Status: 31 States, 40 Marathons
I ran my first full marathon in 2008. After running it, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the whole experience (actually, I’m fairly certain I hated it) and had no plans to run another one anytime soon. Once I was recovered, I decided I needed to give it another try. Somehow, the desire to never run another marathon changed to a desire to run a marathon in each state at some point in my life. Since I began working towards this goal, I’ve run some amazing races (and some terrible ones!) in some seriously cool places. Below are some race reviews, grouped together by state.
Click the race to read my recap of each event!
Eversource Hartford Marathon, 3:12:40 (BQ)
Grandma’s Marathon, 3:17:28 (BQ)
Clarence DeMar Marathon, 2014 – 3:18:02 (BQ)
Knoxville Marathon, 2014 – 3:23:41 (BQ)
Run Hard Columbia Marathon, 2014 – 3:18:46 (BQ)
Vancouver USA Marathon, 2013 – 3:31:52 (BQ)
The Buffalo Marathon, 2013 – 4:18:09
Rehoboth Beach Marathon, 2012 – 3:51:37
This makes my list of favorites and marathons and races that I would run again in the future. First of all, Rehoboth is a pretty cool little town. The expo wasn’t much to speak of, but the shirts were really cute and you had the choice of a color – ladies could get hot pink, or you could stick with the fluorescent yellow. Either was cool, and I appreciated the options and women’s sizing availability.
The course is basically flat and begins winding through the cute little beach town, running down streets lined with shops, boutiques, and restaurants. It begins to wind some of the residential areas and onto a cinder trail for several miles. The majority of the race is run in the surrounding area and winds through several parks and trails. The volunteers and race organizers were super friendly, and the town is very accommodating to the runners. Our group enjoyed a great pre-race dinner at the Dogfish Head Brewery, and we stayed at the local Holiday Inn Express.
Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, 2012 – 4:04:55
The Boston Marathon, 2011 – 3:59:36
The Boston Marathon, 2012 – 4:45:50
The Boston Marathon, 2013 – 3:33:59 (BQ)
The Boston Marathon, 2014 – 3:18:17 (BQ)
The Boston Marathon, 2015 – 3:14:13 (BQ)
The Boston Marathon, 2016 – 3:11:28 (BQ)
Las Vegas Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, 2010 – 3:49:01
Typical Rock ‘N Roll scene. Sooooo overcrowded, more merchandise to buy than I would ever know what to do with, countless vendors, and lots of famous people signing autographs. Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray hosted a Rock Band competition, and there were people like Meb Keflezighi and Josh Cox leading discussions. It was pretty exciting, even for a RNR event. Maybe it was the Sin City vibe…The t-shirt was actually REALLY cool, and there was a lot of sweet gear by Brooks available for purchase. We went to the expo later in the afternoon on Saturday, so there was nothing in my size even if I wanted to buy something.
Sooooo many people…soooo many corrals!! I was supposed to be in corral 7, based on my predicted finish time of 3:50, but took my time since I knew I wasn’t “racing”. For once, I was still in the bathroom when the gun went off – so I started with corral 13. This ended up being good AND bad. It forced me to slow down, but I also wasted a lot of energy dodging people. Oh well, lesson learned. The start WAS pretty well organized, and it was in front of Mandalay Bay. We stayed at the Luxor, which was right next door – perfect distance. Plenty of restrooms, and easy to navigate – even with the huge croA 13.1 mile tour of the strip, including “new” Vegas and “old” Vegas. I’m not a huge Vegas person – we stayed in the newer section, where you can find places like the Bellagio, Venetian, and Caesars. In front of the Venetian, they were offering run-through weddings! I didn’t see any as I ran by, but a friend of mine walked the half-marathon and a bunch of newlyweds were in her corral…along with some people dressed as Elvis. As a matter of fact, the Elvises were partying it up with Cytomax bombs – really just the Cytomax at the water stops mixed with vodka. Of course my friend joined in the festivities…she had a blast! From what I saw of “old” Vegas, it was more in the area where the Golden Nugget is located and pretty vintage looking. We never ended up going back there, but I enjoyed running through and experiencing the vibe. Overall, the first half was basically a loop down and back on the strip – very entertaining, and I didn’t mind the “out-and-back”.
