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You’ve probably heard that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If that’s true, race directors across the country are falling all over each other to get in line to flatter race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell and his Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k challenge. (For those keeping track, runners have from May 1 to August 31 to run the approximately 621ish miles across the state. A real human has already finished, and is “resting” before doing the miles to “run the other way” back to the start.)

Hmmm, that would make a good blog post…

Yesterday, I opened an email from my friends at Blue Ridge Racing. (They are the team that puts on the Blue Ridge Marathon.) Like many race organizations, all of their in-person races are canceled this season. The email was notification of the Virtual Interstate Challenge, to run the distance of I-81 in Virginia. When I shared this virtual race across Virginia with my accountability group, one of the members posted about The Great Run Across California, which is a 155, 347, or 705 mile challenge with team options.

Since I thought this was hilarious, I posted it in the facebook group for GVRAT1000 (one of the few spots on facebook guaranteed to be positive, uplifting, supportive, and 100% free of politics, bickering, woo-woo goop-esque advice, and fake-news). Within minutes the other members of the group were posting about virtual races across their states too! One runner even noted that a NY-based run was calling itself the largest virtual race, at least until a GVRAT100k runner pointed out there are around 19,000 runners signed up to run with the one and only Lazarus Lake.

It’s NOT too late to sign up to run across Tennessee with Laz, but this is America–you’ve got options! [EDIT: I stand corrected. You can still jump on this run, BUT you can’t enter any miles you ran before you registered.]

For your unbridled merriment, I present The Complete (as of now) List of Run Across A State races! NOTES: I have attempted to collect up the same information for each race so that you can make informed decisions about how much you want to run, how much you want to pay, which charities you want to support, etc. I have also attempted to find the actual event page for each event, if one exists. The most accurate information will ALWAYS be on the race’s homepage–so go there and verify! The entry fees listed below DO NOT include the processing fees charged by the registration platform, and DO NOT include any extras. Some races include a medal and a shirt in the basic swag, others do not. Read carefully!

(If You Just Want to Run For the Glory of Running…)

Runner’s World Run Streak. This year’s summer run streak kicks off on Memorial Day and runs through July 4th. No miles to log, no medal and no shirt, but plenty of social media bragging opportunities. Details: https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a27546583/rw-run-streak/

Run The Whole Country!

DetermiNation Runs the Country (June 1 to June 7)
Distance: Join Others in Running Across the Country
Race Director: American Cancer Society
Charities: American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation
Registration: $25 (no shirt) or $50 (shirt)
Special Note: Fundraising incentives include goodr sunglasses and more
https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/NewYork/DetermiNationRunstheCountry

Amerithon (no date restriction)
Distance: 3,521 miles (run, walk, bike, swim) solo or team
Race Director: Run the Edge
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $75, $50, or $25 (you choose the level of swag you want)
https://shop.runtheedge.com/pages/amerithon

Great American 5000 (June 14 to September 14)
Distance: 5000k or 3107 miles (teams of up to 24)
Race Director: Sports Backers
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $50
https://www.sportsbackers.org/events/great-american-5000/

America Strong Mileage Challenge (June 1 to June 21)
Distance: How many miles can you run?
Race Director: Planet Ultra
Charities: Not applicable (help Planet Ultra survive this time)
Registration: $35 (options to avoid race platform fees)
Special note: everyone who runs 15 miles per week will be added to a prize drawing
http://runplanetultra.com/americastrong-mileage-challenge

Multi-State Runs

Mountains to Sea Virtual Run (June 1 to September 20)
Distance: 350 miles
Race Director: Upstate Ultras
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $60
Special detail: choose from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Virginia (belt buckle design features the state you choose)
https://runsignup.com/Race/SC/Sunset/MountainstoSeaVirtualRun

Run the States Challenge (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 379k (Missouri), 630k (Kansas), 1000k (I-70 Challenge)
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: the Canine Challenge proceeds go to unnamed “local animal shelters”
Registration: $39 (MO or KS), $49 (I-70), $25 Canine Challenge
https://runsignup.com/Race/Info/MO/KansasCity/I70VirtualChallenge

