good, heavy medal with the logo. The finish area had Moomers Ice Cream (awesome), chocolate milk, water, and a variety of other food choices.

Weather seems like the biggest question mark about this event. Everything about it was organized from my perspective; it ran smoothly, the course was great, and the swag was good. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The only gray area is what the weather will hold. I’ve heard past years were lovely and cooler. This year was pretty warm and VERY humid. Luckily it stayed mostly overcast until about mile 20 before the sun came out. There was also a pretty nice breeze. Just be aware when you pack.

Be sure to explore Traverse City and sample some of the local fare. Lots of breweries and good eateries. Rare Bird was great, and Bubba’s is supposed to be good too. Tons of options for that post-race beer(s)!

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3
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Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

I ran the Kentucky Derby Marathon Saturday and the Flying Pig Marathon on Sunday making it a double weekend, but it was worth it. The Flying Pig was one of … MORE

I ran the Kentucky Derby Marathon Saturday and the Flying Pig Marathon on Sunday making it a double weekend, but it was worth it. The Flying Pig was one of the best city marathons I have run. The start is by Paul Brown Stadium which was very cool. I stayed downtown and it was easy walking distance. The finish isn’t far away, at the Cincinnati Reds baseball park, right down the street, so again, easy walking distance back to downtown hotels. The expo is also downtown at the Duke Energy convention center and it was great. TONS of vendors and great swag! Fun shirt (the logo this year was awesome!), plus a poster, plus a nice gym/duffle bag. Logistically, this is a pretty easy race on all fronts. Stay downtown, or even right across the river in Kentucky and you can walk everywhere.

The race start was well organized with corrals (pig pens). The course is really great. There are numerous hills, but it’s kind of known for that. Cincinnati really seems like a cool city – we ran across a few bridges, through the city, by the river, next to parks, and ultimately ended up back downtown. Really scenic for a city marathon. The crowds were fantastic too. It’s not Chicago, but I swear it was just as good – they were enthusiastic the whole way. Great volunteers and 25 (!!) stocked aid stations. There was plenty of water and Gatorade, plus chews, and stations giving out bacon, fig newtons (pig newtons), twizzlers, chips, peppermint patties (pig mints), beer, cold wet towels, Swedish fish…and much more. No need to carry your own water as there is plenty of support along the way. It got hotter and sunnier than any of us expected (initially called for rain, then storms, then just overcast…don’t know where that sun came from!) so people brought out hoses to spray runners. It never felt too bad because it was a 6:30 start, so you’re done fairly early in the day.

The finish line (actually the Finish Swine) was festive and the medal was really cool. I LOVE how this city and race embrace the logo and name – everything is pig-centric and fun. They did an absolutely wonderful job organizing this event and made it so simple for runners to enjoy the actual run and not sweat the logistics. Highly recommend the Pig!!

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
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Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & miniMarathon

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & miniMarathon

I ran this race paired with the Flying Pig Marathon the next day. I had heard mixed reviews about it. Many people said the half course is much better, that … MORE

I ran this race paired with the Flying Pig Marathon the next day. I had heard mixed reviews about it. Many people said the half course is much better, that the full is boring or ugly. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the entire race. My thoughts:

First, there was a ton of road construction in the Louisville area, so that was a pain but not the race’s fault. I stayed across the river, in Indiana. It was walking distance to the start/finish, but the weather didn’t really permit that this weekend! If you are able to stay downtown near the race course, that would make things easier.

The expo was good – much larger than I anticipated. I’m not big on expos, but it wasn’t too crowded so walking around wasn’t bad. The shirt was great – a nice color blue and fit well. I was also delighted to receive an orange marathon hat, which was a nice surprise! There is also a nice poster.

The start was well organized, and went off without a hitch. The cool part is the official bugle player for the Derby plays at the start of the race – unique!! You run through downtown for a bit and share the course with the half runners for maybe ten miles or so before they go in a different direction. I’m not going to say the course is stunning or as beautiful as some other races, but it was good. It’s a city race, but you actually go through Iroquois Park for several miles in the middle. That is the hilly part, but it was quite lovely. It was pouring rain for much of the race (after about five miles, it rained steadily, and heavily at times). The park was beautiful and peaceful and one of my favorite parts. I’ll agree with other reviewers that it is much quieter and more spread out after the half runners peel off, but I look forward to that space.

One of the best parts of the race is going through the tunnel under Churchill Downs and up into the infield. That was awesome, and something most people will never do or see. If it hadn’t been raining I would have taken more than one (wet) photo, but it was pretty incredible. There were horses and riders out on the track which was pretty neat and definitely a highlight.

There weren’t many spectators out on the course because of the weather, but them’s the breaks. The volunteers were great and there were plenty of stocked aid stations along the course (roughly every two miles).

The finish area would be great on a dry day, but with all the rain it was pretty muddy and full of puddles. Of course when you’re already drenched, it doesn’t really matter. They had space blankets and of course the awesome medal. Lots of goodies at the finish too.

Overall I really liked the event. I found it to be very well organized with great communication. The weather could be a factor but even with the rain, I enjoyed the course and the event as a whole. Good swag and unique elements that you can only find in Louisville.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
5
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Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz

Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz

First off, my understanding is 2016 was a completely different course from years past, so be aware if you're thinking of registering and looked at old reviews. This is for … MORE

First off, my understanding is 2016 was a completely different course from years past, so be aware if you’re thinking of registering and looked at old reviews. This is for the 2016 event that just took place.

My opinion is it was a good race. The RD put out A LOT of good information well in advance of the event, which is always helpful, especially for us out of towners. It was my 32nd marathon and 27th state so I appreciate all of the intel in advance!

The expo was a nice size. If you enjoy shopping for gear or talking to vendors, it’s big enough for that. If you just want to grab your bib and shirt, you can do that too. I didn’t have any waiting around, there was ample parking at the convention center (part of the Embassy Suites in Olathe), and the volunteers were very helpful. I double checked my info at the first table, walked 10 steps and got my bib, then meandered to the back of the hall to get my shirt. There was plenty of information to be gathered here too – parking, race course, shuttles, etc. They also had a cute “yellow brick road” path on the floor leading you to where you needed to be. Appropriate, given it’s the Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz. Lots of photo ops too if you’re so inclined.

My impression is that the previous course was fairly flat and fast, and surprisingly, they still billed this course as mostly flat and fast too. Not the case. It was pretty continuously rolling, with some bigger hills late in the course. I’m not anti-hill, I actually kind of like the variation, but there was very little in the way of flat stretches and when you’re expecting flat, it’s not always a nice surprise. That said, just be prepared!

The great thing about the morning is that the race starts early (6:45am for the full). I love an early race because it means you’re done early! Also, the start (and finish) is right outside the convention center and hotel. If you stay at the Embassy Suites, you’re golden (I did not but I got there early). Even if you don’t, you can stay warm (or dry, as the weather dictates) inside the convention center. Pretty nice perk depending on the weather. We lucked out with comfortable, cool temps and overcast skies, though it was windy. Not bad at all! The RD had advertised a Marathon Maniac Corner (like Route 66 offers) which would have been nice, but I don’t think it ever materialized, even though they gave out wristbands to us MM/50 Staters. Maybe next year they will figure that part out. Regardless, it wasn’t a big deal to not have that.

A quick word on parking. I had about a 15 minute drive from my hotel in Overland Park. I was concerned that parking would fill up fast so I arrived very early (about 5am). I had no problem parking in the many lots across from the starting and finishing area. There were also two shuttle spots that would drop you off at the start. I’m sure this will change before next year’s event, but I heard that people got screwed trying to leave the parking lot after the race. As in, they had to sit and wait for 60-90 minutes in a traffic jam trying to cross the course which ran on the only road out of the commercial park. Not great planning for that aspect. Now, that said, as a full marathoner, I think the vast majority of those stuck were 10k and half runners, so when I left I had zero problem exiting. Like I said, I bet they change that for next year.

The start went off smoothly, and then we were off into the hills. The full and half ran the first 12-point-something miles together before we broke off for the second half. The first half was pretty residential, nothing glorious or scenic but not bad either. The second half was on a paved path by the river which offered peaceful solitude (seriously, there were like triple the half runners, so we were pretty spread out on the back half). The path is out and back to the last 1.2 miles when you run back to the convention center. It was hilly too. Aid stations were plentiful, about every 2 miles, and the course seemed to be marked very well. I ran 26.3, which is about right considering I don’t always run tangents very well!

I didn’t check out the finish line food, just got a granola bar and water, but I think there were hot sandwiches and maybe some other things. They did have massage therapists inside and outside, which was awesome. I usually find the wait to be too long for this little perk, but it wasn’t more than a couple of minutes in Oz. I got stretched out first, then a nice massage, all inside the wind-free convention center! I also got my printed finisher’s certificate and results quickly.

