This year has been one with more adventure than I ever could have imagined. I have been walking around thinking about 2017 and everything that happened. Even though it was not all smooth sailing, overall 2017 was a very good year for me, one I will never forget.
I may be the Funatical Runner but this was not a year in which I ran a great deal. I only completed 3 full marathons and 9 half marathons. That might seem like a lot of running to most people. But compared to 2015 when I ran 3 full marathons and 13 half marathons, this year I felt like a slacker.
My running goals for 2017 were to finish the 6 World Marathon Majors (I had 3 to go) and to finish my 50 States Endurance Challenge (there were 13 states left in that). I thought it was doable. But this year wasn’t kind in the health department. I experienced ankle issues leading up to the Boston Marathon, then an eye problem in July, and finally a nasty bout of bronchitis in September. I had to make a choice between my two goals. I decided to focus on finishing the 6 World Marathon Majors and running the Boston, Chicago and New York City Marathons. In November, I stood in the Abbott World Marathon tent at the New York City Marathon finish line and cried when they handed me my star medal for the 6 World Marathon Majors. I had realized a dream I had been working on for 3 years. Today I still have four states to go to finish my 50 States Endurance Challenge and that is ok. I may finish that up in 2018. Then I again might not. I always leave the door open so I can take advantage of any new opportunity that may pop up.
Although I didn’t make all my running goals, this year made me realize how much I am enjoying the journey to achieving them. My first and last race trips of the year were to Mississippi. In January, I went to Jackson for a race that ended up being canceled due to an ice storm. With all flights canceled, I hopped on the City of New Orleans train from Jackson to Chicago to make my way back home. I never would have decided to ride the train if I wasn’t stuck in Jackson. I am sure glad I did. It was an adventure.
In December, I went to Gulfport, Mississippi during another snow storm. Who would have thought I would have encountered winter weather in Mississippi TWICE in one year? Fortunately, this time I was able to run the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon and check that state off my list. In February, I ran the Mississippi River Half Marathon, a race that started in Arkansas and ended in Greenville, Mississippi (I counted it as my Arkansas race). For this race I flew into and out of Memphis. It was a long drive to Greenville but because of it, I drove through Clarksdale and discovered the Mississippi Blues Trail. On my way home, I stopped in Memphis to visit Graceland, the famous home of Elvis Presley.
This was also a year of firsts. I ran my first race indoors in Hartford, Connecticut – the Arena Attack Half Marathon. It was definitely a unique race – 65 laps around the concourse of an arena used for hockey and other events. Thankfully the temperatures inside were kept low to maintain the ice so the runners didn’t overheat. The Fargo Half Marathon started and ended indoors in an arena. While that seemed odd, it turned out to be one of the best setups for a race – plenty of indoor bathrooms and seating for spectators to watch the race on giant screens. I fell for the first (and, I hope, last) time in a race, the Chicago Marathon. Fortunately for me, I have learned to fall without breaking bones. I just skinned my knees in Chicago. When I look at my race photos, I can easily tell where I was when the photo was taken by looking at my knees. If they are bleeding, it was after Mile 10.5 where I fell.
I hoped to see moose at the Grand Teton Half in Wyoming. I even got up at 4 AM to look for them but it never happened. Maine was another possible opportunity to see a moose. I didn’t see one there either. I finally saw moose in Anchorage along the race course of the Her Tern Half (my favorite women’s only race) and at a park at the end of the airport runway.
In August, I went to Kauai, Hawaii to run the Kauai Half Marathon. I wasn’t sure what to expect, certainly not the chickens that are EVERYWHERE, including the car rental parking lot. The only way to see all of Kauai is by helicopter. The Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour I went on will always be at the top of my list of favorite adventures. I would go back just to do that again.
Every sport has its super stars. This year I had the privilege to meet many from the world of marathon running. I enjoyed a dinner speech by Joan Benoit Samuelson in Boston then walked with her back to her hotel, chatting like I had known her forever. I saw Joanie again in New York and she congratulated me on finishing the 6 World Majors. In New York, I also met Bill Rogers, Kathrine Switzer and Paula Radcliffe (current holder of the women’s marathon world record). Without a doubt, my biggest honor was running the New York City Marathon for Meb Keflezighi’s MEB foundation. As a member of Team MEB26, we ran with him in Central Park two days before the race. It was a surreal experience. Meeting all those elite runners made my New York City Marathon much more special than it already was.
In May, I ran in Eugene, Oregon. The Eugene Half Marathon finished on the legendary University of Oregon track. There are plenty of running legends associated with that track, including Bill Bowerman (Oregon track and field coach and co-inventor of Nike shoes) and running legend, Steve Prefontaine. While I was in Eugene, I visited Pre’s Rock, the spot where Steve died. Many other runners visit Pre’s Rock as evidenced by the medals, running shoes, race bibs, and other objects they leave behind.
I am glad I set the running goals that I did. Through running the 6 World Majors and the 50 States, I have traveled places I probably would never have gone. I never dreamed I would go to Japan. After I went there for the 2015 Tokyo Marathon, it became one of my favorite places to visit. I returned to Japan in June. While in Kyoto, I saw a marathon monk as he passed through a temple I was visiting. It was a magical moment that left me speechless.
Through my travels to the 50 states, I have developed a better appreciation for how diverse our country is. The USA has mountains and tropical beaches, rain forests and deserts, and plains where the horizon stretches for miles. There is stunning architecture in the big cities like Chicago as well as smaller ones like Biloxi, Mississippi. While I could have read about these places, I enjoy seeing them for myself and discovering the ones that no one writes about. Plus I had to travel to Maine in order to taste a lobster roll. They are as delicious as people say they are.
Part of me doesn’t want to finish this journey. There is so much more to see as well as places I want to visit again, like Alaska. I am planning my 2018 race schedule. I might finish my 50 States Endurance Challenge. I am thinking of resuming my 7 Continents Challenge or I could run a race in each of the Canadian Provinces. There are many possibilities. Regardless of what goals I set, I know wherever I go, it will be an adventure.