I am attempting to run a race in all 50 states by the time I turn 30 (Aug. 16, 2012). This year, I ran a race in 26 states. Here’s the run-down:
» Hill and Dale 8-mile run, Millington, TN: Jan. 8 (1:14:29)
I took a bus from Chicago to Memphis for this race. The wi-fi wasn’t working on the bus so I was pretty anxious to arrive in Memphis. My high school friend Chad picked me up, and I stayed at his family’s place just outside Memphis. This was an out-and-back race in the paved roads of Meeman state park. There was one monster incline to tackle but otherwise pretty flat. Afterwards, there was chili and other snacks for runners. I do wish they had race bibs, though, because I like to save them. After the race, we bummed around downtown Memphis and saw a Memphis basketball game and visited Beale Street before heading home.
» Winter Games 5K, Dubuque, IA: Jan. 30 (25:57)
I had already run in Newton last year on the Iowa Speedway, but I try to get at least six race miles in every state. I almost didn’t make this race. My GPS konked out by Rockford, and I had to use my phone to try to figure out where I was going. I arrived only a few minutes before the race, registered on the street. I think it was the adrenaline that pushed me to finish. Hilly because the city is on the Mississippi River. Hot chocolate for runners after the race. Very nice medals. Afterward, I picked up some Dubuque wine and headed home.
» Fanny Freezer 5K, Fort Wayne, IN: Feb. 12 (25:51)
As with Iowa, I had already run in Indiana last year: The Running of the Irish 5K in Chesterton. This year, I drove to Fort Wayne. The race was in the afternoon so it was easy for me to get to. It was a loop around a park. Pretty basic. Afterward, I stopped at the Chik-Fil-A, which was a big draw back when I was eating meat.
» Run the Line Half Marathon, Texarkana, TX/AR: Feb. 20 (1:57:59)
This was by far my favorite race of the year. I had been hemming and hawing over whether to do this race but the logistics worked out. I took the bus to St. Louis, stayed there for a couple of days, then took the overnight train to Texarkana. The train drops you off in downtown Texarkana (yes, there is one) and I took a cab (yes, there is one) to my hotel on the Arkansas side of the state line. I had a whole day to explore Texarkana before the race. I went to Whataburger for the first time and visited Wal-Mart twice. The race was Sunday morning. The half-marathon was the only event so it was the focus. It’s an annual showdown between the runners from Texas (who wore shorts with the Texas flag on them) and Arkansas (who wore Razorback temp tattoos on their faces). You started in Arkansas, where you ran through a park adorned with Razorback gear, then you ran the line into Texas, where there were Hooters girls passing out water. I PR’d in this race, and the race director gave me a hug afterward when I told her I was from Chicago. Nice medals, nice town (though there’s not much to do on Sundays). I took the train back later Sunday night. This was also the first race where we prayed before we ran. I’ve done that a few more times since.
» Arnold 5K, Columbus, Ohio: March 6 (25:06)
This was a last minute addition to my sked. Last year I ran the Flying Pig 10K (half in Ohio, half in Kentucky) was looking for an Ohio 5K. I took an overnight bus to Columbus, which dropped off right by the convention center, where the annual Arnold Schwarzenegger fitness expo was taking place. It was nice to warm up in the warmth. I had a guy at the help desk watch my stuff as we ran loops around the downtown. It was icy and there was some construction but I enjoyed seeing the Blue Jackets hockey arena. I got a PR in this race but didn’t break 8-minute miles, which was my goal. This race also has a pump-and-run option, which was sold out before I registered. I would like to do one of those in the future. After the race was over, I got back on the bus and headed back to Chicago.
» Leprechaun Leap 10K, Erie, PA: March 12 (53:35)
I took the overnight train from Chicago to Erie. It was more crowded than I expected so I didn’t sleep as well. The train was running a bit late, which was fine. I had to call a cab to take me to a state park not too far from downtown, which looked a little run-down. We waited in a cabin for the race to start. It was sleeting on and off, and I was just ready to go. We did loops in the park, which was paved. I started slow hoping not to slip and fall. As I made the turn and hit mile 4, two deer crossed my path. So cool. There were no water stations to stop at, so I didn’t stop. This was my fasted 10K this year. The taxi driver was kind enough to wait for me to finish (no charge) and drive me to the bus stop, where I took a bus to Cleveland, toured the Great Lakes Brewery, barhopped and then took a bus back to Chicago. State 21 complete.