As we exited the strip, I was not looking forward to the rest of the course. At the expo, I watched a video of the course. It looked like a lot of out-and-back, weaving through town to make up the remaining 13.1 miles. However, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed this portion of the course. As you exited the strip, you were surrounded by mountains and canyons in the distance. It was picturesque and made you forget that you were even IN Las Vegas, showcasing the beauty of mid-western USA. There were actually some hills here, mostly over bridges but steep enough that you noticed them more than the gradual changes in the first half.
As we turned a corner and entered our last 10K, things got ugly – on the course, and in my performance. I quickly realized that the last 10K would be the WORST part of this race – we were on some access road that ran next to a huge highway, and then we looped through some ugly industrial park. This went on for FIVE MILES. I was so sad that the race had to end on that note, because I actually really enjoyed the course until this point.
The medal is pretty sweet – it looks like playing cards – but they put it on a plain old boring ribbon. Rock ‘n Roll races DO have cool medals, though – even though I’m not a fan of the actual series. The finish line was well organized and had lots to offer – food, aid, bags of ice (they were actually giving entire bags to runners to sit on), merchandise for sale (of course), and a great family reunion area (something the OBX marathon could learn a thing or two from). Brett Micheals was the headliner concert – not my personal favorite, but he did an amazing job of working the runner crowd and put on a great show. You could tell he was thrilled to be there, and I enjoyed his performance.
Outer Banks Marathon, 2010 – 3:37:02 (BQ)
On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the best), I would rate the expo around a 6. It was somewhat small, but had some cool vendors. Nice short-sleeved technical t-shirt for all marathoners that fit pretty well – the extra small was a LITTLE big, but wearable. They sold official marathon merchandise and had lots of cool items.
The start was well organized, easy to find, and had great system for gear checking. However, they were a little unclear about where to park. It said there would be parking at the Kitty Hawk Elementary School, and also at a local Wal-Mart, which was a half-mile away. If you opted to park at the Wal-Mart, they would shuttle you to the start. We arrived early and were able to park at the Kitty Hawk Elementary School, but found out after the race that they only shuttled back to the Wal-Mart. Plenty of parking and porta-pots for use before the race. The energy at the starting line was excellent. Runners could choose their own corral to start in, and seemed to do a good job of seeding themselves.
The first 10 miles of this race were my favorite, and the first eight miles really made me think the course was going to be beautiful and scenic. The race began in Kitty Hawk, and took us through some back roads. Very flat, but winding all over the place. The beautiful back roads of the Outer Banks took us out to Bay Drive, where we ran along the Albemarle Sound. It was picturesque.
Around mile 8, we ran by the Wright Brothers monument – the location where the first flight ever took off. Once we hit mile the trail, I had an extremely hard time maintaining my pace through Nags Head Woods. The trail was sandy and runners were sliding all over the place. Around mile 12.5, the path took a turn for the worse – it changed to true off road conditions and was only wide enough for two runners at a time, so passing was difficult. The miles run on the trail took a LOT out of me, so when we hit the pavement for mile 13 I slowed my pace to recovAt this point, I was glad to get back out on the pavement but the race got extremely boring. There was nothing to look at – the course took us out on the main drag, Croatian Highway, and then weaved through a bunch of neighborhoods to add extra mileage. The temperature really heated up at this point, and there was not a cloud in the sky so the sun was beating down on us. It was hot, hot, hot. At mile 16, I began to feel a bit sick. I knew I still had 10 miles to go, so I forced myself to drink water at every stop, even though my stomach really didn’t want it. I also took a GU around mile 18, just because I knew I needed the electrolytes – but it didn’t go down so easy. My struggle in this race began around mile 16, but not because my legs were tired. Looking at my pace, it is obvious where I struggled the most. My legs felt fine, but my stomach was terrible. I walking the line of feeling better, then back to feeling nauseous. Mile 19 and 20 were extremely difficult for me.