Road to Gettysburg Challenge (May 23 to October 17)
Distance: four options from 132 miles to 991 miles (representing the distance from one Civil War battlefield to Gettysburg)
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: None identified
Registration: $60
https://runsignup.com/Race/PA/Gettysburg/RoadtoGettysburgBattlefieldChallenge

California

The Great Run Across California (May 1 to August 30—teams have 30 days)
Distance: 155 (San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe), 347 (SF to LA), 705 (whole state)—team or solo
Race Director: All Community Events
Charities: The Children’s Heart Foundation
Registration: $29.99 (through May 20); $40
https://runsusa.com/greatrunacrosscalifornia

Run Across California
Distance: San Diego to Oregon; San Diego to Arizona
Race Director: Kinane Events
Charities: Feeding American California Food Banks; Miles of Smiles
Registration: $50 or $40
https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/SanDiego/RunAcrossCalifornia

California Coast 500 (June 8 to September 7)
Distance: 500 miles (Santa Monica Pier to San Francisco); option for 100, 250, or 400
Race Director: Run Local
Charities: programs to feed children
Registration: $60
https://runlocalevents.com/california/

Chase the Jester Across California (May 25 to December 31)
Distance: seven options from 220 miles to 1,364 miles
Race Director: “The Jester” (Edwin William Ettinghausen, presumably with help from Andrea Ettinghausen
Charities: Project 99 (fighting teen suicide); Living Free (animal sanctuary)
Awareness & Action: Push the government to get 988 (the newly designated National Suicide Awareness & Prevention Hotline) operational NOW—the Congressional oversight committee approved it in December 2019 but they “need” 18 months to put it into place? NOPE. Let’s get that 988 operational NOW. It’s much easier to remember than 800-273-8255 (the current number)
Registration: $59.88 and up (longer events = more bling)
https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/SanFranciscoLakeTahoeLosAngeles/ChaseTheJesterAcrossCalifornia

Colorado

Virtual Colorado Trail Challenge (June 1 to September 3)
Distance: 500 miles (solo or team)
Race Director: Bear Chase Race Series/Runners Edge of the Rockies
Charities: Colorado Trail Foundation; Tunnel to Towers COVID-19 Heroes Fund
Registration: $65 solo; $130 2-person team
Special Note: there are competitive category challenges (e.g. most vertical feet in one day)
https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=77426

Colorado Trail Challenge (June 1 to August 31)
Distance: 486 miles
Race Director: 3W Races
Charities: The Colorado Trail Foundation; Athletes Serving Athletes
Registration: $70
Special notes: option to bike all your miles, or to enter a combined run/bike/etc.; relay team option (up to 6 run/walk or 3 bike); 28 digital badges; facebook group
https://www.coloradotrailchallenge.com/

Connecticut

The NUTmeg Challenge (May 25 to July 14)
Distance: 155, 253, or 328 miles
Race Director: Unclear (not stated on event website)
Charities: Connecticut Food Bank; Bridgeport Rescue Mission; Mercy Learning Center
Registration: $35 (register by June 1 to be guaranteed a medal)
https://runsignup.com/Race/Events/CT/Anywhere/TheNUTmegChallenge

Florida

The Sunshine State Challenge (May 18, 2020 to June 30, 2021)
Distance: 1,121 miles or 330 miles
Race Director: Advanced Running Project
Charities: ReTree PC (tree planning to replace Panama City trees destroyed in Hurricane Michael)
Registration: $60
https://www.sunshinestatechallenge.com/

Florida Virtual Challenge (June 1 to October 31)
Distances: 1000K / 500K / 100 Mile
Race Director: Chris Lauber, Florida Road Races
Charities: Running Starfish Foundation, Inc. for distribution to other small non-profits.
Registration: $60 for the 1000K; $55 for the 500K; $50 for the 100 Miler
https://runsignup.com/Race/Donate/FL/SaintPetersburg/FloridaUltimateVirtualRuns

Illinois

The Great Run Across Illinois (May 1 to July 31)
Distance:390 miles (north-south) or 210 miles (east-west), solo or team
Race Director: All Community Events
Charities: Illinois Nurses Foundation
Registration: $34.99 until May 20; $40 after
https://allcommunityevents.com/greatrunacrossillinois