» Ni-Bthaska-Ke 12K Trail, Louisville, Neb: April 2 (1:41:35)
This was my first trail race and my toughest race of the year. I took a bus to Des Moines and then a bus to Omaha. Got a cab and spent the night on the Iowa side of the Iowa-Nebraska border. The hotel shuttled me to the Omaha airport (among the smallest airports I’ve ever seen) and I rented a car and drove 30 minutes outside Omaha to a large park in Louisville. This race bills itself as the toughest course in the Midwest, and I believe it. It is a single track trail for much of the way, and the tough part in the beginning is figuring out your pace because it’s rolling hills and mud. Finally, a few miles in, I got my footing (sort of). We crossed downed trees and avoided barb wire. I slide a few times. I was just happy to see the finish line. I went to my rental car to cry but no tears came out. There was a long line to get the pig they were serving for race finishers but I just wanted to get to Omaha to sightsee. That was my favorite part of the trip. I had never been to Omaha or Nebraska, and I enjoyed bar hopping and antiquing downtown. I definitely want to come back when I have more time to explore. I took the bus back to Des Moines and another to Chicago. I couldn’t walk for four days.
» Colorado 10K, Fort Collins, Colo: May 1 (54:26)
I had never been to Colorado before and was really anxious to go. I’m trying to see every ballpark before I’m 30 so my buddy Mike and I traveled to Colorado to see a Rockies game and run the 10K. I flew from Chicago to Denver. First of all, never take a cab from the Denver airport. It’s $55. We learned that the hard way but at least we got to split it. We stayed at a hotel downtown. We took a tour of the Rockies stadium the next afternoon (warm and sunny) and then watched a Rockies game later that night (inexplicably snowy). The next day we rented a car and drove to Fort Collins, where we took a tour of the Fat Tire brewery and had dinner in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The race was Sunday morning. The race was downhill, which helped because I was struggling with the elevation. The course ran along the last few miles of the Colorado Marathon, which was running at the same time. Very pretty among the mountains. Finished near the Fat Tire brewery. After the race, we headed back to Denver, dropped the car off, bar hopped. I then took a plane to St. Louis and a bus back to Chicago (cheapest option).
» Inspiring Hope 7.6-mile race, Mukilteo, WA: May 7 (1:04:09)
I met my friend Mark in Seattle, where he was staying for a few days. We had been to a Seattle Seahawks game last year but had not done a Mariners game. On Saturday morning, we rented a car and drove up to Mukilteo, a suburb of Seattle. I was hopeful that morning because it wasn’t raining. I don’t do so well in the rain. The race began well. I felt I was running at a good clip. Then somewhere, somehow a volunteer directed us to do an extra loop. On the way back, we ran into the race’s walkers, literally. We were dodging them, and it occurred to me towards the end that we had run more than a 10K, which the race was supposed to be. (I don’t run with a watch.). I started to worry about when the finish line would arrive. It finally did. Some runners did 7.6 miles like me while others only did a 10K because the mistake was corrected on the course. Sigh. The race director apologized and said she would host a make-up race, which was later canceled because of low registration numbers. After the race, we went to the Sizzler (awesomely bad) and then saw the White Sox beat the Mariners. Flew home to Chicago the next day.
» Barathon 6-mile race, New Orleans, LA: May 13 (1:14ish)
This was a last minute addition to the schedule. I was looking at flights and noticed the flights between New Orleans and Milwaukee were very cheap, and then stumbled across this barathon race: 6 miles, 6 beers. I was supposed to fly from Chicago to San Antonio and take a train to New Orleans but the San Antonio flight was delayed so they booked me on a flight the next day directly to New Orleans. I stayed in a hotel off the trolley line and explored the area. The race was Friday night, and I got there and had my first beer (Abita, obvi). I didn’t really “train” to run and drink but figured I’d take it slow if I felt nauseous. It actually went better than I thought. We ran from bar to bar, downed the beer and then ran to the next bar. Everything was going well until the end, when I followed some drunk girls to the finish line. We went the wrong way and went through the finish line backwards. A first for me. After the race is one big party. I spent the next day recovering and walking along the Mississippi and tasting my first muffaletta. Flew from New Orleans to Milwaukee, where I was picked up to go home.
