When I first started this 50 states challenge, my coworker, Kevin, emailed me a list of the races he ran in each state (the ones he counted toward the challenge). It’s a fun list to read. His comments on the races and locations are great. I’ve been meaning to post it for a while, and just now getting around to it.
And so here it is. Maybe it will give you a little inspiration for your next race.
1. AL – Birmingham, February, this one was really well organized and fairly flat.
2. AK – Anchorage, Mayors Sun in June. Was 85 degrees so one of my slower times coming off injury, and tons of mosquitoes and other flying bugs. But biggest race in Alaska I think.
3. AR – Little Rock, March, very well organized, start is near Clinton Library but not much else to see near there (not even a drug store or supermarket downtown, so bring your own food/drinks for the stay!) Very flat course, no hills really.
4. AZ – Tucson/Oro Valley – March, Valley Sun or something like that, was out and back in some random bare land, hillier than I expected, there are probably flatter ones in Arizona. But decently organized and stress free.
5. CA – San Francisco, July – was one of the better ones I did. Good one for summer when it’s hot everywhere else. There is a full marathon and then you can pick to run either 0-13 or 13-26 for the half. I did the first half even though it was the hillier course so I could run over Golden Gate Bridge.
6. CO – Boulder, Sept – it’s backroads in the bare sandy wilderness like the AZ one. I didn’t do well in this one because I took a hiatus before it, so my memories are mostly painful and there are probably better ones to do in CO like in Denver or Colo Springs.
7. DE – Wilmington, March – Cesar Rodney half, a little hilly (and cold when I did it) but popular one, decent crowd. I don’t think there are many others in DE.
8. FL – Miami (ING Miami Marathon in January each year, it’s a big one but they open up the basketball arena before the race so plenty of bathrooms and indoor stretching, big plus!) … Also did a couple in Sarasota (March) and Jacksonville (Oct – marine half).
9. GA – Atlanta, Silver Comet half, October. All paved trail and very fast/flat out and back. On outskirts of city though so you’d need a car (my friend drove me). There are bigger ones downtown. I think there’s a popular one in Savannah too.
10. HI – Kona, June – it was a good one (part of it runs along Ironman Triathlon course) but terrible finish (remind me to tell you the story and show you pics). But they’re moving it this year I think so that should fix the prob.
11. ID – Boise, July – I did a smaller race on a paved trail on a Saturday and then drove to Montana for Sunday. There are a couple bigger races in Boise though at other times of year (one in Oct I think).
12. IL – Chicago, August – it has since become a Rock and Roll race I think (was called penguin race at the time) and may be a different month now. Very flat paved trail but runs along water so very WINDY and somewhat crowded.
13. IN – Notre Dame, April – I think it’s called the “Holy Half Marathon” — fairly flat two loops around campus, but it was a highly unusual 88 degrees in August and people were passing out all over the place. Then the clocks got messed up so no one got official times. I’d do the half on the Indy 500 speedway, that one looks cool but crowded (35,000+). Or there is another one in Indy in Oct/Nov.
14. Iowa – Des Moines, Drake Relays half, April, in connection with a big international track meet. Had one abhorrent hill but otherwise a very good one. There is another one in Des Moines in October that is popular too, probably a little larger.
15. KS – Overland Park, Nov, the one I was telling you about, Gobbler Grind, very flat, but good luck finding their hiding place for race number pickup in the mall!
16. KY – Louisville, Kentucky Derby half, it is in April the week before the bug horse race. Louisville was a decent city but not as flat as I thought that’s for sure. There is another one, Hatfield-McCoy that is half KY and half in WV that a lot of people do for KY too.
17. LA – New Orleans – Jazz Half Marathon, October, my fastest and one of my favorites, very flat, mostly along Charles Ave or whatever that famous street is called with all the cool houses. I’d highly recommend this one, ate lots of free food afterwards including my first-ever free gumbo!
18. ME – Portland, Oct, there aren’t many in Maine, and it poured rain on this one so my memories are a little waterlogged and they couldn’t really do much for festivities, but it would work fine for you. I think there is an all-women one up there somewhere though that may be better.
19. MD – Sparks Md, March, it was a trail race on the NCR Trail north of Balt, very fast and low key.
20. MA – Hyannis/Cape Cod – Feb – weather was terrible with sleet and stuff but well organized. There are plenty in Mass to choose from though that I can review with you.
21. MI – Lansing – Sept – Good race, Capital City Run or something. Fairly flat through a lot of parks around the city. Not much else in the city but probably a lot cleaner than Detroit. Ann Arbor has a big race in June that’s popular too.
22. MN – New Prague – May, another of my favorite races, rolling hills through farmland, very fast course and friendly, low-key race.
23. MS – Jackson, January – as you see I hit a lot of capital cities. This race website said avg temps between 37 and 62 degrees. Unfortunately the year I did it the starting temp was 6. But warmed to 17 later in the day! Somewhat hilly but very well organized, especially how they adapted to the extreme cold. Not many to choose from in Miss.
24. MT – Missoula – July – very good one, growing in popularity since Runners World named it marathon of the year or something a couple years back. This is probably the best of slim pickings in MT, and a good summer one when it is too hot in most other places.
25. NE – Grand Island – labor day wknd – State fair was right down the street the same wkd but I didn’t go in. Race was fairly flat as I remember it but hot. Low-key. Omaha has a bigger race end of Sept and Lincoln has one in May.
