A couple years ago I decided to run a marathon or half marathon in every state. I was inspired by a couple I met on the Great Alaskan Running Cruise. They have a blog – Team Wil-Sun – about their running adventures. They ran 40 half marathons the year Will turned 40. This year their goal is to run 15 half marathons (“15 in ’15”) while continuing to work on their 50 State Half Marathon Challenge. It is hard not to want to jump off the couch and lace up my running shoes after reading about the fun things they do. Many of the races on my “To Run” list have come from their blog.
With Team Wil-Sun in mind, I joined the 50 State Half Marathon Club. I started mapping out all the races I would run. I set a goal of doing all 50 states within the next 4 years. Given that I had already completed about 11 states, it seemed doable. But the planning alone was making me tired. It was too much like work and it wasn’t fun anymore. So I dropped the idea until this year when I decided to resume my own 50 State challenge.
This past weekend my husband and I traveled to Springfield, Illinois for the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon. He had wanted to visit Springfield for some time and having a race I could run made the trip a win-win for everyone. He came prepared this time – he remembered to pack a cow bell.
The day before the race we spent seeing all the Lincoln sights- his house, his law office, his tomb, and the Lincoln Museum (extremely well done – I highly recommend visiting this museum). We even had time to stop in the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum (which has a piece of the flag that hung in Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot, torn by John Wilkes Booth’s spur as he jumped out of the President’s box).
This was my first race where I was able to meet other 50 State Half Marathon club members. Members had come from all over the US for the race – Missouri, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia to name a few. Mary, one of the members who lives in Springfield, organized a pre-race pasta dinner. There were about 18 people at the dinner. She had a gift for each of us from her local running club as well as a small raffle. I appreciated her thoughtfulness and hospitality.
Over dinner there was lively discussion about races – ones we have done, ones we have coming up, and ones we would like to run. Our shared enjoyment of running created an instant camaraderie. I made notes on my iPhone of all the race recommendations that I got. At the end of the dinner, we made plans to meet up in the morning for a pre-race picture.
Race day morning was in the upper 20s but not as windy as the weather report predicted. Some of the 50 State club members were wearing their club shirts. (The shirts are an informal way to keep track of the states you complete – you color them in as you go.) We met on the steps of the Old State Capitol for the group photo before heading off to the start line.
It was a small race – only 1707 runners. My husband commented that the smaller field made it easier for him to see me on the course. It is difficult to find me when there are 30,000 runners – many wearing white hats like mine. What I found interesting was the split between women and men – 977 women and 730 men finished the race. It looks like women are taking over the race course!
I was in serious race mode for some reason so I missed a lot of photo opportunities – like the finisher’s photo with the Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln impersonators, and the guy who was wearing a giant penny costume. My husband said there was a car covered in corks near the start line too. I later found out that the car is an art car owned by the Springfield Arts Association. They took a donated Ford Taurus and glued corks and bottle caps to it. They drive it around town and take it to local events to promote the arts association. I was disappointed that I missed it.
It was a fun weekend. I got to see everything Lincoln that I think I could ever see. I earned a big honking penny medal for completing the race. And I got to meet some fellow 50 State Half Marathon Club members. They were an interesting and fun bunch. I hope to see some of them at some of my upcoming races. It is much more enjoyable to share dinner and running experiences with others than to sit alone in a hotel room watching television.
I don’t know if I will ever run a marathon or half marathon in all 50 states. (I think I am the only person in the world who is not that interested in going to Hawaii – even to run a half marathon.) But I know there is a terrific group of people out there to join me if I do.
Interested in the 50 State Half Marathon Club? There are no minimum requirements to join. You don’t even need to have run a half marathon (or as I put it, just purely aspirational to run half marathons in all 50 states). The race calendar is available for everyone (members and non-members) but only members can take advantage of discounts on race entry fees and running gear. Members meet up for informal dinners like the one I enjoyed in Springfield or participate in the annual club dinner meeting and awards ceremony (always in conjunction with a race). As you meet other members and make new friends, you can find people to share rooms and rides to races. If you decide to join, tell them the Funatical Runner referred you!