» St. Anthony Downtown Dash 10K, Oklahoma City, OK: June 4 (58:20)
I was supposed to run a race in North Dakota this weekend but a river flooded there, so Amtrak canceled my trip. I scrambled and found this race in OKC, which I had never been to. I took 3 buses to get there: Chicago to St. Louis, St. Louis to Kansas City, Kansas City to Oklahoma City. The third bus broke down as it was leaving Kansas City, so we had to wait to use a different bus. My plan was to get to OKC a few hours before the race, which was on a Saturday night, eat and take a look at the federal bombing memorial. The bus was late, and I had to hustle to the hospital where the race was being held to register for it. I hurriedly ate a meal before, which was a mistake. The race was two loops through downtown OKC. I figured since it was a night race it wouldn’t be too hot. Wrong. It was 93 degrees. I felt it. I felt nauseous throughout, partly because I wasn’t drinking the water at the water stations, which was warm. I was just happy to finish. Afterward, I went into the hospital to cool down. After taking some water, I left to go to a restaurant to kill time before the bus arrived. About halfway between the hospital and the restaurant, the muscle in my right leg started pulsating and I felt like I couldn’t stand. I fell over. Luckily, three guys who had finished the race helped me up and took me to the restaurant and got me some food. We chatted about fracking, and then took me to the bus stop. I’m very grateful to them. I took the same three buses home, which I was not so grateful for.
» Groovefest Quarter Marathon, Cedar City, Utah: June 25 (1:01:59)
I almost didn’t run this race. I was having trouble with my leg since OKC and I had to see a doctor, who wasn’t so keen on me running. But I had non-refundable tix to Vegas, where my friend Mark was staying so I thought I should just go for. I flew to Vegas, picked him up and we drove through the night to St. George, Utah. We slept for a couple hours and then drove to Cedar City. The race was point to point. We ran through the town. The elevation started to get to me at mile 2, and I was pretty tired from the drive so I was happy to finish. I had never been to Utah before or Cedar City, which is beautiful. Visited In N Out Burger and then drove back to Vegas, where I slept more than partied. Flew home to Chicago in a 1 a.m. Monday morning flight, then went back to work.
» Strike Out Sarcoma 5K, Fairfax Station, VA: July 10 (27:58)
This race was put on by my 17-year-old cousin as part of a community service project. She did a great job. It was a paved out-and-back race in a park in a suburb outside D.C. Unfortunately, it was my slowest 5K of the year. I fell on the way back. I spent more time kicking myself than running. She’s hosting the race again this year, and I look forward to improving. I flew to D.C. to get there, saw a Nationals game, and then my family dropped me off on their way to their cabin in Minnesota.
» Lake Kampeska 10K, Watertown, SD: July 23 (I can’t find the official result)
I took a bus to Minneapolis and then rented a car at the airport and drove as much as I could of the 200 miles between Minneapolis and Watertown. I ended up staying in a hotel in Granite Falls. The guy at the registration desk asked me if I wanted a room with a hot tub. I declined. There was a major thunderstorm on the way to South Dakota. I pulled over a few times. Made it to the race. The weather cleared up. It was 6.2 sweaty miles through the fields near the lake. Hilly. I wish I could to see more of the lake. The neighbors were hosing runners down on the way to the finish line. I got back in the rental car, drove to Minneapolis airport, hung out at the Mall of America and then took a bus home.
» XTERRA Stoaked Trail 14K, Hanover, NH: Aug. 6 (1:38:55)
I was in New England for my cousin’s wedding so I met up with my friend Mark, who took me to New Hampshire for this race on the Dartmouth ski slopes. I fared much better in this trail run than the Nebraska one. I had a nice rhythm going but the finish line is on top of a hill so they make you work for it. There’s Shipyard Ale for the finishers. Went to the wedding in Guilford, CT, afterward. And then it was off to our "9 baseball parks in 9 days" trip, which ended in Milwaukee.
» Pacemaker 10K, Hampton, GA: Aug. 20 (55:24)
This was another last-minute add for me. The tickets from Chicago to Atlanta were $75 each way last minute. I had not seen my friend Lisa and her husband Paul in their place in Atlanta yet, so I was excited to travel to Georgia. Picked up a rental car and drove 30 minutes to Hampton. The race was held through neighborhoods. A little hilly but not bad. It was a night race so the weather wasn’t awful. Nice post-race party but I ended up walking back to get my car in the dark because I didn’t realize there were shuttles. Drove back to Atlanta, went to the Braves game (my first time there) and bar hopped. Flew home to Chicago.
» Challenge Arthritis 5K, St. Paul, MN: Aug. 27 (25:50)
My friend Mike had never been to Minneapolis and I had not seen the Twins in their new field so we headed to Minneapolis for the weekend. I took the bus up and met him there. We ran the race Saturday morning, a pleasant double loop around a lake in a park in St. Paul. After the race, we went to the State Fair and saw the Twins play. The next day, we went to the famous Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown (waited about two hours to sit and eat) and then I took the bus home to Chicago.