The bling for this race was first rate. Very cool dark blue tech shirt with NEVER SURRENDER on the front and the outline of the wicked witch in green, probably one of my favorite race shirts. The medal is quite large and also features the wicked witch. If you like the bling, it’s a good race to collect a nice heavy finisher’s medal.

Bottom line: it was far from a PR for me and it wasn’t an easy course. But, it was well supported, the course wasn’t bad, the bling was awesome, and we had good weather, so I consider it a good race worth doing and I would recommend it for a Kansas finish for any other 50 staters.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
3
SWAG
5

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Coffee Milk Marathon & Half Marathon (fka Fighting Seabees)

Coffee Milk Marathon & Half Marathon (fka Fighting Seabees)

The Fighting Seabees Marathon first got my attention because of the cool medal. I also needed a Rhode Island race for my fifty states quest, so I registered sort of … MORE

The Fighting Seabees Marathon first got my attention because of the cool medal. I also needed a Rhode Island race for my fifty states quest, so I registered sort of last minute to make it happen. This was a quick trip and not really a scenic marathon, but it fit the bill.

I’m going to call it bare bones, but I don’t mean for that to be negative necessarily. I think the race director honestly cares about his runners and puts a lot of work into making his events happen. If you rely on spectators, this isn’t the race for you. If you rely on breathtaking scenery, this isn’t the course for you. If you want to cross a state off your list and it fits your schedule, it’s a good option.

There is a hotel that’s fairly convenient to the start (TownePlace Suites, about 2 miles away) and there’s race day packet pick up which I needed. If you do the race day, get there early! I arrived early to park (very close, no big deal) and get my bib and shirt. I walked right up to the table without having to wait, but as we got closer and closer to the start, I noticed the line was huge. So be aware of your timeline.

I had requested a small t-shirt but somehow they didn’t have any left, so I got a medium. It’s huge, so it went right into my “make into a quilt bag” of shirts. After pinning my bib I sat in my rental car for thirty minutes since it was pretty frigid and windy out. At the start line, Gary the RD made some announcements. One of the things that I appreciated about him was that he said “I don’t care who wins, I just want to make sure everyone crosses the finish line” (that’s not verbatim but you get it). He also wrote his cell phone number on every mile marker sign in case anyone had a problem. I thought that was cool, and something only a small race can do. A nice touch.

The start was delayed about 10 or 15 minutes because of people trying to get their bibs still. That was annoying but it happens. As for the course, it’s kind of a double loop, with a few variations on the second loop. Actually the “loop” has a lot of turns, which at first concerned me, but it was very well marked with volunteers and signs, so no problem there. It’s, I would say, mostly flat, but has a few hills here and there, nothing monstrous. It’s not particularly scenic. There are a few places where you see the water, which is nice, but brief! It’s mostly parking lots full of cars coming or going from the port. The roads aren’t busy though so that was something. By the way, it’s run on Quonset Point, an old Navy/Seabees base. Not a whole lot to see. It was a beautiful day, but SUPER WINDY, making it all the more challenging.

As with most races that have a half and full option, most people ran the half, so when we finished the first loop and the half runners all went to the finish line, the full kept going. It got very spread out. At some points I was practically alone, with maybe a runner way back in the distance or someone coming at me on an out-and-back stretch.

The volunteers were great, and the aid stations were plentiful, since you pass them twice. I think the sports drink was Heed, which I hadn’t tried before and didn’t really like the taste, but there was also water.

The finish was low key. I got my medal, a bottle of water, and headed back to get a shower and make my late checkout before heading to the airport.

Like I said, it’s bare bones, but has all that you need for a successful race. Be prepared for wind!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
2
SWAG
3
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Chattanooga Marathon

Chattanooga Marathon

I'm a nice person and don't like to write bad reviews, but... Chattanooga held their inaugural marathon this month. It's a cool town, good restaurants, and probably will be a … MORE

I’m a nice person and don’t like to write bad reviews, but…

Chattanooga held their inaugural marathon this month. It’s a cool town, good restaurants, and probably will be a great event down the road, so this review is only for this first race.

The course itself is fine. Not beautiful and scenic, but interesting and varied enough to be good. It’s quite hilly, has some nice river views and bridge crossings, goes through some industrial areas and some residential ones, so again, quite varied. The expo was okay but the downside was it’s at the start of the 5k and fun run the day before the marathon, so if you drive it’s tricky to get to it first thing in the morning. The t-shirt was meh, smaller fit than normal but nice, soft material.

The race start went off without a hitch, and the first three miles or so (maybe more) were spot on, according to my GPS. Then things fell apart. Somewhere in there they had a cone set up for a turnaround but it was about a tenth of a mile too soon, meaning that the course was technically about a quarter mile or so short of an actual marathon. THIS is the major fail. It’s your inaugural event, THE most important thing you can do is make sure that your Boston-qualifying certified course is correct, and yet they didn’t do that.

For most people this probably doesn’t bother them and they don’t care; I think Boston will adjust your times and other clubs make exceptions when the race screws something up. For someone trying to run a marathon in all 50 states, however, it’s a very expensive mistake that means we have to redo a state if we want a certified finish at the end of all 50. So, their .20 mile short race cost me a lot of money and time and wear and tear on my body. And there was no official acknowledgment for days after this happened, even when local news was picking it up as a major SNAFU. So, sure, this race might be dandy next year or the year after, but for me, it was a waste of time and even if they gave me free entry I wouldn’t go back.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
1
SCENERY
3
SWAG
2

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The Lost Dutchman Marathon

The Lost Dutchman Marathon

I'm trying to run all 50 states, or else you couldn't compel to me run a distance race in Arizona. I don't care for hot weather, and I really don't … MORE

I’m trying to run all 50 states, or else you couldn’t compel to me run a distance race in Arizona. I don’t care for hot weather, and I really don’t care for RUNNING in hot weather! That said, I picked what I thought would be the lesser of all the Arizona marathon evils, and I’m actually glad I did!

This is one of those races that’s been around for a while, so they know what they’re doing and it shows. My experience, from start to finish, was positive. I arrived in Phoenix, rented a car, and stayed at a hotel in Mesa. It was an easy stop along the way to pick up my bib and shirt at a local running store and get that errand done (I never linger at expos long so this was great). There are many restaurants in the area and I had a nice relaxing Friday afternoon and Saturday in town. I drove out to the start Saturday morning to get a feel for where I’d need to park and check out the finish area, which was helpful.

Sunday morning I drove in the very early hours before even eating breakfast (I saved it for the bus ride so I didn’t eat TOO far ahead of the start). Parking at the rodeo grounds was simple and there were volunteers directing cars to spots so it wasn’t chaotic, even in the pitch black. After parking, I strolled right onto a marathon bus which drove us out to the start. It was chilly but nice, and the ride is long enough that I was able to enjoy my bagel, PB, and banana.

The starting area, in my opinion, is really the coolest part of this race. There are lot of volunteers around with breakfast foods, hot coffee, water, etc. There are lots of portajohns (amazingly, I never had to wait in line), and the absolute best thing is the array of campfires set up neatly by all of this. It’s a great place to warm up, talk with friends, and make new friends. Definitely enjoyed this part the most.

The start was organized well with a few last minute announcements. We went on the gun, and the first several miles were quite pleasant on grated dirt roads in the hills. The sun was rising behind us and it was very pleasant. I carried my hydration pack since I knew I’d get hot, and was able to take pictures with my phone periodically as well.

The course itself is nice. Pretty flat but with a few hills that you definitely feel. You run through some neighborhoods, there are nice mountain views in the background, etc. but there are some flat, dull highway portions as well. Of course, it’s hard to find a race without some boring bit somewhere in the 26.2 miles, so it was fine. The only downside to this race, in my opinion, is the temperature, which if I’m being totally honest, wasn’t so bad. I just don’t like heat so it makes me grumpy! But it was a beautiful day and the volunteers and folks cheering helped take my mind off of it.

The aid stations were good and had plenty of water and gatorade, and a few of them had Gu’s and cold towels too, which was awesome. Towards the end they also had a “wall” that you ran through which was a nice symbolic gesture!

I usually don’t walk during marathons, but I did end up walking towards the end of this one, finishing in 4:12, about 20-30 min slower than average. I blame the sun and temperature, nothing the race officials could control! The finish was good and I lingered in Prospector Park for a while listening to awards. The medal was GREAT, very solid with a unique image and coloring.

Overall, definitely recommend this race if for no other reason than its outstanding organization and unique race start area.

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
5
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Icebreaker Indoor Marathon & Half Marathon

Icebreaker Indoor Marathon & Half Marathon

I have never run more than a mile or two on a track but hey, why not run 26.2 and see what happens? I had a hole in my race … MORE

I have never run more than a mile or two on a track but hey, why not run 26.2 and see what happens?

I had a hole in my race calendar and this was a chance to run a marathon in a northern state in January that I otherwise would have to put off till warmer months, so why not go for it.