As we turned a corner on the highway, a monster loomed in the distance: after an entire race with absolutely NO hills, the Washington-Baum Bridge was in sight. After seeing nothing for miles, the 1.05 mi long, 82′ high, 650′ climb to the top at a 4% grade bridge looked daunting. It actually wasn’t too bad and it was nice to use some different muscles.
Really cute area (Manteo) – the town was adorable. Organization? HORRIBLE. You basically walk through the finish line and come out onto a street, and then make a left – everything was located on this block. Family reunion area? Practically non-existent.
Amica Marathon, 2010 – 3:49:43
Sign up for this one next year! This one could quite possibly rate as the most scenic – it is right up there with Utah Valley. For all marathoners, this race is a must do! Not a PR race and the expo is lacking, but the course is spectacular- and isn’t that the part that really matters?
The expo was pretty basic and not much to speak of. No vendors offering merchandise pertaining to the actual marathon since there was no gear sponsor, and the expo was somewhat unorganized. We were among the first people on Saturday morning to arrive, so they were probably still getting ready for the day.
My husband dropped me off at the Newport Grand (casinos), who allowed the runners to use their lot for free on race day. It was a huge lot with plenty of parking, and my husband had no problem finding a spot. There were a bunch of school buses waiting to shuttle us to Easton Beach, where the race began. I arrived at the shuttle around 6:45, and boarded promptly after. Our shuttle dropped us at the starting line a little after 7am.
It was windy and cold, and I headed straight to the bathrooms – there weren’t many so I figured I better get on line early. I didn’t wait very long, but after I was done there was a HUGE line. It was still early and I was freezing, so I wasn’t ready to check my gear. I stood by the boardwalk and conversed with other runners as we talked about the course we were about to run. Around 7:40, I decided to check my gear. The line was HUGE! I don’t know if the volunteers realized how many runners were in the line, or how many were still hanging around, but it was moving at a snails pace. I finished checking my gear with 30 seconds to spare – they were singing the national anthem. There was still an extremely long line of people waiting to check their belongings.
There were no pacers, so I had no one to keep pace with as I began, which ended up working out to my benefit. I had originally worn a fleece to the start but checked it and was so cold that my teeth were chattering, and my hands and fingers were numb.
As I warmed up, we made our way through downtown Newport and toward Ocean Drive. The views were beautiful and my fingers began to regain feeling as I warmed up. We proceeded down Ocean Drive – what a gorgeous place. Hit Bellevue Avenue around mile 10, beautiful historic mansions and a nice flat street. Bellevue Ave was stunning and the spectators were everywhere. As we left downtown Newport, we headed back toward Easton Beach so that the half-marathoners and relay runners could finish/exchange and the marathoners could continue on. We came through the finish line area but were sent on our way for the second loop – heading out in a different direction to see a different part of Newport. It was extremely exciting here, tons of spectators and great energy – plus, we were right on the beach.
We headed out for the second half of our run and the hills really began. We began descending a huge hill, and I later realized that we had to run UP that hill around mile 24.5 to get to the finish. This part of the course was rolling hills and I began to get a little tired here. It was a little more desolate that the first half, as we were running in more “rural” Newport. Neighborhoods and deserted beaches surrounded us and we had a pretty strong headwind.
Finish line celebration was great – lots of goodies for the athletes – soup, beer, and food. Medals for the marathoners were pretty nice, but the half-marathoners got really tiny ones. The shirts were just OK – tech shirts, blue and white, v-neck but not my favorite. Super easy to get our bags out of the gear check area, and we lucked out with the shuttles. My husband and I got on the shuttle as soon as we walked up to the stop. However, the bus driver said that of the six buses , only three were staying after 12:30 – and our shuttle was our drivers last pickup. The race advertised shuttles through 4pm, so I have no idea what kind of mess happened later in the afternoon.
