1. Seaside Half. Seaside Florida - 1:59:37 PR 3/07 (state #1)
I was expecting a nearly dead flat course along the coast. Instead, it was an out and back route that veered slightly off the coast and contained a few rolling hills. Though it had few views of the water, it was a decent choice for Florida and well-organized overall. I went out around 1:50 pace, which proved to be too fast and I had to walk-jog the last 5K but rallied for a sub-2.
2. St. Jude. Memphis, Tennessee- 1:48:17 PR 12/07 (state #2)
Highly recommended event and probably the most fun I’ve had in a race. Outstanding course that featured iconic city landmarks such as Beale Street and the Mississippi River plus Overton Park with a finish inside the minor league baseball stadium. Mostly flat early with a few rollers toward the end with a downhill finish. Here, I went out too slowly but finished with a strong negative split and a massive PR. See Graceland, Sun Studios and the Rock and Soul Museum here.
3. Eugene. Eugene, Oregon- 3:56:03 PR 5/08 (state # 3)
First full marathon and could not think of a better place to do it. Nice flat course mostly on paved trails on the Oregon campus and the Willamette River. Ran a pretty smart race and though the last few miles were ugly, I never walked and got the sub-4 on my first try despite being a bit under-prepared. Road trip included the beautiful Oregon coast, Mt. Hood and Prefontaine’s hometown of Coos Bay.
4. Banco Popular. Chicago, Illinois- 1:42:50 PR 9/08 (state # 4)
Nice course through Univ. of Chicago and a long stretch along Lake Michigan with only a couple noticeable hills and the swag included perhaps the best medal I’ve received. Good shuttle service and surprisingly affordable hotel. I ran a good evenly paced race here on my birthday but this event will be most remembered for the driving rain throughout the entire race and being shivering cold afterwards waiting on the shuttle.
5. Mercedes. Birmingham, Alabama- 1:34:02 Half/3:21:56 Full PR 2/09 (state #5)
I may be biased because this is my home race but this is another 5 star event. Organization is always flawless and the event has top notch swag including an iconic medal and great after party catered by Jim & Nick’s. The course has some highlights but is not especially scenic and though it contains a few long inclines, it definitely could be a PR course. I’ve done well in both the half and full marathon here but those hills pack a punch on the 2nd loop. If you pace it well, you can really gun it those last 5 miles. Best half time came in 2011. Best full was 2012.
6. Fargo. Fargo, North Dakota- 3:43:22 PR 5/09 (state #6)
If you are looking to escape the heat for a late Spring marathon and are unconcerned about anything except your finish time, Fargo is a good choice. The course has almost no hills and though not particularly scenic, fans are out in force shouting encouragement. I chose this race to check off both North Dakota and Minnesota for my Visit 50 states project. I flew into Minneapolis and saw the Mall of America, which included an indoor amusement park. I was 13 minutes faster than the previous year and again ran a pretty smart race but was hampered by bronchitis during peak training.
7. BR Beach. Baton Rouge, Louisiana- 1:32:57 PR 12/09 (state #7)
Scenic course that included lakeside views, upscale neighborhoods and the LSU campus. Fast course that included just a few small hills. Organization was fine for the half but I’ve heard it can be lonely in the full. Sunny but very cold conditions and I quickly got very chilled after finishing. Ran a tremendous race that capped off an incredible 27 minute improvement in just 2.5 years. Placed 3rd in my AG and the RD was nice enough to mail my plaque free of charge. I knew that a sub-1:30 was within reach but challenges were ahead.
8. ING GA. Atlanta, Georgia- 1:38:18- 3/10 (state #8)
Scenic tour of Atlanta that was relentlessly rolling including both long inclines and steep rollers. Tough stretch after Mile 10 and an uphill finish. Expo was at the Georgia Dome and had everything that you could possibly want. I was coming off an Achilles injury and ran a pretty good race on this course despite being a bit out of shape. First big race with my buddy Nick and the stormy weather held off until after we got home.
9. Country Music. Nashville, Tennessee-1:42:27 4/10
This is one of the few races that I would not recommend. Run Memphis if you need Tennessee. Hotels and entry fee were very expensive but swag included a nice post-race concert and a cool looking medal. Most of the hills were in the first 8 miles but they will wear you out. I went for a fast time on a day that it wasn’t there and completely melted down in the last 5K and reacted badly to the Cytomax sports drink. Got back to the hotel just before a big storm hit.