Registration was easy as with most events, the marathon seems to fill up last, even though I registered somewhat late in the game. Getting to Milwaukee from VA was surprisingly cheap so my hubby came along too; it’s rare he gets to see me more than once or twice during a race…this time he saw me about 95 times!

There was no expo, just show up race morning and pick up your stuff, which is awesome in my opinion. One less thing to do the day before the race. The event was held at the Petit National Ice Center and runners and family spent the first little while before the start upstairs in a warm room with tables, chairs, coffee, water and most importantly, bathrooms. Close to race time we made our way down to the track where we were given instructions on where to set up our personal water bottles and nutrition. I had mine in a plastic bag with my name and bib number written on it, and two bottles (1 with water, 1 with Gatorade), also labeled. These were set up on a table that corresponded to a range of bib numbers. Volunteers manned this table throughout the event and handed off bottles and Gu’s to runners then took them back the next lap. It wasn’t a perfect system but it was pretty good and you can’t beat having access to food and water ever .25 miles during a marathon. I didn’t need it, but there were a couple of portajohns set up along the track too.

The organization of this race was pretty great. Maybe it’s easier in some ways because there is no “course” to mark and monitor, but it has its own slew of logistical issues, none of which was noticeable to me as a runner. Everyone wore an ankle bracelet that gave us a chip timed run, and you crossed a couple of mats where your lap times, lap countdowns, and average lap time were displayed prominently. This was helpful, although I underestimated the difficulty I would have doing the math to time my laps and nutrition like a normal marathon. Regardless, I made it out okay!

There is no scenery. It was roughly 95 laps around the indoor ice arena where yes, a couple of hockey games were going on, and some speed skaters were training in the outer ice loop. But I couldn’t really focus on that stuff for very long. There were no headphones allowed, but the RD had a playlist of music pumped out over the PA system, including selections that we runners sent in ahead of time. That was pretty cool, although some people have weird taste in running music!

So, 90 laps later, with 5 to go, the RD announced my name as closing in on the finish, and then again on my final lap (he may have done this with 20 or 10 to go as well, I can’t remember). I have never been so delighted to be done with a race as I was here. 95 laps on a track that doesn’t change is mind numbing and leg numbing in my opinion. I wish there could have been a hill manufactured for the race just to change up what my legs were doing. But, that’s the way an indoor marathon goes, and now I know.

I am very glad I did it and appreciate the fact that they have a great long-sleeve tech tee and solid medal for finishers. I was pleased with my time and the swag, and hobbled away happy, though I have now checked the indoor marathon box for good!

DIFFICULTY
1
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5
SCENERY
1
SWAG
5
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The Dam Marathon

The Dam Marathon

The Dam Marathon is a very small race (maybe 120 marathoners or so) set in Oakridge, OR. I chose this event as my Oregon marathon because I wanted to see … MORE

The Dam Marathon is a very small race (maybe 120 marathoners or so) set in Oakridge, OR. I chose this event as my Oregon marathon because I wanted to see scenery, not cityscapes. It was a great match – set in a beautiful place and on a small scale. You don’t run this race to get crowd support or if you need an aid station ever mile or because you like bands along the course. You run this race to see national park beauty and experience a new place. It was well organized and easy to navigate the logistics.

Packet pickup was flexible with multiple locations and times, both in Eugene and in Oakridge, including race day pickup. The shirt is a nice tech (unisex) and you could choose between a few color options. There were stickers, a small calendar, and a string satchel. Race morning was easy – I drove two miles from my motel to the Greenwaters Park. I left my rental car in the lot and boarded a school bus around 7:15am. It’s about a 15 minute ride up to the start area at the dam. It was a rainy and cool morning (rain came out of no where but I always carry a thin poncho to races and was glad I had it for this one!) but not too bad once we got up to the start area (which was beautiful!). We all stood around for a few minutes while the bus went back for the last load of runners. The con to this was the one portajohn was locked. Luckily you’re in the boonies and surrounded by woods so if nature called, you could still answer.

We started a few minutes late (it happens with small races with one or two people wrangling everybody…not a big deal in my book). You run across the dam and immediately have stunning views – I’m looking forward to seeing the drone footage! The course follows the lake all the way around back past the start at the dam and down the road to Greenwaters Park. It’s not an easy course – there’s a mix of road, gravel, and trail, and it’s fairly hilly. No one hill is bad, it’s a nice variation, just don’t expect a flat run.

There were aid stations about every two or three miles. They had lots of flavors of Gatorade (I’ve never seen such variety), plus water and also bars, bananas, and oranges at most of them. Volunteers were friendly as well. My only other “complaint” is that the bathroom advertised at the halfway point was also locked (I think this was a miscommunication with the park service), but again, lots of woods from which to choose!

The last two or three miles is mostly downhill, then along a gravel road, then a dirt trail through what feels like a rainforest from another time – it was beautiful – before you finish in the park. The medal that we got was a nice quality on a nice ribbon – matches the logo and honestly for such a small race, I was especially pleased that they didn’t skimp on this.

This was not one of my fastest races but it is one of my favorites for scenery alone. I took photos, saw a bald eagle, and got to experience a place that I may never get to visit again. If you run this race, soak it up and enjoy every step!

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4
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Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon

Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon

This was my last marathon of 2015, and I registered kind of late. It was a Saturday race, which is sometimes a little harder to get to, and Little Rock … MORE

This was my last marathon of 2015, and I registered kind of late. It was a Saturday race, which is sometimes a little harder to get to, and Little Rock was a little expensive to fly into, but it was worth it. There wasn’t really an expo, just packet pick up at a running store (which happened to be next to a grocery store…score!! Race morning breakfast purchases made!). I prefer no expo, so again, this was a good thing in my opinion.

I stayed at a hotel just a mile or two away from one of the two designated parking spots. This was pretty convenient – no need to worry about getting to the start and parking. Instead, I parked in a large church parking lot and took the bus to the starting area.

The start was great. It’s the only marathon I’ve run where there was a heated tent for runners to hang out in, which in December, was very nice. They had coffee, water, and snacks pre-race and we only had to walk around the corner to the start. There were plenty of portajohns nearby as well. Definitely one of the best pre race starting areas I’ve experienced. The sunrise was lovely too!

The start was smooth. The whole course was really nice; I was astounded by the quantity and quality of footpaths by the river. They were asphalt and in great condition, with nice views pretty much the whole time. The last 10k was more in a park with small, rolling hills, but also pleasant. You cross three bridges (hence the name) which meant some incline, and there are a few minor hills during the course as well, but nothing bad in my opinion. The bridges were like milestones, I started looking forward to them because they had nice views and meant we were making progress.

Aid stations and volunteers were great. It’s not the type of race you run for thousands of cheering people along the course, but it was very pretty and quite enjoyable and I met some cool runners along the route, one of which I ran with for about 16 miles. I tend to prefer scenic over crowd anyway.

You run back by the finish around mile 20 and cross a bridge that leads into that park area by the river. On the one hand you’re thinking “crap that’s the finish but I’m not done…” but on the other hand it’s a party atmosphere and the announcer calls your name and where you’re from on the PA, so that’s cool. He also says it again as you re-cross the bridge to finish right at about mile 26.1. It didn’t bother me to pass the finish but some people might find it a bit of a bummer.

The post-race atmosphere was fun and there was a good selection of food and drink. The shuttles back to the parking lots were also great, as they ran pretty frequently right by the finish area, and dropped you off at your lot. From there I only had a mile or two to drive to my hotel.

The t-shirt was a nice long sleeve tech shirt. The medal was so-so but not bad. The real prize, pun intended’ were the age group awards. I placed in my division and collected a SWEET plaque to hang on my wall. Great swag in my opinion, with minimum hassle and a beautiful, extremely well-organized race.

Bottom line, if you need Arkansas for your 50 states quest, I HIGHLY recommend this race. It’s one of my favorites, and not just because we had beautiful, sunny, cool weather. It really felt like a marathon for runners, by runners, and it showed with every detail. I don’t anticipate running repeat races if I can help it, but this is one I would consider running again just because I enjoyed it so much.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4
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Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon

Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon

I ran this back in December as my Delaware marathon. I'll be brief because this was a whirlwind trip that involved driving a rental to Rehoboth, running the marathon the … MORE

I ran this back in December as my Delaware marathon. I’ll be brief because this was a whirlwind trip that involved driving a rental to Rehoboth, running the marathon the next morning, showering quickly and driving to Philly, returning the rental and flying to a wedding in Utah. So I didn’t get to enjoy the whole festive marathon atmosphere to the fullest extent. That said, it was a nice event and I’d recommend to anyone looking for a good December marathon.

My understanding is Rehoboth Beach is a madhouse in the summer months, but during December it was blessedly quiet but still very pretty and pleasant. My husband and I stayed in a little B&B walking distance to the start and finish but off the main drag. We arrived the day before, picked up my bib and shirt (which as I recall was bright pink so I immediately threw it into my ‘make into a marathon t-shirt quilt’ pile and haven’t looked at since). That was a pretty painless process as it’s not a giant event.