Minnesota

The Great Run Across Minnesota (May 1 to August 30)
Distance: 407 miles or 181 miles; solo or team
Race Director: MNruns.com part of All Community Events
Charities: Special Olympics Minnesota
Registration: $29.99 until May 20; $40 after
https://mnruns.com/greatrunacrossminnesota

New Hampshire

Run New Hampshire Challenge. (June 15 to October 11)
Distance: 599 miles (team options available)
Race Director: Millennium Running
Charity: Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Registration: $30
http://www.millenniumrunning.com/runnh

New Jersey

The New Jersey Virtual Challenge. (May 15 to July 15)
Distance: 28 miles (Boardwalk Challenge), 117.2 miles (Run the NJ Turnpike), 172.4 (Run the Garden State Parkway), 289.6 (Toll Booth Challenge ), 579.2 miles (Jersey Devil Road Tour Challenge)—the website has these broken out by average miles per day
Race Director: CompuScore
Charities: CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for kids in foster care), The Community FoodBank of New Jersey
Registration: $40-$85
https://www.compuscore.com/

New York

New York State Virtual 434 (May 15 to September 15)
Distance: 434 miles (Niagara Square, Buffalo to Times Square, NYC) with options for 70, 150, 290, and 868 miles
Race Director: Score This
Charities: FeedMore WNY (fka The Food Bank & Meals on Wheels)
Registration: $60
Special detail: run/walk, bike, and swim offered as separate events
https://www.nysvr434.com/

One NY Virtual Challenge (“now” to August 31; last day to register is July 5)
Distance: 1000k or 500k (team or solo option)
Race Director: Upstate Event Management LLC
Charities: Direct Relief (COVID-19 PPE and medication)
Registration: $60
https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/EntireState/OneNY

NYCRuns Subway System Challenge (Memorial Day to Labor Day)
Distance: 245 miles (New York City Subway system tracks!)
Race Director: NYC Runs
Charites: Robin Hood Relief Fund
Registration:$0 Turnstile Jumper (no swag); $60 Token Collector (sweet swag!!); $100 Transit Enthusiast (sweet swag and surprises)
https://nycruns.com/race/nycruns-subway-system-challenge

North Carolina

Run OBX (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 300 mile Run OBX; ? Run and Ride; 800 mile Run the Ridge and Run OBX (see entry below)
Race Director: Unknown; this information is not on the race website
Sponsors: Coastal Hillbilly Leather goods, RC Outdoor Supply, Ridge Supply, Grafig, Seaside Silk Screening, EDA Surf
Charities: unnamed food banks that serve the Outer Banks region
Registration: $45 or $80
Special note: race swag is all made by North Carolina businesses, including shirts (designed by Grafig in Carolina Beach and printed by Seaside SilkScreen in Wilmington), medals (Elevation Culture), and awards with goodies
https://www.run-obx.com/

Run the Ridge (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 500 miles
Race Director: Unknown (this information is not on the website)
Sponsor: same list for the Run OBX above
Charities: unnamed local community food banks in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Registration: $45 or $80
Special Note: The Blue Ridge Mountains go through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia. This event is NOT the Blue Ridge Racing virtual event.
https://www.runblueridge.com/Race/NC/Cherokee/Runtheblueridge

Ohio

The Great Run Across Ohio (May 1 to August 30)
Distance: 227 miles or 454 miles (solo or team)
Race Director: OhioRuns.com, part of All Community Events
Charities: Whole Again (at-risk children)
Registration: $29.99 through May 20; $40 after
https://ohioruns.com/greatrunacrossohio#prereg

Buckeye State Challenge (May 16, 2020 to June 15, 2021)
Distance: 1,118.87 miles or 250 miles
Race Director: The Advanced Running Project
Charities: Shoes 4 the Shoeless, Inc. (provides properly fitting gym shoes and socks to kids)
Registration: $60
Special Note: There’s a cycling challenge too
https://www.buckeyechallenge.com/

Buckeye State Challenge (July 1 to August 31)
Distance: 220 miles
Race Director: Unknown
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $29.99
https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/Ohio/BuckeyeStateChallenge