Overall, excellent experience – I loved the actual RACE, which is what mattered. Newport…what an amazing town! Not only did I enjoy running it, but my husband and I enjoyed our experience here. We woke up, went to the expo and then off to the Bellevue Mansions. We had a pass to see five of the mansions, but only had time for four of them. We saw The Marble House, The Breakers, Rosecliff, and The Elms – incredible experience. Tickets were $31 but it is money well spent…if you do visit Newport, check these out.
We went to mass at St. Mary’s, the oldest catholic church in Rhode Island – it was a beautiful church, and I was surrounded by runner’s participating in the marathon festivities. For dinner, we did not have a reservation but got into Mamma Luisa’s Italian Ristorante, which was a great place for some pre race carbo-loading.
Utah Valley Marathon, 2010 – 4:38:43
This was a difficult day for me and also a difficult race for me to review. I wanted so badly to enjoy running this race. With that being said, it was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever run. However, I ran it with an injury, so it was also one of my most uncomfortable races run to date. Everything about this experience screams nightmare but I would STILL put it in my circle of favorites. The course was breathtaking (literally!) and beautiful, and the field of runners were some of the coolest people I’ve met. The shirts were awesome, and this small town race was well organized.
The start of the race is super early, and it’s a point to point course. Runners must take a shuttle to the start, because the road is otherwise closed to the public. I woke up at the ungodly hour of 2:30am, only to find that it was cold and rainy. This was no Rock ‘N Roll event – participants on the bus were pretty serious runners, and this was my first time experiencing anything like that. The bus ride to the start climbed up, up, up – the race started at the top of a mountain, nearly 6,500 feet above sea level, and finished close to 4,000 feet above sea level.At the start of the race, it was still completely dark and began to rain.
The busses basically dropped us off on the top of the mountain in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Runners from all over the country huddled around fire pits and tried to stay warm and excited for the start of the race. As the gun went off, the sun began to rise. We were at the peak of a mountain literally looking into Utah Valley, surrounded by horse farms and ranches. Though it was raining, the start of this race was nothing short of magical. I remember looking around thinking, “I can’t believe I have the opportunity to run here. There is so much beauty here.”
Running a marathon in elevation like that is no joke. Here I was, showing up at this race with poor training and an injury thinking it was going to be “easy” since it was “all downhill”. Even with my injury I remember thinking that I pretty much “planned” on qualifying for Boston again there. How arrogant. It ended up being one of my slowest marathon times. A friend of mine who also ran it agreed regardless of the fact that the entire run was downhill, the elevation left you completely breathless for much of the run. Around the half marathon point, my right IT band totally locked up due to the descent and I did a bunch of walking.
The finish area was in the parking lot of a shopping mall, and the shirts were distributed at the end of the race. Some of the shirts were held up in customs somewhere and they didn’t have any left in my size. They were going to ship them to us when they arrived (and they did) – which I was totally cool with. However, I’ll never forget what the volunteer said to me: “Well, guess you need to run faster next time.” I wasn’t even upset that I missed out on a shirt, but she made that comment and I burst into tears. My friend, Mike, finished a bit before me greeted me with open arms and I just sobbed like a little girl. I just ran 26.2 miles with a stress fracture and a messed up IT band. I was tired, cold, and in a lot of pain. Any other day I would have laughed at that comment, but not that day.
Long Branch Marathon, 2010 – 3:49:27
This race had “I’m gonna hate this marathon” written all over it, but it was quite the opposite experience. It’s two 13 mile loops. It starts on the beach and loops around Long Branch and through some of the surrounding areas. You end up back where you started, only to do the whole thing over again. I hate re-running parts of a course, so why sign up for a marathon that runs the same course…twice? Well, for starters my other NJ option was not as pleasant – Ocean Drive, in March. In the wind. No thank you. Or, Asbury Park in the fall – where you repeat the same 3.something mile loop overandoverandoverandover until you hit 26.2 miles. Long Branch it was.