The start is at the bandstand by the beach which is a nice setting. There were a lot of bathrooms but never enough 10 minutes before the gun goes off! It was a cold, crisp, clear morning, perfect for a marathon. The start was a little crowded but as always we thinned out within a couple of miles. I don’t remember a ton about the course itself other than it’s very flat and there was a nice mix of scenery. Some of it was beautiful marsh and parkland crossing bridges and running on packed trails. There were other parts run in residential areas, and also a little bit that was along a highway or other busy road. There was never any point where I thought “well this sucks,” as it’s pretty nicely laid out and adequately marked. There were some crowds and some quiet spots due to where we were running (parts were a little remote for spectators) but that never bothers me. There were times I wished I had my camera so I could have taken a few photos of the marshlands. Aid stations were plentiful and everyone was very friendly.

The medal was a nice and quite large circular life preserver, which is fitting for the setting! I heard that the afterparty at the finish was pretty awesome too, but unfortunately for us we had to split right after I crossed the line, so I’ll never know what I missed!

Bottom line: very nicely done marathon. Good organization, good communication leading up to the race, and a lovely setting to run. It wasn’t a PR for me, but it wasn’t far off either so it’s a pretty fast course. I’d recommend this race for sure.

DIFFICULTY
1
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
4
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Williams Route 66 Marathon & Half Marathon

Williams Route 66 Marathon & Half Marathon

Trying to run all 50 states means I've gotten to see some truly spectacular places and run some great marathons. But there are a few states that, to be quite … MORE

Trying to run all 50 states means I’ve gotten to see some truly spectacular places and run some great marathons. But there are a few states that, to be quite honest, I’m just not as excited to run (no offense to anyone living in those states!). Oklahoma was one I wasn’t that excited about but I’d heard good things about Route 66 so I signed up for the 10th anniversary run. Great decision!

First, Tulsa is a pretty cool city. I stayed downtown at Aloft which put me within easy walking distance of pretty much everything race-related and right next door to the expo location. It was a great choice and they went all out in support of the marathon too, posting the event information and maps, and wearing shirts and pins with the marathon name and logo. It’s fun to see that kind of support from a hotel! That also set the stage for the whole weekend, as it’s a pretty festive atmosphere all around, even though downtown Tulsa itself kind of closes down on Saturdays and Sundays. Not to worry though, as there are still good restaurants nearby!

Expo: I’m not an expo person and I usually try to get to the expo first thing to get it over with. I was a little surprised at how they ran packet pickup. There was a single file line to get to the long table where multiple volunteers were sitting, so it was more like going to the bank and going to the first available teller when you’re at the front of the line. Usually it seems like packets are picked up based on last name or bib number. I’ve run the big races – Chicago, Disney, Boston, NYC, MCM – and I think those races had faster pickup than Route 66. That said, I did get there early and didn’t have to wait that long thankfully. I walked around briefly to check out the vendors and get my Marathon Maniac wristband which gave me access to the MM/50 State area pre-race and post-race. I also got my zip up jacket which is a nice piece of swag.

Race morning was clear and cold (perfect!). I walked the short distance to the start downtown which was so nice – no driving, parking, or shuttle required. As a Maniac I accessed the roped off area which had its own portajohns as well as coffee and water. We also took a Maniac photo which was crazy, because this race draws a TON of Maniacs! It was a festive beginning on a beautiful day.

The race went off on time and we marathoners split off from the half runners fairly quickly (if I remember correctly). The course itself had some rolling hills but I didn’t find it to be terribly challenging (but I live in a hilly area!). Most of it was somewhat scenic and it ran through some beautiful, wealthy neighborhoods! There was also a college campus in there somewhere. Crowds were pretty good and the aid stations were frequent. I’d also like to say that I have never seen so many people handing out alcohol on a marathon course!! I didn’t partake but it was everywhere – Fireball, Jell-o shots, beer, and who knows what else. If you took one of each you’d be fairly smashed by the halfway point! Very enthusiastic people all around!

Route 66 also has the Center of the Universe Detour, also known as the World’s Shortest Ultra. This is a short detour off the course (also marked and optional) that takes you to another beer stop and you receive a large coin upon completing it before rejoining the marathon course. It’s right before the end and I think it takes the distance from 26.2 to 26.5. I did it and it was fun, though be prepared for a short, steep hill as you go back to the marathon.

The finish area was festive and the medal was awesome. As a 50 Stater or Marathon Maniac you could swap your standard marathon medal for a custom club medal. The line was very long for half runners who were switching their medals out, but the marathon was smaller and therefore no line! I thought this was a really nice touch and it’s among my favorite medals!

There were shuttles running back into downtown from the finish but they were getting stuck in traffic. I chose to walk the mile or so back, which I’m usually glad to do as it helps shake the legs out. It was nice weather and a good stroll. I ended up going back to the restaurant I ate at the day before for my post-race meal: a burger wrapped and baked in pizza dough. Yum!

Overall assessment: great race, and a happy surprise for this doubter. Tulsa was fun and the race was very well organized, festive, and offered fantastic amenities, especially if you’re a member of one or both clubs (MM or 50 States). I enjoyed running the course itself and definitely recommend it to other marathoners.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
5
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Soldier Marathon and Half Marathon

Soldier Marathon and Half Marathon

I was looking for a GA race for my 50 states quest and Soldier Marathon fit the bill. Leading up to race day, the weather was looming: storms and rain … MORE

I was looking for a GA race for my 50 states quest and Soldier Marathon fit the bill. Leading up to race day, the weather was looming: storms and rain combined with warm temps…gross! But, it held out. It was still warm and very muggy, but no rain, no storms, so no delay or cancellation.

I stayed at the hotel right next to the start/finish, which was awesome (Hampton Inn). Literally park for the night, walk to start/finish/expo. Everything takes place at the Infantry Museum, which is cool. I didn’t linger but got my bib and swag before returning to the hotel.

Race morning was smooth since I was so close to the start. They have the museum open, which was a very nice touch. There are portajohns outside plus bathrooms inside (tip: there are bathrooms upstairs too!). If you have the time, I highly recommend you walk upstairs to view the display on fallen soldiers. There are family and friends’ notes and memorials along with photos of the fallen heroes. Very emotional start to remember the men and women who lost their lives. One of the other unique things about this race is that you can run in honor of a fallen soldier. I picked up a bib with the soldier’s name and photo on it and pinned it on my back. You’re never alone when you run for someone else.

The course itself is okay. The beginning and end is cool, as you run down the avenue lined with flags. They also start you off with a cannon. The first six or so miles is on Ft Benning, which honestly is not that nice (I’m former military, I know how bases can be). But, there are some spectators and once you leave the base, it’s a good route. You run on a path, some of it goes by the river, there are some nice vistas, neat bridges, some cool parts of Columbus, and a few residential and commercial areas. On the bigger hills you have Army DI’s motivating you to get to the top, which is also fun and unique. It’s a varied enough course to not be boring or too hard on your legs (not too flat, not too hilly). You finish back where you started.

The medal in previous years, I believe, was a dog tag or set of dog tags. If you’ve ever been in the military, that’s not particularly exciting. But 2015’s medal was awesome – it still incorporated dog tags but was a solid, round medal with the flag on it and the soldier logo.

Overall I’d recommend Solider Marathon to anyone looking for a good GA race or just a good marathon in general. It was well organized and I enjoyed it, especially since the weather held out for us. That same weekend they were holding R&R Savannah which got shut down due to heat/humidity, so I felt pretty fortunate!

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
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Mount Desert Island Marathon

Mount Desert Island Marathon

MDI is one of those races that I always think of immediately when someone asks "what's your favorite marathon?" It's just a standout for so many reasons, some of which … MORE

MDI is one of those races that I always think of immediately when someone asks “what’s your favorite marathon?” It’s just a standout for so many reasons, some of which are below:

It’s in Maine. I’d never been before this race, but I hope to go back. Maine in October is beautiful. I took so many pictures of the changing leaves, it’s a little ridiculous. There’s also great food in Bar Harbor, and it’s a nice drive from the airport in Bangor.

Lots to do. Bar Harbor closes down the week after the marathon, for the most part, and you get there just after the majority of tourists have left, which is nice. I stayed in a B&B right around the corner from the start, so walking distance to everything (and when I say walking distance, it was like 50 feet from the green in the center of town). Good restaurants and things to walk around and see, little touristy things, nice paths, and great views. I recommend you do a Maine foodie tour if you want to sample the local fare. Lobster rolls, blueberry-everything, crab cakes…yum.

The start was casual, because it’s not a HUGE race. I was able to walk out of the B&B a few minutes beforehand which meant my own bathroom up until the gun went off!

The weather: lucked out last year. It was crisp, cold, and sunny with blue skies. This made for comfortable running and great views.