10. Run For Life. Madison, Mississippi- 1:34:47 10/10 (state #9)
Another race that I cannot recommend though I’ve heard it no longer exists. Advertised as flat but it was actually a rolling course through the upscale suburbs of Jackson and contained a brutal hill in Mile 12 before a downhill finish. I was on pace for a small PR but lost it on the hills at the end and hurt my knee in the process. Placed in my AG but there were no awards. Run Tupleo or MS Blues instead.
11. Rocket City. Huntsville, Alabama- 3:43:18 12/10
Very well organized event with the host hotel just outside the start/finish line. Gently rolling throughout with only 1 memorable hill around Mile 22 and lots of turns. It could be a PR course though it has since been changed. Quality event all around and I ran a decent race despite being under-trained due to the recent knee injury.
12. Scenic City. Chattanooga, Tennessee- 1:32:49 PR 2/11
Broke the PR drought with a great performance on a tough course. Roughly out and back route with 4 major hills but some flat sections, city views, bridge climbs and bike trails. Just missed an AG award but still very pleased. Well organized but small race with a minimal expo. Lots to do in and around the city but Memphis is still a better race option for this state.
13. CDA. Coeur D’Alene, Idaho- 1:33:21 5/11 (state #10)
Another race chosen as part of the Visit 50 states project and welcome relief from the heat in late May. Located at mild altitude on the panhandle near the Canadian border, it is a very beautiful area and scenic course as well but there was a major flaw in organization. I thought I was on pace for a PR until the last mile was measured 2 tenths too long. Either the course was long or the mile markers were off. Still a good trip that included stops in Spokane, Washington and Missoula, Montana. Recommended if your finish time is less important to you.
14. Monty. Montgomery, Alabama- 1:31:31 PR 10/11
Used to live here and this course showcased the better areas of the city. Rolling course with an uphill start and tough climb in Mile 11 but I PR’d it. Finish in the minor league stadium and one of the best after parties of any race. Placed 3rd in my AG and got a nice little plaque. First time under 7:00 pace overall and edging closer to THE goal.
15. Nationwide. Columbus, Ohio- 1:31:02 PR- 10/11 (state #11)
My first serious attempt at a sub-1:30 and I was on pace through Mile 9 before faltering a bit in the last 5K. Mostly flat course with just a couple mild inclines and a downhill finish. Fairly non-descript in terms of scenery but did feature some downtown, residential and the Ohio State campus. I was within 5 seconds per mile of THE goal now.
16. White River. Mountain Home, Arkansas- 1:33:34- 11/11 (state #12)
Downhill start for the first mile followed by an out and back route on a very gently rolling bike trail. Good course for a sub-1:30 attempt but it wasn’t there on this day. Small race with few perks in a rural area with little-nothing to do. Run this one if you’re looking for a fast time. Otherwise, opt for Little Rock if you need Arkansas.
17. 3M- Austin, Texas- 1:28:12 PR- 1/12 (state #13)
The race of my life when everything was going right in terms of health and training. I consider this my crowning achievement as a runner. Even greater than beating my HS XC PR later that year. Very fast course with a net decline but some uphill stretches. Time was legit because you only gain half as much on a down as you lose on an up. Highly recommended race. Road trip included lunch with a HS buddy, San Antonio and Bush-41s presidential library.
18. RNR Denver. Denver, Colorado- 1:39:13- 9/12 (state #14)
Mile high elevation cost me about 3.5 minutes here though the course was relatively flat. Slightly out of shape due to a bout with plantar. Tough stretch from Miles 10-12 but a downhill finish. Good swag and an excellent destination race. Saw Garden of the Gods and a Rockies game. See Rocky Mtn. National Park if you have time. Average race performance.
19. Thunder Road- Charlotte, North Carolina- 1:34:57- 11/12 (state #15)
Started and finished in downtown Charlotte but this was a hilly trek through upscale tree-lined neighborhoods. Downhills were long and gradual while climbs were shorter and steeper. Last 5K was nearly all uphill and had to fight hard to hang on to the sub-1:35. Decent performance in which I pushed for a time that was not there on this course.
20. 13.1 LA. Los Angeles, California- 1:29:52- 1/13 (state #16)
Point to point course featuring the boardwalk, a bike trail in the sand next to the Pacific and a road in which you could view the ocean to the west and mountains to the east. Outstanding scenery and I was in top form here as well. Though a PR was out of reach, this would have been even faster if not for stomach cramps late. Road trip included lunch with a childhood friend, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Reagan library.
