When I am out on a training run, I have time to let my mind wander. This week I found myself thinking about this year and all the adventures I had. Looking back on 2016, I can say I had some very memorable running experiences and plenty of adventures. All in all, it was a funatical runner kind of year.
Originally, I had planned to run half marathons in 14 states as well as the London and Chicago Marathons. It was a pretty ambitious goal. I was doing pretty well until July when I broke my toe. My race schedule was thrown out the window while I spent 8 weeks recuperating. I thought at the time my world had ended. But my toe healed and I got back to running – probably a bit too quickly. I struggled through a race in Seattle less than 2 weeks after I was cleared to start exercising again. It was the first time I stood at the start line of a race in pain. Despite my pain, it was one of my favorite races. I can’t say that I would recommend that strategy to anyone. I was lucky. I could have derailed my running for a much longer time because I started running too soon. In the end I only missed 3 races – half marathons in Nebraska and Maine and the Chicago Marathon. They will be there next year and I will be too.
For me this whole 50 State thing is about more than checking states off a list. It is about the adventures, the things I see and experiences I have along the way. This year has been full of those. This year I ran through Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I ran over a covered bridge in Vermont and the Tower Bridge in London. Race courses took me to places with gorgeous natural beauty like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, along the coast in New England, and outside Zion National Park in Utah. And after my races, I enjoyed some of the best food too – barbecue in Birmingham, lobster rolls in New England, and birthday cake in Seattle. It is a toss-up for me as to what is better – good bling (i.e., the race medal) or good post-race food.
I had a lot of interesting company during my races this year. I ran with Meb Keflizghi in Indianapolis. I ran with an astronaut on the International Space Station and Guinness World Record breakers in the London Marathon. I ran with people in unbelievable costumes including a woman dressed as a can of Spam and a guy dressed as Jesus. In London I was #oneinamillion.
Many people who are working on their own 50 State goals run as many races as they can in a year. Often they run back-to-back races – Saturday in one state then driving to another race on Sunday in a different state. While that strategy would have helped me knock my challenge out sooner, I wouldn’t get to fully enjoy the places I visit. Wherever I go, I try to take time to explore.
This year I have gone to museums like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; the Presbytere in New Orleans with fascinating exhibits on the Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina; and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis where I found the art vending machine. I got stuck in Austin after the 3M Half due to blizzards on the East Coast. I was delighted to have extra time to enjoy the 70 degree weather and visit the outdoor Umlauf Sculpture Garden. And there were a few museums that I didn’t have time to see like the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa. Maybe next time.
I visited historical sites including Grafton, the ghost town in Utah; the Chisholm Trail in Texas; and a cemetery from the 1600s in New Hampshire. While window shopping, I admired the colonial homes in Newport, Rhode Island. I strolled the streets of New Orleans French Quarter, admiring the architecture and enjoying a wide variety of musicians. Every place I visited for a race had something unique to offer.
There were the quirky sights too. In Green Bay, I found a small amusement park whose claim to fame was their roller coaster, the Zippin Pippin. Elvis Presley rented the entire amusement park in 1977 and rode the Zippin Pippin for 2 hours straight. (Eight days later he died.) Outside Seattle I visited Jimi Hendrix’s grave. Although I am not a Hendrix fan, it was one of the most unusual monuments I have ever seen. In Utah I visited rock shops where they were selling a wide variety of rocks and fossils including 50 million year old turtle poop. I don’t expect to see that again on a store shelf anytime soon. I was fascinated by the kinetic wind sculptures an art gallery had on display in Utah. And I can’t forget the Center of the Universe in Tulsa.
For many runners a race is all about the medal. In fact I know people who pick the races they will run based on the race medal. Little Rock, Arkansas has a race that is very popular because the medal is as big as a dinner plate. No kidding. While medals are nice, if you run a lot of races, you end up with so many medals that you have to get creative about how to display them. I like the race medals but after I get them home, they aren’t very interesting. I value the memories I tucked away in my mental suitcase more.
I only have to run races in 13 more states to complete my 50 State Endurance Challenge. Part of me doesn’t want the challenge to be over. I am enjoying exploring this diverse country we live in. I plan to continue to seek out the historic and quirky points of interest as I continue my journey because that is what this adventure is all about!
In Utah I loved watching the wind sculptures by Lyman Whitaker. The slightest breeze would start them spinning. I found this video on YouTube of his wind sculptures in action. Check out his web site – there may be an installation near you. http://www.whitakerstudio.com/artwork.html