The course: Absolutely nothing like it. It is challenging, with pretty much hill after hill. By the end, my legs were pretty sore! But the views were rewarding. The leaves were changing, you run along gorgeous shoreline, and you pass the famous tree. I ran with my phone and snapped quick photos along the way just because it was so pretty. If you can train on hills, it will help. I ran Chicago the weekend prior (flat as a pancake) and my MDI time was 7 minutes faster, so don’t be scared.

Did I mention the views?

The medal: it’s a big golden lobster claw. What’s not to love about that?! I gave the SWAG four stars only because the marathon shirt was bright pink, not my favorite. But the medal made up for it!

My husband was with me and met me at the finish, and there is a drive back to the start/Bar Harbor. There were probably shuttles but I didn’t investigate since I had a ride. Easy drive back though.

Overall: I loved MDI. It’s so well organized and executed. Some of the best scenery and great small town support. Everyone was friendly and enthusiastic, and very excited about the marathon. There was great food and drink, a local vibe that was really fun, and of course, beautiful fall weather and foliage. Highly recommend MDI!! Oh, and if they’re auctioning/selling race banners, it’s a nice keepsake. I got one and it’s hanging on my wall.

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Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

As far as big city races and World Marathon Majors, I've done Boston, NYC, MCM, and Chicago. Chicago has the award for most crowds, hands down. It didn't hurt that … MORE

As far as big city races and World Marathon Majors, I’ve done Boston, NYC, MCM, and Chicago. Chicago has the award for most crowds, hands down. It didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful so people came out in droves to support!

I registered on a whim since I had guaranteed entry and could skip the lottery. I figured I should run it while I could, who knows what the next year would bring and it checked Illinois off my list. I’m glad I did, it was a great trip and my birthday marathon!

Getting to Chicago is easy and I had a direct flight from Virginia. I didn’t want to mess with a car so I used my own two legs and Uber to get around. Getting to the expo was the hardest part, but I made it. Giant expos are my least favorite part of big marathons, so I make a point of running in, grabbing my stuff, and running out. It was huge but well organized and pretty efficient given the size of the crowd milling around. I got out of there and went to my hotel (Westin North River). This was a great location to stay, by the way. Walk to great restaurants, walk to start, walk back from finish. Perfect. I made a side trip to the Shedd Aquarium one day and a local friend showed me all around the awesome parks by the lake. Beautiful area!

Chicago is obviously a big city marathon, which means “scenery” is equivalent to neighborhoods, tall buildings, and big crowds, not beautiful foliage and coast lines. You run it for that electric vibe, not peaceful scenery. This is not usually my preferred type of race, but it is fun to run “the big ones.”

I was in corral C, first wave on race morning. I walked from my hotel, along with lots of other people. The race area was well organized and efficient. I didn’t carry anything other than water and a banana with me so security was easy. LOTS of portajohns and easy to get where you need to be, just make sure to give yourself time.

The course is VERY flat, with some “bumps” rather than hills. I actually found it was one of my slower times, and I think that has to do with the flat course and the fact that I knew I had a hilly marathon the next weekend, so I soaked up the sights and sounds instead of hoofing it. You run through a ton of the city and the crowds are never ending. There was one point where a couple had a sign that said “Puppy Power Here” and one of them was holding an adorable puppy. Needless to say I ran over to get my puppy fix before continuing on. That was the best part of any marathon ever. 🙂

Lots of aid stations and bathrooms if you needed them, pretty much every mile I think. The only downside to this is I could smell the bathrooms before I saw them. Gross. I appreciated the availability of water and gatorade though. One other cool thing was the blue tangent line painted on the road. I think this was the first time the elites didn’t have pacers so they painted the blue line to show the most efficient route. I tried to follow it pretty closely but still came in over 26.2. It was very cool to think that I was running in the footsteps of the elites and idols like Deena Kastor.

The finish was packed and it felt great to cross the line. Here’s where my three star SWAG rating comes in: the t-shirt is actually pretty crummy and boring and the medal was lackluster. I don’t run solely for the medal (ok maybe I do) and given how much this race cost and what a big deal it is, I was kind of let down by their choices. Still happy to have earned it but could have been much better. After I get my medal and space blanket, I picked up some water and walked the mile or so back to my hotel. Great shakeout for the legs! I love that this race starts at a “normal” time so you’re done at a reasonable hour.

Overall: Just like all of the big city marathons, I think they’re worth doing once (more, if you like the crowds!). I still prefer small and simple with nice scenery, but Chicago is pretty special. It’s masterfully organized and run, and seems to go off pretty flawlessly. I enjoyed spending time in the city itself and getting to see it on foot on a beautiful day. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend running it and seeing for yourself.

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Mesa Falls Marathon

Mesa Falls Marathon

Mesa Falls is a beautiful and very small marathon in Idaho. It was a bit of an odyssey for me to travel there, going from central VA to Salt Lake … MORE

Mesa Falls is a beautiful and very small marathon in Idaho. It was a bit of an odyssey for me to travel there, going from central VA to Salt Lake City, driving to Ogden and spending a night, then driving to Ashton, ID and spending a night there. I returned to Salt Lake City after the race before flying home. Well worth the effort!

This is a low key event, my favorite kind! Packet pickup (which comes in a potato sack!) takes place at the local elementary school. Literally took 60 seconds. After I got my shirt (a nice green long-sleeve tech shirt) I drove to the upper and lower Mesa Falls, which was beautiful! It was a pretty drive too, with a few scenic overlooks. The only downside was that this was around the time of the wildfires in Idaho and surrounding areas, so there was some haze, though we were unaffected by smoke.

Race morning they offer a runners’ breakfast, which was convenient. It’s in the same school cafeteria and after you get your coffee and use the facilities, you get bussed to the start, 26.2 miles away in the Targhee National Forest. It’s a comfortable charter bus, not school bus, and it’s a pleasant enough trip in the pre-dawn hours.

The course is point to point and has the added benefit of running on several different surfaces. You start on about 10 miles of gravel roads (easy running) in the beautiful forest. It’s about 6100 ft but I felt unaffected. You meet up with the half runners on 2.8 miles of packet trails by the Warm River, which was really pretty. The only downside is it’s a narrow trail and some of the half runners are slow or taking up the whole trial, so you have to be aware and let them know you’re coming up on them. I didn’t have any problems, just be conscious of it. It is a beautiful segment of the course. Then you’re on about 13 miles of pavement to the finish, with one big hill between mile 17-19. The last 10k is pretty flat through the farmland leading into Ashton. We had great weather; cool with sunny skies. If it’s a warm year, that last portion could get hot, but it was fine for us. I carried my hydration pack so never hurt for water, but I can’t recall how often aid stations were available.

The finish line is in Ashton, easy walking distance back to the school where most people park. Don’t forget to claim your free huckleberry milkshake at the local place around the corner – it’s so good!! The medal is actually a small wooden medallion with the logo on it. Small, but unique and nice. I got an age group place here which meant I got a nice wooden plaque. Swag is pretty good considering it’s such a small event.

Overall: easy to maneuver this small, well-organized race. Book your lodging early because there aren’t a ton of places in Ashton, if that’s where you want to stay. I spent the night at Eagle Peak Lodge which was perfect and gave me a late checkout. If you can take advantage of where you are and explore the surrounding national forests, do so. And make sure you see the falls – you run right by one of the overlooks but you can see more at upper and lower viewing locations the day before or after the race. It’s worth seeing! And don’t forget your milkshake. Enjoy the scenery and excellent organization of this friendly, small-town event.

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Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

*This race has gone through some management changes the last year or two. I can't speak to it now, but in 2015, it was great. The Light at the End … MORE

*This race has gone through some management changes the last year or two. I can’t speak to it now, but in 2015, it was great.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a fast point to point marathon on a scenic gravel trail (not technical trail) east of Seattle. There is no expo, which is awesome – very small race, so you show up and get your bib on race morning.

The day starts with you parking at Twin Falls Middle School, followed by a bus trip to the starting area. You cross the start line at Hyak trailhead on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Not long after starting you get to run through the Hyak Tunnel, which is close to 2.5 or 3 miles of pitch black, with literally just a pinpoint of light at the far end! It’s damp, cool, and full of echoes of runners’ breath, footfalls, and laughter. Run with a flashlight or headlamp!! I carried mine and they give you small bags to drop them in at the first table right outside the tunnel, so you don’t have to carry it the whole time. The tunnel portion is very cool!!

After that you’re running on gravel roads in a beautiful park with a lot of shade, crossing beautiful foot bridges with nice views. The course is very fast, and is pretty much all downhill, though it’s a gentle downhill, not a quad-pounding downhill. There are hikers and cyclists out and about on the trail, but it wasn’t ever a problem.

There are 8 or 9 aid stations along the course, though I carried my hydration pack just in case. We had great weather in 2015, warming up slightly by the end but otherwise comfortable running temps and blue skies.

There was an issue last year with signage towards the end of the course – I think a few mile markers were missing but apparently there was an issue unlocking a fire road gate which delayed them getting those last signs up. Not a big deal. The race was well organized and responsive ahead of time if you had a question.