21. GO! St. Louis, Missouri- 1:42:13- 4/13 (state #17)
Health was beginning to decline here. Faded early and it got worse with every mile. Very hilly course though most of the climbs were in the first 8-9 miles. Like Nashville, the early hills will beat you up and leave you with little left at the end. Solid organization and good crowd support. Toured the Budweiser plant and visited the Arch.
22. Marshall. Huntington, West Virginia-1:35:50 11/13 (state #18)
In a state with almost no flat land, this course had only 2 short hills and is definitely a PR course. Not a whole lot to do in the area but I was there to race. Wide variety of scenery including city streets, riverside and parks. I ran a solid even pace with only a mild fade the last 5K. No frills expo but a well-organized event. Lots of out of staters here and recommended if you need West Virginia.
23. Blue Ridge. Roanoke, Virginia- 1:49:26 4/14 (state #19)
On a course with 3,800 feet of elevation change, this was actually a pretty decent performance. Time means little on a course like this. You will conquer 2 major mountains with scenic views and run on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Saw Appomattox and Monticello. If you are up for a challenge and don’t care about your time, run this one. Otherwise, go with Richmond or VA Beach.
24. Blue Nose. Halifax, Nova Scotia- 1:43:26 5/14
My first international race experience was not a pretty sight. The race itself was very well organized that featured a very scenic course that was tough but fair. Downhills were short and steep but climbs were more gradual and manageable. Highlights included a downtown section, a harbor and a park overlooking the Atlantic with cheering fans. I was hampered by a draining travel schedule featuring Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia plus worsening sensitivity to pills.
25. Monumental. Indianapolis, Indiana- 1:34:30 11/14 (state #20)
Flat course and a nice tour of the city through downtown and residential areas. Only 2 noticeable inclines with a few long declines as well. Lots of turns but definitely a PR course. Conditions were very blustery all the way but the rain had moved off. Ran a very even pace and was pleased with my race. High quality event.
26. Route 66. Tulsa, Oklahoma- 1:37:42- 11/14 (state #21)
Featured mostly residential areas with a couple of parks and a riverside section. Overall, a relatively non-descript event and a moderately difficult course. Faded early but managed a bit of a resurgence at the halfway point and finished with a slight negative split. Road trip included a stop in Little Rock for the Clinton presidential library. It fit my schedule well as it was just before Thanksgiving and it’s not a bad choice for Oklahoma but OKC is likely the better option. My last race as a serious runner.
27. Phoenix. Mesa, Arizona- 1:42:15- 2/15 (state #22)
By this point, I was just looking to get through it. The highlight of the trip was not the race but rather a trip to the Grand Canyon and an overnight stop in beautiful Sedona. The race itself was slightly net downhill but was mostly an imperceptible incline through mostly rural and residential areas with a finish in a shopping center rather than in Phoenix proper. Performed as well as could be expected given rapidly declining health.
28. Bluegrass. Lexington, Kentucky-1:50:46- 3/15 (state #23)
Gave it all that I had here but there was nothing there. All rural course through horse farms outside the Keeneland race course. Tough course was rolling all the way with almost no flat spots. No hill will kill you but cumulative effects will wear you down. Nice after party and medal but weak shirt. Recommend KY Derby in Louisville instead of this one.
29. Montour Trail- Robinson TWP, Pennsylvania-2:06:38 PW- 9/15 (state #24)
Located just west of Pittsburgh mostly on a crushed limestone trail. Flat and fast course but by this point, the crash was complete. All I wanted to do was finish. I expected it to suck and had gone numb to the pain. Small event with few perks. My only comment after finishing was “only 1 more to go.” Saw a Pirate game at PNC Park.
30. Spinx Runfest. Greenville, South Carolina- 1:56:19- 10/15 (state #25)
A return to one of my old stomping grounds made the last one special. Tough but fair course that included lots of long moderate hills especially on the back half but there were flats as well. Scenic route that included city streets, trails and parks but the major flaw was a lack of Gatorade on the course. Pleased with the improvement over last time and proud of my accomplishment but sad that it may be over. Competing this far below my peak is too painful both physically and emotionally. Road trip included stops in Atlanta and Clemson.