I started with the 3:40 pacer, which was way to aggressive for me due to my training and the weather conditions He went out too fast, and later I passed him after he threw in the towel and quit pacing runners later in the race. His approach would have been fine if the temps didn’t soar into the 90s, with blistering sun and humidity. I got the worst sunburn because it was early May, though it ended up feeling like mid-July.
I remember feeling pretty crappy after hanging with the 3:40 pacer for the first eight miles. I stopped for a quick bathroom break and almost felt like I wasn’t going to finish -I hit a wall pretty early on in the race. I actually considered finishing at the half marathon point and being scored for that instead. I hooked up with the 3:45 pacer just before getting to the half marathon finish line and will never forget him. He kept a steady pace, good conversation and motivation the entire time.Around mile 20, I started to fade a bit and he tried to wait for me but he couldn’t – even though I was the only one hanging with him, he had to do his job for others that were running around that pace. He did, however, wait for me at the finish to congratulate me.
After I slowed down, I befriended another runner on the course (who I still stay in touch with, even up through today!) and we ran the last five miles together. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much of the course, but I remember this race because of the camaraderie and enjoyable company.
Rock ‘N Roll Mardi Gras, 2010 – 3:48:48
I usually hate on the Rock ‘N Roll Races. Been there, done that, and planning to avoid them in the future. HOWEVER. If you MUST do one, this is the one to do. Not because it was the most organized race ever, or the best course ever. It’s because it’s in the coolest city ever. It used to be run by the local road runners club until they sold their souls to the people at the Competitor Group. I’m guessing the race would have been much cooler in previous years, when it was still a locally run event. Regardless, “Naw’leans” is by far the coolest city I’ve visited and the most fun place to run. It’s pretty flat, and the race takes you by all of the cool sights, including through the historic French Quarter.
Rock ‘N Roll San Antonio, 2009 – 3:39:49 (BQ)
While this race will always hold a special place in my heart since it was my first Boston Qualifier, it’s also not among my favorite races. San Antonio is rather small so the cool sights, like the Alamo, are over fairly quickly. Much of the race is run out in areas too far for spectators to be present. Also, it’s a Rock ‘N Roll race. I don’t want to sound like a snob, but I’ve run a few of these and I’m just not a fan. They are all the same. I like races run by independent race directors. They add their own personal touches and personality to the races. If you run one Rock ‘N Roll race, you’ve run them all.
Baltimore Marathon, 2009 – 4:08:52
I don’t have very many good things to say about the Baltimore Marathon, but I’m not sure if I’m just biased. I had quite an off day here, and the weather was uncooperative – hot, humid and damp all at the same time. The course goes through the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill and the surrounding areas. There is also a nice loop around Lake Montebello, which is also part of the Baltimore 10 Miler course. The lake loop happens towards the end of the race and is quite flat, which is a nice break from the hills.
There is a relay and half marathon happening along with the marathon, and it was tough being a full marathoner at the exchange points. Or maybe it was just because that was the first time I ever encountered something like that. When people entered their leg of the race and started sprinting in the later miles, it kind of messed with my head. With that being said, I’ve run races with relays since then and it didn’t bother me. The race swag is seriously cool since it’s sponsored by Under Armor, the medal and the ribbon attached to it are pretty sweet, and there are lots of amenities at the finish line.
Run for the Red, 2009 – 3:46:48
Run for the Red, 2010 – 4:01:30
I’ve run this race twice and loved it both times. Small town race with a fast course. It’s hilly – but the first 13 miles are downhill. Most runners (including myself on my second attempt at this course) take the first 13 wayyyy too quickly and find themselves hurting during the second half. It’s a point to point course that takes you through the beautiful Poconos, with a finish in Stroudsburg on the local high school’s track. Though it’s a nice course, there is pretty much no expo and nothing much available to purchase at the “expo”.