The medal was decent, though the shirt was a bit too big. The most important thing about this race is the BQ that came out of it! I definitely recommend this event if you’re looking for a PR, BQ, or just to check Washington off your list of states. It was beautiful and a lot of fun. Oh, and it sells out fast, so be ready to sign up!!

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Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

Boston is a unique experience for a runner, especially those of us who may only ever get to run it once. Last year was cold and rainy, but it didn't … MORE

Boston is a unique experience for a runner, especially those of us who may only ever get to run it once. Last year was cold and rainy, but it didn’t put a damper on the festivities at all. Here are my takeaways:

Expo: I didn’t linger, but it is well organized and crowded. Be sure and take a look at the merchandise. I grabbed a sweatshirt which is one of my favorites of all time. I of course bought the jacket too but I did that online ahead of time, plus a long-sleeve top. The finisher shirt was really nice, bright yellow with the logo on the front and back. I’ll probably never run Boston again but the gear and swag I collected will always be amongst my favorite!

Hotel: It’s expensive to stay in Boston any time, but especially during marathon time. We stayed at the W Boston which was prime real estate, but worth it. BOOK IN ADVANCE. Like, as soon as you know you’re going to come back or MIGHT come back the next year, book a hotel room. W was easy walking distance to shuttle meet up and finish line.

Food: One of the great things about marathoning is getting to eat well. There are so many restaurants in Boston it’s a little overwhelming. The Salty Pig is delicious (not for carbo loading but any other time!) and Teatro was a great race-eve restaurant; great pasta and lots of other Boston runners doing the same! It was also right around the corner from our hotel.

Logistics: Boston knows what to do on marathon weekend. Race morning was easy. Get on the bus, ride 26.2 miles to the start. There you’ll find tents and bathrooms and places to hang out until your wave. Depending on when you run, you may be there a while so bring throw-away clothes based on sitting around in whatever temperature you might have that day.

The course: It’s got some hills, but who has time to notice? The course is basically lined with spectators for the majority of the route with only a few exceptions. Each milestone town is exciting if you’ve looked at the course ahead of time, and by the time you get to the home stretch, your ears will be ringing with cheering crowds. I had headphones, but didn’t really bother with them so I could soak up the race.

Speaking of soaking up the race, bring lots of different clothing options for race day, just in case. We pretty much knew it was going to rain on us but the day before was cloudless and perfect. I had options and I was glad.

The finish was a breeze. Collect your iconic medal and make your way out of the funnel. I found my husband and we made our way back to the hotel. Enjoy the post-race excitement – so many Boston jackets, hats, and sweatshirts wandering around Boston the evening after the race! If you have the time to explore the city, I highly recommend it, just be careful about too much walking if it’s before the race.

It’s a must-run in my opinion, even if it’s only once in a lifetime.

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Austin Marathon & Half Marathon

Austin Marathon & Half Marathon

Austin is hilly. There, it's been said (it's really not that bad). Other than that, it's a really good city race, not too big, not too small. It's well organized … MORE

Austin is hilly. There, it’s been said (it’s really not that bad). Other than that, it’s a really good city race, not too big, not too small. It’s well organized and you can get lucky with the weather.

We stayed at the Sheraton across from the capital which is convenient to the start and finish. You can walk to lots of different restaurants but don’t walk TOO much, hills lurk everywhere! DO go to the Roaring Fork for a Bigass Burger, but go after the marathon, not before 🙂

The start was easy to get to, although as is my usual complaint, there’s never enough portajohns when the 15-minute mark hits and it’s almost race time. I don’t judge them; I’m not sure there is such a thing as “enough” portajohns before a marathon.

The course was fairly scenic, running through the city, past the river, the UT campus, and other historic areas. I remember it being pleasant and varied enough to be interesting. There was also good crowd support throughout the majority of the course.

The medal in 2015 was awesome, I think better than the 2016 anniversary medal (which I only saw pictures of). I ended up buying an Austin Marathon shirt at the expo which I liked better than the race giveaway (the swag was okay but the purchased shirt was better).

Bottom line, Austin is a great race, especially if you’e ticking off states. It’s a fun city, lots to see and do if you have the time, good food, well organized, good support, and all around good race. The weather can be a factor, I suppose, but 2015 was somewhat humid but not hot, so worked out okay. Highly recommend it for your Texas marathon!

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Kiawah Island Marathon & Half Marathon

Kiawah Island Marathon & Half Marathon

I ran this marathon on a whim, signing up last minute and driving the 7 hours down to Kiawah from Virginia on my last day of student teaching. I've been … MORE

I ran this marathon on a whim, signing up last minute and driving the 7 hours down to Kiawah from Virginia on my last day of student teaching. I’ve been to Kiawah many times in my life, growing up in SC, so I knew it would be a beautiful run. It was a great opportunity to cross SC off my 50 states list and I’m glad it chose to run it.

I hit the expo at about 8:30pm Friday night and didn’t spend a whole lot of time there, but it was pretty hoppin’. The t-shirt was long sleeve, not bad, but the cool thing is that if you are or were military, you got a special bib with the American flag on it, a nice touch. I checked in to my hotel right after that and went to bed since the race was the next morning. If you can stay on Kiawah, it’s awesome. Rent a cottage or house, or stay at the Sanctuary ($$$$ but cheaper in December than any other time of year; it’s just beautiful, decorated for Christmas. If you stay on the island, it’s pretty easy to get to the start. I think if you are off the island, you can drive and park outside the gate and get shuttled there.

It was cold on race morning but crisp and sunny. The start was organized and went off smoothly. This race is pretty much pancake flat, and is very shaded. You don’t run on or even that close to the beach, but somehow that doesn’t matter. It meanders through the beautiful neighborhoods (these houses…wow) and the marshland and lagoons and golf courses that cover the area. It really is lovely, and the weather was just perfect. There was also one house where three or four ladies were drinking mimosas and dressed in long evening gowns and pearls, cheering for the runners. So awesome!

The majority of runners seemed to be in the half, so after we split it got much more spread out, but again, it just seemed like a lovely run on a beautiful morning. You also run on some bike paths/sidewalks and across some footbridges (look for gators!) before you end up at the finish area. The medal was pretty cool I thought, and was a nice end to the marathon. I really enjoyed this low-key, well-organized marathon, and highly recommend it. Don’t do it if you want nonstop crowds or a crazy beach vibe though; do it for the beauty and scenery of the area, and top notch organization of the event.

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New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon

New York...another bucket list list that every marathoner should run once. It's THE New York City Marathon. Chicago, Boston, NYC. Check, check, check. And big city races aren't even my … MORE

New York…another bucket list list that every marathoner should run once. It’s THE New York City Marathon. Chicago, Boston, NYC. Check, check, check. And big city races aren’t even my thing, but these are special.

New York, like all of the big city events, is expensive to run, and expensive to sleep in! We stayed at the Sheraton Times Square which was convenient and a big runner hub. My husband and I took the train from VA and cabbed it to the hotel, then walked to the expo and back. There are tons of restaurants too. I HIGHLY recommend carbo-loading at Trattoria Belvedere; wonderful little Italian restaurant, very cozy! The expo is big and crazy but laid out well and organized. We wandered around and bought a shirt after getting my packet.

The thing that everyone will probably talk about first when speaking of the NYC Marathon, is getting to the start. Fair enough, it is a hassle. But only in that there are a lot of steps; it’s not difficult, in fact they make shuffling 50,000 runners around the city look pretty easy. My morning started early, even though the race didn’t start till 10-something. After having breakfast and coffee, I made my way a couple of blocks down the road to the subway. Easy. Took the subway (with several other runners) to the Staten Island Ferry. Check. Hung out a while just because there was no reason to rush by now. It’s warm and there are bathrooms (race day was COLD and WINNNNNDY). Finally got on one of the ferries, which was enormous and comfortable. Check. Got to Staten Island, took a warm bus to the start village. Done. Shivered and walked around the starting village until it was time to line up in my corral and wave.

The course is unique, meandering over the various bridges and through each borough. Very cool. Fantastic crowd support the whole way, lots of well stocked aid stations. Even in the windy weather, the people came out in droves to cheer us on. Passing Central Park in the home stretch was awesome, and crossing the finish line was special all by itself. Great medal too.

Exiting the finish area was lengthy but the walk is good for tired legs. I highly recommend not checking a bag so that you get the giveaway, in my year it was a sweet blue hooded poncho. Very nice for the walk back to the hotel with my husband. It’s lined and pretty warm.

All in all, NYC is special. I never want to live there, but I loved running there. Take the time to explore the city, see the sights, enjoy the many, many restaurants, and cherish the run. OH…and eat a black and white cookie (my favorite!).

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Anchorage RunFest

Anchorage RunFest

I loved Moose's Tooth Marathon/Big Wild Life Runs (now called Anchorage RunFest). To be fair, I did hear that they shorted their marathon course last year. This review is strictly … MORE

I loved Moose’s Tooth Marathon/Big Wild Life Runs (now called Anchorage RunFest). To be fair, I did hear that they shorted their marathon course last year. This review is strictly for 2014 which, in my view, was flawless.