» Payette Lake 14K, McCall, Idaho: Sept. 4 (1:19:42)
This was also a last-minute decision. I had a free ticket that I was saving for Boise or Albuquerque and I saw a chance with this race. I drove to Milwaukee, flew to Vegas, then transferred to Boise. I picked up a rental car (that airport is so tiny) and spent the night in Boise after watching Boise State beat Georgia on TV. I woke up very early, drove 100 miles to McCall, this gorgeous resort town north of Boise. The race was part of a 30K so we were shuttled on a small school bus to the midway point. It was cold. I didn’t expect it to be this cold in September. The race was mostly flat or downhill. Beautiful by the lake. Afterward, I drove back to Boise, enjoying the pretty river sights I didn’t get to see when I drove in the dark in the morning. Flew to Nashville, then took a bus back to Chicago, where I took a train to Milwaukee to pick up my car. It was a long day.
» Capulin Volcano 10K, Folsom, NM: Sept. 25 (59:56)
My mom was at a conference in Denver, so I flew out to visit her. I couldn’t decide between a race in Wyoming or this race but this one had a draw because it was by an extinct volcano. I picked up the rental car in downtown Denver, then drove to Raton, NM, the closest town with hotels to Folsom, which has a few dozen residents. Early the next morning, drove to this small schoolhouse, where registration was taking place. We were shuttled to this area by the volcano. It was surreal. The course was mostly down hill. There was lots of cattle to look out. We finished outside the schoolhouse. Had a nice smalltown charm. Drove back to Denver, barhopped for a few hours and then had a very early Monday morning flight before going back to work.
» Bond Brook 10-mile Trail, Augusta, ME: Oct. 23 (2:03:33)
I needed to start getting the races in New England off my list, and this one worked out with my schedule. I flew to Boston, then took a bus to Augusta. Spent the night near downtown Augusta then took a cab to the race, which was part of a trail system in downtown Augusta. The course was difficult. It had rained, so it was muddy. Single track part of the way. I did OK, but not my best trail running. Afterward, they showed us how to shoot air rifles, which was my first time. A race official was kind enough to take me to the best restaurant downtown (Applebee’s), where I hung out before taking a bus to Portland, then one to the Boston Airport, before flying out Monday morning and heading to work. Had never been to Maine, would like to go back.
» Goodness Gracious 10K, Norton, Mass: Nov. 5 (No official time yet)
I was visiting New York to watch my friend Mike run the New York City Marathon so I decided to knock off a race beforehand. I flew to Boston early Saturday morning, rented a car, then drove 45 minutes to Norton, Mass. The race was held at an animal sanctuary, which has llamas, which was pretty cool. Unfortunately, most of the race was on the roads, not at the animal sanctuary. There was no race clock at the end, just a guy telling us to stop running. Drove the rental car back to Boston, then took a bus to New York.
» Joint Special Operations Trail 10K, Ft. Bragg, NC: Nov. 11 (1:02:10)
After New York, I took a bus to D.C., stayed with my family for a few days, and then took a bus to Raleigh and another bus to Fayetteville, NC. I ran the trail 10K on Fort Bragg the next day, Veteran’s Day, which was really special. It was not single track, thank goodness, but a lot of sand. It was neat to run near the military in uniform. They gave out finishers coins at the end. I took a cab back to Fayetteville, then walked to the train station, where I headed to South Carolina, to meet up with Mark for a Gamecocks and a Carolina Panthers game. Flew home from Jacksonville that Monday.
» 12Ks of Christmas, Gilbert, AZ: Dec. 10 (1:04:55)
Visited my cousin in Arizona for the Cardinals game. Took a bus to Indianapolis and then flew to Phoenix. He lives in Paradise Valley so I rented a car and drove to Gilbert, which isn’t too far away. The course is paved and the theme was 12Ks of Christmas, which was maintained throughout. There were carolers along the course, which was hot. The race started at 10:30 a.m., a little later than I’m used to. Went to the Cardinals game Sunday, then flew home to Milwaukee and took a train home.
» Pass to Bay 10K, Pass Christian, Miss: Dec. 17 (54:16)
My last race of the year. Visited Lisa and her husband in Atlanta for the Falcons game, then took a bus to Mobile, where Mark picked me up. We drove to Biloxi, visited the casino and then I ran the Pass to Bay 10K. Very pretty over the Bay bridge. It was tough to imagine the town underwater from Hurricane Katrina. Went to Houston afterward for the Texans game. Flew home to Chicago that night. State 39 complete.