Philadelphia Marathon, 2009 – 4:49:01
Philadelphia Marathon, 2012 – 4:22:49
Always a “pacer”, never a “racer” for this big city race. I’ve run in the city of brotherly love with just that intention – a love and passion for running and my closest friends. In 2009, I ran with a friend completing her first full marathon and paced her to finish. In 2012, I ran with a different friend with the same intention. Running alongside someone that never ran that far before is a pretty incredible experience, so this race is always going to hold a special place in my heart.Some hate the course, others love it. I love it.
The first half goes through all of the cool downtown areas. Historical neighborhoods, South Street, Old City and the area down by the water are just some of the sights. The college kids are out cheering as you run through Drexel’s campus. Once you hit the half marathon, it’s an out and back to Manayunk. The “out” is kind of scary because you feel like you are running downhill, so you think you are screwed on the way back. Until you get to Manayunk around mile 20 and feel the energy of the crowd just lifting your spirits and you head back, realizing that it was a false flat an it’s not six straight miles uphill back to the city and the finish line.One day, I’ll run it for myself. For now, it goes in the books as one I run for others.
VIA Marathon (Lehigh Valley Marathon), 2012 – 3:33:10 (BQ)
I always passed this race up. In the past, I participated as a relay. However, when I set my sights on Boston with the new qualifying standards, I chose this as my race. It’s a relatively flat course run in my neck of the woods, so I had the whole “home course” advantage thing going on. I was surprised to find how much I loved this race. The start was in Allentown, and it wound you in and around the west end of the city, through some of the tougher areas and on to the towpath. As you hit Bethlehem, runners hit the streets for a few miles in the pretty, historical town (and my favorite place to train). After the half marathon point, runners return to the towpath for almost the rest of the run to Easton. I don’t love the towpath usually but I enjoyed it that day. I wore some trail shoes because it rained the night before, but it’s a cinder path so generally I wouldn’t say they are necessary to be successful in this race. Another one I would return to in the future.
Shamrock Marathon, 2009 – 4:11:20
I wish Shamrock was my first marathon. What an amazing day. I’d recommend this race to anyone looking for a Virginia race. From the expo right down to the finish line, this event was well organized and just plain fun.It’s sponsored by Yuengling, and the merch sponsor is Brooks (at least, it was when I ran in 2009). Lots of cool items for purchase from the race and the vendors. The course winds through Virginia Beach and through a military complex where the troops are out cheering you on. The finish line is a party on the beach with unlimited beef stew and lots of beer. Finishers walk away with a ton of sweet free swag – more than any other race I’ve ever participated in. I’d like run this one again someday.
Nike Woman’s Marathon, 2008 – 4:52:14
My first ever full marathon experience. Entry is granted through a lottery system, and besides it being located in California, the medal was a necklace designed and produced by Tiffany & Co. “Medals” were distributed by the San Francisco Fire Department at the finish line, with the firefighters dressed in tuxedos. The actual expo was pretty disappointing, but the Nike store in Union Square was transformed for the marathon with lots of gear for purchase. The finisher shirts were actually distributed at the finish line of this race.
It was dark and cold at the starting line in Union Square. It was California in October, and I didn’t anticipate it being so cold and dreary. The first 14 miles went fairly smoothly and took you through some cool San Francisco neighborhoods and a nice park. Oh yeah, be warned about the killer hills, particularly the one around mile 8 – killer.
By the time you hit mile 20, the course takes you out of town and around Lake Merced. On a sunny day, this could be pleasant and beautiful. With the weather that day, it was ugly, dismal and windy. The last six miles seemed endless, and though there was a large finish area, it was just okay. I wish I would have chosen a different race for California, but I don’t regret doing it. After my 50 state pursuit is over, I’m heading back out west for another shot at this state.