Virginia

Virginia Virtual Interstate 81 Challenge (June 1 to August 20)
Distance: 325 miles
Race Director: Blue Ridge Racing
Sponsor: Fleet Feet
Charities: Feeding Southwest Virginia; Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
Registration: $45 individual; team fees vary by team size
https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Roanoke/VirtualInterstateChallengeI81Virginia

Washington

Run Washington Challenge (June 20 to September 22)
Distance: five options from 35 miles to 277 miles
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: Seattle Children’s Hospital; Food Lifeline
Registration: $35 (lower mileage) $80 (277 miles)
https://runsignup.com/Race/WA/Seattle/RunWashingtonVirtualStateRace

WAVE Run 500 (June 1 to September 7)
Distance: 2325 miles (Long Beach to Cape Flattery), 265 (Cape Flattery to Port Orchard), or 500 miles (Long Beach to Port Orchard)
Race Director: Run Amok Racing, Inc.
Charites: Kitsap Humane Society; South Kitsap Help Line
Registration: $50 or $60 ($20 for doggos, but no swag for Fido)
https://runsignup.com/Race/WA/PortOrchard/VirtualRaceAroundWesternWashington

Wisconsin

The Great Run Across Wisconsin. (May 1 to August 30).
Distance: 176 or 314 miles (team or solo)
Race Director: WisconsinRuns.com, part of All Community Events
Charities: Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Hope Council (substance abuse), and Hunger Task Force
Registration: $29.99 through 5/20, $40 after
https://wisconsinruns.com/greatrunacrosswisconsin

Elsewhere in the World…

The Virtual Swiss Alps 800 Race (May 16 to August 16)
Distance: 800k
Race Director: Jakob Herrmann, Founder and Race Director of the Swiss Alps 100
Charities: Not applicable
Registration: $50
https://www.swissalps100.com/vSwissAlps800.asp

The Great Canadian Crossing (July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021)
Distance: 4800 km (2982.5 miles! WHOA!) or choose a single province
Race Director: 5 Peaks
Charities: NA
Registration: $85 CDN (full country) $65 CDN (one province) +mailing if outside North America
Special Note: separate options for run/walk, bike, and “multi-sport” (anything self-propelled)
http://www.5peaks.com/thegreatcanadiancrossing

Okay, what did I miss?

I’m in a bit of a hurry to get this posted, since several of the events have a discounted price that expires today (May 20, 2020). While I did run some quick searches and ask around a bit, I’m sure I’ve missed some “run across [your state here]” events. Feel free to drop a link in a comment.

Most of us are looking at another month or more of “Stay At Home”–I’m in through July 6, at a minimum–and races throughout Oregon and SW Washington (and the rest of Washington, for that matter) are cancelled. California races are cancelled. Pretty much all the races are cancelled. That’s okay because running is NOT cancelled, camaraderie among runners is NOT cancelled, and swag and bragging rights are NOT cancelled. If you’ve never connected to the running community on social media, now is the perfect time to join a virtual challenge. Motivate to run/walk/wog/whatever those miles by connecting with a challenge or a virtual run club. Unlike a virtual race (which happens once, you probably do it by yourself, and maybe you forget?) a challenge or a virtual rub club is ongoing support and a reminder to get off the couch!

The Original Edition

Run the Year 2020 medal

Run The Year. “Virtual” since the start! You can choose to literally “run the year” (2020 miles or kilometers), alone or as part of a team, or you can choose your own goal. For the Basic fee of $25, you get access to an easy-to-use mileage tracker (it lets you separate out walking and running and “other” miles), a private facebook group (plus a regional facebook group–once the virus ends, we can meet new runners at local meetups!), and a mileage guide. Upgrade to the Deluxe package for $39 to score a medal, legacy coin, and mileage tracking poster (it’s color-by-number-of-miles!). If you want to Get It All, spend $59 for all that and a bag of chips I mean a sublimated Run the Year tech shirt. See all of your options at https://shop.runtheedge.com/pages/run-the-year-2020 and don’t forget to join the Uncanceled Project (it’s free!)–your race on your day–to get those sweet custom photo bibs I know you’ve seen on Insta.