Alaska is a pretty long way away unless you live in the PNW, so let me just preface this review by saying that my husband and I made a little vacation out this one in Kachemak Bay. If you can spend some time up there, DO!

Back to the race. Sheraton Anchorage was a great spot, walking distance to start, finish, and things to do in the area (didn’t rent a car but have a friend up there who was able to show me the sights outside of downtown – go blueberry picking!!). Make sure you get a slice at Moose’s Tooth pizzeria and if you have the time or the weather is bad, watch a movie at Bear’s Tooth pub.

Expo: Nicely done, smaller, obviously, because it’s a smaller race. Got my shirt and bib then walked around Anchorage a bit more. The shirt was long-sleeve and a nice color, with very cool graphics. One of my favorites that didn’t go into the make-into-a-quilt-bag.

Race: It was a little cool and drizzly but actually pretty pleasant on race day. It’s a very low-key race so I just walked down to the start and talked to some fellow runners before we bunched up for the start. The course itself is nice; it had beautiful scenery and ran along pleasant paths by the coast and through some parks. There were some hills but nothing bad. The finish is back downtown at the starting area. It was a nice medal, shaped like Alaska. I ended up winning my age group and got a mug, ribbon, and engraved key chain as well.

Alaska is one of my favorite states that I’ve visited and run in so far. The scenery is tough to beat and there’s a ton you can do if you can give yourself the time to stay and explore. The race is low-key but well-run with nice swag. If you’re running all 50 states and need Alaska still, sign and up and enjoy this event to the fullest.

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5
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Grandma’s Marathon & Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

Grandma’s Marathon & Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

Running a marathon in June can be risky if you're like I am, and don't like hot weather. I couldn't believe the weather when we landed (and I checked before … MORE

Running a marathon in June can be risky if you’re like I am, and don’t like hot weather. I couldn’t believe the weather when we landed (and I checked before I left). 45 degrees and overcast. In my opinion, that’s ideal running weather!

Getting to Duluth is kind of a pain. Coming from central VA, I flew to Minneapolis, then had to take a three hour van ride to Duluth. Easy to schedule, cheaper than another flight, but kind of a pain. I also took that van ride back after the marathon.

Hotels in Duluth = jerks. Okay that’s not entirely fair…they want to make money, and so they up-charge you on marathon weekend. One of the most expensive hotels I’ve booked for a marathon, and it was just an old Radisson. Glad I ran it, but ouch. Good thing about that hotel is the location. I walked to and from the expo and the finish line. Good restaurant too, although there are lots of options in Duluth.

Expo was good. It’s a decent size race, so lots to buy if you’re looking. I ended up getting a fleece because I was freezing. Packet pick up was easy.

Race morning was pretty straightforward. I walked outside the hotel and took the race bus to 26 miles away to the start. There were plenty of portajohns and also water at the start area. Luckily it never actually rained, it was just misty and foggy, so it wasn’t bad waiting around for a half hour.

The start went off without a hitch. The course was point to point and ran alongside Lake Superior. It was pretty much flat and had nice scenery. Not a ton of spectators, but pretty good turnout the closer you get to the finish. UMD college kids and frat boys came out in full force (with drinks in hand, they were pretty rowdy) which was fun. The finish area was crowded. I ran with the American flag, so they made a big fuss about that when I came down the homestretch. The medal was decent. Shirt was decent. Nothing crazy but good.

Overall, it’s not a cheap marathon to run but I really enjoyed it. It’s well organized and executed, the route is scenic, and the aid stations are plentiful. I definitely recommend it.

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Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Disney is, as we all know, an empire. They do things a certain way, and you pay a high price for it (literally, it's expensive to register and expensive to … MORE

Disney is, as we all know, an empire. They do things a certain way, and you pay a high price for it (literally, it’s expensive to register and expensive to go and stay there to do it). My first trip to Disney World was to run the Goofy Challenge. I was worried I’d hate it; I don’t like Florida (too hot and humid), I don’t like crowds, and generally, I like smaller races. Why in the world would I sign up for this race? Same reason I signed up for NYC, Boston, and Chicago: they’re banner races, I wanted to run them once. Checked that box at Disney too, and glad I did.

I ran the Goofy with the American flag and I convinced my husband to run the half with me so I wouldn’t go too fast. We lucked out with the weather – while it was kind of humid, the temperature was actually not bad. Cool mornings and early start times helped a lot. So here’s my rundown:

Hotel: Amazingly, if you’re an SPG member, the Swan & Dolphin hotels are tough to beat. They are also Disney properties, so we were able to stay on property and use points. Sweet! Great location and amenities. We still had free shuttle access to the parks and to the race starts and back at the end. Fantastic food, strolling to the boardwalk was nice, and we got to see some of the parks.

Expo: I was underwhelmed by the expo. It seemed dimly lit and kind of lackluster. A lot of the merchandise was picked over and there just wasn’t much. I didn’t buy anything. The shirts were kind of nice, good graphics and unique, but a little on the small side. While we’re on the swag, the medals were great. Three big medals with the Disney characters and nice ribbons. Loved hanging those on my wall.

Races: The start times to both races are very early, but that, to me, was awesome. I was back at the hotel early giving us time to explore, dine, visit a park, etc. (all by design, I’m sure). There are shuttles that drop you off at the start village, then you go through security (not bad) and the usual hang around and wait time. Then there’s the long trek to the corrals. Good for a warm up! There are many corrals and waves that are supposed to seed you based on pace/finish time, but much to my annoyance people were jumping barriers left and right to move up. I hate that.

Anyway, there are fireworks at the start, a whole big production, and then you’re off. The courses were pretty good. Very flat, and pretty windy in some places. You do get to go through the parks, which is the fun part, and there are Disney characters all over the place. I didn’t care about time too much, so I stopped to take several photos (if the line was too long I skipped it). The half went through Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and the full ran through Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom (I hear that if you go a little slower, you can ride the Everest ride while still running the marathon, which is unique), ESPN (wide world of sports, maybe?) around a baseball diamond, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. There are some long, boring, and lonely stretches between parks where there’s not much scenery, but that’s the price you pay for running through each property.

My personal opinion: it was worth it. I hadn’t ever been to Disney World and I had fun, even as a crowd-hating adult. It actually wasn’t as crowded as I feared and it’s very clean and well-run. There’s obviously a lot to do so it’s one of those fun build-a-little-trip-around-it races to do with your spouse or family. I may never go to Disney again, after all. The half and full marathons were far from my fastest races but that’s okay, I knew that going in and sometimes it’s way more fun to just enjoy the sights and take some photos with Goofy. It’s a great way to cross Florida off your list if you’re a 50 stater, and if you’re like I am, it’s another box checked.

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Catalina Island Marathon

Catalina Island Marathon

This is one of my favorite marathons to date. First, it's very small, which is highly preferable the majority of the time, at least in my opinion. Second, it's on … MORE

This is one of my favorite marathons to date. First, it’s very small, which is highly preferable the majority of the time, at least in my opinion. Second, it’s on Catalina Island, which if you’ve never been there, is not to be missed. It’s truly gorgeous, and very challenging. This marathon is put on for and by runners. Here’s my rundown.

Getting there – Catalina Island is…you guessed it, an island. My hubby and I flew in from VA to LAX, and from LAX, we splurged for a scenic helicopter ride. It was worth it, and actually not that bad in terms of cost. We caught our helo near Long Beach, piece of cake. It was a beautiful flight in and a nice little extra. We actually “hitchhiked” with someone the mile from the helo pad on Catalina into Avalon, the magical little seaside town. It was actually one of the locals who lives there year round and takes the helo into LA every week. Friendly folk on Catalina! Avalon itself is very small, no need for a car, and you probably couldn’t rent one anyway (maybe, not sure). We stayed in a little B&B one or two streets back from the main street, the Seacrest Inn. Very comfortable and quiet. Getting back to LAX – we reserved our seats on the ferry, which is also a beautiful ride back to the coast, and an easy cab ride to the airport.

Catalina doesn’t hit the “high season” for another month or so, so a March race was perfect. The weather was beautiful; cool and crisp in the morning and sunny all day. Warmed up in the afternoons but it was very pleasant. Make sure you get out and walk around the town, get ice cream by the beach, great restaurants abound in such a small place.

Race expo was small and simple. They do a night-before talk about the course which is helpful. It’s a challenging elevation profile, with lots of ups and downs and then a major up-up-up. It’s all nicely graded dirt roads, nothing technical other than the elevation itself. I wore road shoes with gaiters and it was perfect. The very end of the race you’re on pavement.