26. NV – Las Vegas – Dec – a rock and roll one so too many people (30,000 plus) but well organized and I was up near the front so not too bad. Expensive though, I think the priciest one at $115 or something. There are a few smaller ones but this is probably best in NV for timing and convenience.
27. NH – Hampton Beach, Smuttynose, October, smaller race right near where I grew up, I’d do it again, some hills but all the roads along the beach are obviously flat. Good food afterwards!
28. NJ – Atlantic City, October, one of the most unorganized races I did but they had a nice awards ceremony afterwards where I got some trophy so I can’t hate on them too much! A few miles are right on the boardwalk, which is wood surface, so awkward feeling but still somewhat fast since it’s all flat. Hotels are astronomically priced though, may be cheaper alternatives elsewhere in the state.
29. NM – Albuquerque – labor day wknd – weirdest thing ever because I bumped into SEC people there. A little hilly but manageable, finished in the old town section.
30. NY – Lake Placid – June – I enjoyed it and a good summer one in cooler weather, but you probably have easier access to some around NYC (although hotels are pricier down state)
31. NC – Charlotte, Nov. – Dowd half marathon, not sure if it is even still in existent, was sponsored by a local YMCA. Very hilly but I survived. You’ll probably be better off in Asheville though.
32. ND – Fargo – May – the biggest and best in ND, they have a lot of pride in their race, I’d vote it one of the best expos. Flat course. You finish in a big dome (“Fargodome”).
33. OH – Cleveland Rocks Marathon, May. Fairly fast course but very windy as I remember it. Lots of good food in Cleveland believe it or not, and race was pretty well organized. I did a full marathon in Columbus that wasn’t bad either (also has a half).
34. OR – Eugene, May – have you ever heard of Prefontaine or seen the movies? He’s a big deal up here, race starts at Hayward Field on U of Oregon campus. Portland also has a big race, so basically you’re choosing between this or that one.
35. PA – Erie, Sept – Very fast course around Presque Isle, but not much around there to do. But very driveable and inexpensive hotels. There are Philly ones though that are closer, but more crowded and expensive.
36. RI – Providence, May, Cox Rhode Races, well organized and cost effective, starts and finishes downtown. But there is a Newport one in Oct that is supposed to be nice also.
37. SC – Greenville, Oct – Spinx Run Fest, one of my favorite ones, cheap flights on Southwest and good food afterwards if I remember right. A few hills but otherwise fast course. Well organized.
38. SD – Rapid City/Mount Rushmore – I don’t think it exists anymore and was replaced by Crazy Horse Half Marathon from a different monument. Rapid City has some cool stuff though and other under the radar tourism around there.
39. TN – Knoxville, March – On U of Tenn campus, well organized, finishes in football stadium
40. TX – Austin, Feb – usually around Valentines Day so they play up that theme. Cool city but killer hill near the end, finishes near Capitol bldg. Very well organized.
41. UT – Salt Lake City, labor day wknd, one of my favorites, but bizarre, first 4 miles all uphill in rocky wildnerness region, last 9 miles extremely fast downhill. Got good deals on hotel, food, etc, and you can work a day in the SL office like I did! Great city!
42. VT – Waterbury, Oct – was a scenic dirt road run, but weather gets cold early up there. It was flat though, smaller and low-key. There are some other summer ones to choose from too that my be good.
43. VA – too many to list here, and you’ve already chosen yours anyway!
44. WA – Olympia, May, another of my favorites, starts and finishes near state capitol, low cost. Was hilly but fast downhills to make up time and energy.
45. WV – Parkersburg – Aug – a good one that I highly recommend because great amenities! Free pasta night before and pizza lunch afterwards. I think it was only $35 back when I did it, so I made back my $$ in food consumption alone. Very small town, but community pride and they have a festival that wknd and a parade after the race. One of these years I’ll go do it again.
46. WI – Oconomowoc – once you learn how to pronounce it I’ll tell you about it! 😉
47. WY – Jackson Hole, June – Smaller race but well organized and flat, a little hot despite the early start. I was just stunned by the prices for hotel, food, etc. I got a “deal” for $127/night, all the others were $169 plus and that was back in 2010. Very resorty (is that a word?), pricy small city, but very nice views etc. Cheyenne is a nice city not far from Denver, we can look and try to find you one there!
48. CT – Fairfield, it was called Stratton Faxon, takes place in June near a beach. It was hilly but I still managed a fast time, sometimes the hilly ones you can make up considerable time on the down hills. Hartford has a big race in October but there aren’t many others to choose from here. This is a good state to drive to, but fill up your gas tank before you cross the state line. Gas costs 40 cents more per gallon there.
49. OK – Tulsa in November, Route 66 Marathon. It was a pretty well organized race, fairly flat, I happened to run during a pretty windy day but I’d imagine the race isn’t always that windy every year. There isn’t much to do in downtown Tulsa really, but had a great dinner at some place called Baxter’s. And the suburbs seemed nice when I took a bus ride. The other big race to choose from in OK is Okla City, which is in April, same wknd as the one you want to do in Nashville so you’d have to choose a different year. Apparently they have a touching ceremony before the race to honor victims of the Okla City bombing in the 90s.
50. MO – St. Louis – this is one of the best ones I did. Takes place in April and had good weather and flat course except it got a little hilly toward the end of all places. Especially well-organized, some decent historic sites and stuff to see downtown, good crowds but didn’t feel like an overly crowded race to me, I’d recommend doing this one!