I’ve been a member of Run The Year since it started. My favorite aspect of this group is that ALL runners are welcome. This isn’t a club about being speedy–though there are speedy members. There are walkers, too. There are people brand new to any kind of exercise, and people who regularly take home trophies. It’s an encouraging space. Last year I volunteered to lead the Portland-area Facebook group, and I met some great people. Plus I’m apparently still a child and I love coloring in my poster.

The Ridiculous Edition

This is the photograph from the GVRAT 1000k Facebook group. Yes, those appear to be buzzards looking for roadkill.

The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k. If you’re really into running, like to the point where you read about other people running, look up stuff online about running, or like to hear “war stories” from really crazy serious runners, you’ve probably heard of the Barkley Marathons, aka “the race that eats its young” according to the documentary subtitle. (Trailer on YouTube, film on a variety of platforms.) Despite the fact that few people enter and almost no one finishes, making it almost automatic social distancing, the race is off this year. So race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell came up with something else: The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. It’s a mere $60 and you have from May 1 to August 31 to run 1000k BUT the miles only count if you cover them AFTER you sign up (and that’s run, walk, treadmill miles) https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Memphis/TheGreatVirtualRaceAcrossTennessee1000K

Now why on earth would I, a banana slug of a “runner,” who hasn’t done 50 miles to date this year, sign up for #GVRAT1000? I think back to my earlier running days, when I lived in California, and some of my friends were telling me about The Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World: run a half marathon Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday. My reaction? “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of!” So when The Dopey Challenge premiered a few years later, I signed right up. Maybe this time I hope to learn some geography? Call it the Go Big Or Go Home principle, if you will, but there’s some magic in publicly declaring that you are going to do an insane thing. Also, it’s find of fun to do the impossible. Take it from Bib #14066. 18,000+ runners in 68 countries can’t be wrong!

P.S. if that’s not enough, perhaps your pooch can motivate you? There’s a separate division for doggos! The cost is half of the human registration (Laz says it is half as hard to run that far on four legs) and 100% of proceeds will go to animal shelters in Tennessee. So grab your pupper and go!

The Local (As I Define It) Edition

At the outset of this section, if you have the resources to support your local running club, local running store, and local race directors, PLEASE DO IT. I know many of you have lost your jobs or lost some income that makes this impossible; to you, I say go forth and shamelessly apply for every running “scholarship” there is for your local runs: then get to doing it, talking about it, and wearing the local swag. I recently read an article about coffee that mused after all this is over, Starbucks might be the last roaster standing. (Blog post forthcoming.) PLEASE DO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN TO RUNNING. While big, national “road show” type races are fun, local races give back more to your community. The money almost all stays close to home (to pay vendors, suppliers, and for security, etc.), and almost every race gives some amount of the entry fees to a local charity. A smaller local race can happen in a town that can’t support a marathon of 20,000 which means more runs in more places.

Marathon Matt’s SF Run Club is going virtual too.

SF Virtual Run Club. California is where I really started running, and Run Club was my first stab at running with people on a somewhat regular basis outside of races. Usually it’s an in-person thing, with a short run and a cross-training workout during the week, and a long run on the weekend, plus plenty of social time. Runners are often training for, or “targeting” the same SF Bay Area race. This year? We’re going the distance, at a distance. The virtual summer season starts May 16 but you can join late if you’d like. http://www.sanfranciscorunningclub.com/

Oregon Brewery Running Series May Virtual Challenge. What’s a local race director to do when all the breweries close and we’re under a Stay At Home order? Go Virtual! In addition to prizes for hitting certain targets, there are weekly Zoom happy hours (you run your miles, then it’s BYOB) with “door” prizes. I wrote about how much I love this series. You should join us. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/oregon-may-virtual-challenge-tickets-102838915966?

The Do-Gooder Edition

Reigning Roses Walk. This annual event is the main fundraiser for Rose Haven, a women’s day center in Portland that receives no federal funding. Rose Haven provides services to women, children, and gender-nonconforming individuals to achieve self-sustainability, with dignity and respect. The programs include medical, access to showers, mail service, and classes. Reigning Roses was never a run. Instead it was a sort of parade, with participants carrying jaunty umbrellas and live music. While social distancing and anti-gathering rules currently in place make it unsafe to hold the event this year, and there is a virtual version, I’m betting participation will be down. That would suck, because Rose Haven does great work and it’s likely even more women will need help in the wake of COVID-19. https://www.makeitreign.org/event/reigning-roses-2020/e275129

The Environmentally Friendly Edition

It’s A Re-Run! No, not like on TV.