Getting to the start. There are a couple of ways to do it, but the easiest way from Avalon is to take the ferry (there are bathrooms on board) which goes to Two Harbors where you walk a short distance to the start. There is an early start option as well. There are so many runners that have run this marathon for years and years, it’s incredible. It’s almost a cult race. You get a little date bar that can be hung off of a race pin. Some runners had them on their hats and the chain of bars was like 20+ long. Incredible devotion to this race!

Anyway, the course runs past meadows, valleys, and of course, hills. We saw bison not even a mile in. All of the climbs are well worth it, as the vistas are breathtaking. The downhills are fast and the last three-ish are downhill and then flat on pavement heading into Avalon. The finish line is surprisingly festive, and you can kick your shoes off and walk right into the Pacific.

The t-shirt: unlike most races, you don’t get the t-shirt until you cross the finish line, which is kind of neat. It was an awesome black long-sleeve tech tee with vibrant logos on it. One of my favorites that I still wear. The “medal” is actually a hand-made ceramic tile on a ribbon, and changes each year. It’s very cool and very unique.

My overall assessment: absolutely one of my favorite races. I suggest carrying a hydration pack. Even though there are aid stations, the course isn’t shaded so it was nice to have my own water. I also carried my phone to take photos and was glad to have done so. It’s not a race I ran for speed, but rather for joy. Soak up this event, talk to the other runners too. It’s one of the only races were I had headphones, but didn’t once use them. It was too beautiful of a day, too beautiful of a course, and the other runners were so friendly. Enjoy it!!

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
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ICY-8 Adventure Trail Run

ICY-8 Adventure Trail Run

The ICY-8 Hour event is put on by Athletic Equation. It stayed true to its name and was indeed about 14 degrees for the majority of the run, with snow … MORE

The ICY-8 Hour event is put on by Athletic Equation. It stayed true to its name and was indeed about 14 degrees for the majority of the run, with snow falling by the end. The run is a timed 8 hour event but you can run as much as you want. I ended up running not quite 33 miles and chose to stop with a little time left so that my digits could thaw out.

You run the trails at Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania, VA. It is about 90% trail, actual trail as opposed to fire roads. There are two loops that you can run, a little less than 5 miles or about 8 miles with a big hill. The cool thing is that after the first lap, you can run whatever combination you want – short or long, forward or backward. After each loop you tell the timer if you ran the short loop or the long loop, stop at the tent for some chow, and get back out there. Note to self – count on your camelbak freezing if it’s as cold as it was in 2013!

This race is small and very personal. I ran with two friends and we all found the people to be super friendly and supportive. The shirt was fun and if it’s your first 50k/ultra, they give you a cool little plaque to commemorate it. Experienced finishers also got a pint glass (they accidentally gave me one too and when I tried to return it, they let me keep it). All in all, it’s a great race that’s well supported and gives you a lot of flexibility. I’d recommend it, especially if considering your first ultra.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
5
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Singletrack Maniac 50K

Singletrack Maniac 50K

This was the 2nd 50k I've run and it was back in 2013 in Williamsburg, VA. This is a small ultra marathon with a fairly small field of runners but … MORE

This was the 2nd 50k I’ve run and it was back in 2013 in Williamsburg, VA. This is a small ultra marathon with a fairly small field of runners but is wonderfully supported and organized. It started at a middle school which was open (indoor bathrooms!) beforehand and then quickly routed runners into the woods (less than a mile). The run is in Freedom Park and features a lot of hills, roots, bridges, creeks, wildlife, and solitude! I took one hard fall and several near-misses during the race. As I recall, there are several different loops and trails that make up the course (D trail is the most technical and difficult, that I remember!!) so it does change up every so often – nothing gets old! There is great support with well-stocked aid stations and enthusiastic volunteers, and you can have a drop bag ready as well.

I finished as the second overall female and won a cool ceramic clock shaped like a running shoe (it’s on my wall of fame) and all finishers receive a cool ceramic medal as well. The t-shirt was cotton but it’s one of my favorites (fitted, not baggy). I haven’t been focusing on ultras since I started running the 50 states, but I really liked this event (we lucked out with cooler weather in 2013, I think 2014 was warm and humid!). Enjoy the snacks at the finish line then go to Williamsburg and enjoy pancakes at one of the many breakfast joints in town!

DIFFICULTY
5
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
4
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Instant Classic Marathon Trail Run

Instant Classic Marathon Trail Run

This is a local race for me, about 25 miles from home. I ran it in 2013 when it was a relatively young race, mostly because it was close to … MORE

This is a local race for me, about 25 miles from home. I ran it in 2013 when it was a relatively young race, mostly because it was close to home and benefited the Fisher House. It’s a small marathon that takes place in Pocahontas State Park and features a very pretty course through the woods on a well-maintained trail. It’s moderately challenging in that there are hills, but it’s not very technical. It was well marked and well supported. I don’t run a ton of trail races but I enjoyed this one a lot! The t-shirt was nice (navy blue with the logo) and the medal was decent as well. Again, it’s a small race so logistically, it’s very smooth and simple to get your packet, get to the start, park, run, and leave at the end. I highly recommend it if you like trail runs, smaller marathons, or are just bored and want to run something new.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
5
SWAG
3
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Garden Spot Village Marathon & Half Marathon

Garden Spot Village Marathon & Half Marathon

Garden Spot Village Marathon is in beautiful rolling hills in Amish country. It's not a huge event, but very well done. The weather in 2013 was beautiful (blue skies, cool … MORE

Garden Spot Village Marathon is in beautiful rolling hills in Amish country. It’s not a huge event, but very well done. The weather in 2013 was beautiful (blue skies, cool temperatures) but windy, combined with a pretty hilly route, so I wouldn’t call it a fast course. It is scenic if you like country views, farmers, cattle, horses and buggies, and farmhouses. If you want big crowds and tons of support, it’s not a good choice. Personally, though, I liked it a lot, and really enjoyed the “valley of no wires”…not a power line within view! The medal was nice, and the shirt decent. I stayed at a B&B that had a runners’ breakfast and was walkable to the expo and pasta dinner, as well as the start/finish. It’s been a few years since I ran it, but I’d recommend it, and I’d also suggest running the other race they put on, a half marathon called Bird in Hand Half (the medal is a horseshoe, very cool). If you do both in the same year, you get the Road Apple Award, which is just pure awesomeness.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
4
SWAG
3
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Richmond Marathon & Half Marathon

Richmond Marathon & Half Marathon

This is my local marathon but I've only run it once. It's very well organized, and feels like a much larger event than it really is in the sense that … MORE

This is my local marathon but I’ve only run it once. It’s very well organized, and feels like a much larger event than it really is in the sense that it’s got lots of crowd support and on-course volunteers. The route is pretty scenic for a city race, running through some cool spots around Richmond and the James River. The t-shirt was long sleeve and technical, which I love, and the medal was nice and high quality. The weather that year poured rain just before the start, but ended up being pleasant. The finish is downhill and it’s fun to hang out and cheer in the other runners. It’s a good Virginia option, especially if you can’t get in to Marine Corps, which is a different type of race altogether. Logistically, there are lots of hotels, restaurants, and parking areas for out of towners. My only complaint the year I ran it was that traffic to get into and out of the expo was ridiculous, though the expo itself was very good.

DIFFICULTY
3
PRODUCTION
4
SCENERY
3
SWAG
4
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Bataan Memorial Death March

Bataan Memorial Death March

I did this event with fellow veterans as part of a "heavy" team (rucked in uniform, carrying 40+ pounds of weight...you must carry 35 lbs not including water or any … MORE

I did this event with fellow veterans as part of a “heavy” team (rucked in uniform, carrying 40+ pounds of weight…you must carry 35 lbs not including water or any additional gear, and a gas mask). It’s a difficult event in the high desert, sandy, usually quite warm, perhaps windy, and sunny. Many people run it like any other marathon but it’s definitely not a “PR” course. It is entirely worth doing, and the sooner the better. There is a dwindling number of surviving Bataan Death March service members, and several of them are at this event. In 2012, many of them participated in the shorter distance events. You don’t do this event for the swag or the bling; in fact we got the dog tag “medal” before the race. It’s one of those marathons that’s worth doing for the sake of what it represents and those you meet along the course.

DIFFICULTY
4
PRODUCTION
5
SCENERY
3
SWAG
2

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Outer Banks Marathon & Southern Fried Half Marathon

Outer Banks Marathon & Southern Fried Half Marathon

I know some people really like this race, I just am not one of them. I found it to be dull, and considering it's such a beautiful place, it's not … MORE

I know some people really like this race, I just am not one of them. I found it to be dull, and considering it’s such a beautiful place, it’s not very scenic. There is a hilly part in the woods around the halfway point, which was a nice, and surprising, change of scenery, but otherwise it’s kind of around neighborhoods and down a long stretch of highway to the never ending bridge and finally into the home stretch and finish in Manteo. I’d call it a mediocre event, which if you’re nearby, is a decent race to run. Otherwise, I think there are other, better, options out there for North Carolina.

DIFFICULTY
2
PRODUCTION
3
SCENERY
2
SWAG
3

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