My goal in 2015 is to run 10 marathons, as this will bring my state total to 25 (halfway!!).
I started the year off with the First Light Marathon in Mobile, Alabama (my 16th state). I was drawn to this race for many reasons. The first (and most important) reason was that the unique, wooden medallion race medals are hand painted by members of the community. I love medals.
Another draw was that it was part of the Back-2-Back series, where participants have the option to run the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, Mississippi on Saturday, then drive 200 miles to Mobile to run the First Light Marathon on Sunday. Completion of both races results in a third, special medal while knocking out two states in one weekend. (Side note: I’d considered doing the B2B challenge, but my kind sister reminded me of the time I ran the Disney Goofy Challenge (Half Marathon on Saturday followed by a Full Marathon on Sunday in DisneyWorld) and the misery that ensued, so I passed–my feet are very pleased).
Third, I’d never been to Mobile, but I knew of the historic mansions with wrought iron porches and grand Cypress trees that lined its streets.
Lastly, I’d gotten a great price on a plane ticket to New Orleans ($57 round trip), coupled with the dollar Megabus seat ($8 round trip) to Mobile. I can’t resist a deal.
I spent a few days in New Orleans eating beignets and gumbo, I took a cooking class, saw several Jazz bands play, and took photo walks of the city and its parks. I stayed for several days in two NOLA hostels (under $25/night: both were very clean and inhabited by fun folks) followed by a short 36 hour stay in a Mobile (hardly long enough!).
I found the people of Mobile to be kind and helpful, and the race was first rate. The southern belle Trail Azaleas in their pastel gowns greeted us at the race expo and again at the start line. The race began with a 7 AM shotgun start and then meandered down Decatur street, passed old mansions and historic cemeteries and through the Mobile suburbs. In addition to numerous water stops, there were orange slices, cookies and candy along the entire route. One stop even had pickle juice (my new favorite sports drink)! Race support was incredible, especially considering the small pool of runners (500 in total), many of whom had run 26.2 miles the previous day.
Three runners of note were Cynthia, Mark and Clyde, all members of a group called Marathon Maniacs. The Maniacs are an enthusiast group of overachievers that run multiple marathons in a weekend and have different tiers of insanity. I met these three at mile 20 when I thought I could run no more. They introduced me to the Galloway Run Walk Run method: a repeating pattern of running for 30 seconds followed by a 45 second walking interval. This gives your body and mind a rest and allows you to successfully finish the race. Using this pattern, I ran the remainder of the race with my three new friends, talking and laughing, sharing race stories and trivia, and finishing one hour earlier than predicted. We may have even sang a song or two. The chatter made for a very fun race. The post race meal consisted of a plate of hot red beans and rice, cornbread, a cookie and a cold beer (most races only serve a plain bagel and half a banana!). I highly recommend this race!!
Running advice: Whether you are new to running or a seasoned pro, remind yourself that it’s ok to take walking breaks. There’s absolutely no shame in it. Most runners that I know take walking breaks at water stops to catch their breathe and to not spill their water. And as your legs tire, it’s helpful to adopt the Galloway method of the Run Walk Run (http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/run-walk/) . Jeff Galloway has written many books on the subject and some runners with use this method from race start to finish (and still finish faster than me!). Many sports watches have a programmable mode that will BEEP when it’s time to begin walking or running. Happy Running!