Griffith Park Virtual Re-Run. What happens to all those race shirts and medals when the race is over? I know some races will sell them next year as “vintage.” The Race for Warmth uses the shirts for people who late register the next year (so if your size is unavailable, you get last year’s shirt). The people that direct the Griffith Park Run had a better idea: let’s make a new race to use them up! You sign up for 6k, 8k, or 12k and run by May 24th. You get a random shirt, medal, and bib from a prior run, a Gu product, and a Re-Run sticker. $5 of your entry fee goes to the L.A. Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund, organized by The Mayor’s Fund of Los Angeles. At only $22.50 (which includes your swag mailed to you), it’s a bargain that also does good (both by repurposing ace swag, and supporting the LA community). Register: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/LosAngeles/GriffithParkVirtualReRun

One of my favorite California race companies!

Brazen Racing Retro Remote. I learned about this one right after I hit “go” on the original post. Brazen Racing is a much-loved trail race group in California; die-hards who run each of the 20+ events in a year become “Streakers” and receive official numbers at the end of the season. Brazen has pulled ONE medal from each of their prior events to make this happen. As the website explains, “Those participating will have the opportunity to choose which one of those medals they want to get mailed for their virtual race package. Every medal sent out as part of this event will be unique and the medals are available on a first-come/first-serve basis. If you want to know what each medal looks like, you’ll have to do some searching around as even we’re not sure where/if pictures exist for every single one! Or you can just pick an event medal from a certain year and be surprised.” Distances include 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, 30K and 50K (the normal Brazen distances) and you can run solo or with a team. “The goal is to at least start your run by May 16th, but there are no strict rules here. We’re just trying to celebrate the good times we’ve had and the good times to come!” https://brazenracing.com/retroremote/

The National Edition

Even though I’d strongly encourage you to run local and support your local race directors and charities first, I have to give a nod to the national series races which are also not happening.

Zooma Run Club. Zooma specializes in women’s destination races, and this is a women’s run club. Sorry gents! Set your own mileage goal for the year (250 to 2500) and get swagged when you bag it. Zooma will also have giveaways, in addition to a private Facebook group, a Strava club, and more. If you join now, you get inaugural member status (which makes it sound like this club is here to stay, even past the Stay At Home era). Price: free option, swag packages at $65 (before June 1) or $75 (after June 1). You have the option to add-on more swag (hats, jackets, etc.) and the summer challenge for an additional fee. What can I say? The hoodie was really cute… https://zoomarun.com/zooma-run-club?

Rock ‘n’ Roll Virtual Run Club. Price: free, though completing a challenge gives you the option to buy finisher swag, and there’s some sort of points system (no idea what the points are for yet). Personally I have given up on this one, as the recording platform that Rock ‘n’ Roll chose to use cannot connect to Strava, and they do not connect to Coros. NO STRAVA? What the what? True story. Sport Heroes, the platform Rock ‘n’ Roll chose to use, can only connect to the following apps: Garmin, Polar, Suunto, FitBit, Nike+, Runtastic, Map My Run, Runkeeper, Health Mate, Rouvy, Decathlon Coach, TomTom, and Movescout. The only one of these apps I use is FitBit. (I also use Strava, Coros, and Charity Miles. I do NOT need to use another app just so I can do a Rock ‘n’ Roll virtual.) While the FitBit app recognizes “activities,” and Sport Heroes can import all the data, the RnR VRC will only recognize an activity if you set your FitBit to “run” before you go run. Sadly, this is not stated anywhere in the RnR VRC materials, so I missed out on the first VR 5k–I signed up and ran 5k, but didn’t push the special button on the FitBit, so it did not count. BTW no explanation from Rock ‘n’ Roll even after I filled out the feedback form, mystified that I’d run 5k but RnR VRC showed zero miles–I had to find this out from a savvier friend! So for the second week I pushed the button to start and end a run. You might think this fixed the problem, but you’d be wrong. Turns out my FitBit and my Coros had slightly different data, so FitBit said I did 9.82k and not 10k. As a result, RnR did not recognize my finish (so no badge, etc.) though I did get 99 points (whatever that is?) for the week. The Sport Heroes explanation for why they don’t connect to Strava is lame, and frankly sounds like it was written by a whiny, overprivileged, teenager who is used to getting away with whatever they want. It also contradicts Strava’s statement, and I’ve got a solid, multi-year relationship with Strava, and trust them. Strava’s explanation is short and sweet: Sport Heroes aggregates Strava data with no transparency about it, in violation of Strava’s rules. So if YOU are interested in attempting a Rock ‘n’ Roll Virtual Run Club event, you can give it a whirl. I’m out.

The Sponsored Edition

Run 50 miles, score a free pack! Image from Honeystinger.com

Honey Stinger 50 Mile Challenge. This is a challenge you sign up for directly on the Strava app. (Why couldn’t Rock ‘n’ Roll just use Strava? So easy, free for everyone.) If you’re not familiar with Strava, it’s a great place to connect with other runners, and with running brands. Honey Stinger is one of the companies that encourages runners on Strava by hosting a run club, and sponsoring various challenges. Head to the Strava challenge page to sign up. Finish 50 miles in the month of May and score a badge for your Strava profile plus a pack of the brand new Honey Stinger Plus Chews. Fifty lucky participants will also score a race kit (though there are 189,000+ people signed up so it’s a bit like the lottery).

If you’re not familiar with Honey Stinger, OMG go check them out! My favorite products are the caramel waffles (they also have gluten-free options) and the caffeinated cherry cola chews. Pro tip: to avoid crushing your waffles, use medical tape to affix 1-2 waffles to the back of your race bib. (Medical tape is cheap, will hold the waffle in place flat, and is easy to rip off the bib without any damage.)

The UnderDog Edition

While you’re at it, join Team Ordinary.

The Ordinary Marathon. Scott Rieke, aka the Ordinary Marathoner, started this ten-day event three years ago. This year, it runs (pun!) from May 8 to May 17. Every year, runners from all over run their miles (maybe a marathon, maybe not!) during the course (pun!) of the race and connect on social media. The photos later become part of the #OrdinaryMarathon slide show video. There are daily prizes, too. Entry fees also support a charitable donation to help pets ind a “furever” home. This year the optional in-person 5k isn’t happening, but that’s not stopping the event. It’s an Ordinary Marathon because anyone can do 26.2 over the course of 10 days–even you! $30 to register, includes a medal and treats, shirt is optional extra. http://www.ordinarymarathon.com/

What are you running in May?

Know a great race that had to go virtual due to the virus? Got a run club that’s “meeting” online? Drop a link to the registration page with your comment!

Take a few minutes to stop and care for your mental health, too. (c) Styled Stock Society

As you’ve probably noticed, the situation with COVID-19, our novel coronavirus, is very fluid. That’s unsettling in and of itself. People generally like stable situations, not constant flux. People generally don’t like change. Some people (like me) don’t like not having control. All of these can leave you feeling a bit lost and adrift, especially in the sea of misinformation that is the internet. (That’s before we even think about turning on a news broadcast!)

Plus it’s not a “fun” flux. We’re not getting happy news or pleasant surprises. Waiting for more shoes to drop is enough to make anyone anxious. On top of that we are supposed to practice social distancing, which largely means “stay home.” For those of us who get our social needs met at work and other activities, this can lead to loneliness or depression on top of anxiety. Even for dyed-in-the-wool introverts.

Please note that I am not a licensed counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or any other flavor of qualified mental health practitioner. PLEASE seek professional help immediately if you are in crisis!

Resources for Crisis and Immediate Need

Feelings of scarcity around money and food can be eating disorder triggers. Some resources:

These are definitely not the only resources available–a quick Google search may help you locate something more appropriate. (I welcome comments below with the equivalent services in your country or location.)

Even a short pause during the day to clear your mind can help. (c) Styled Stock Society

Stressed, Depressed, Anxious?

Many Americans are feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious due to the current situation with COVID-19. I’m writing this to provide a collection of potential resources to those feeling stressed or anxious. General mental hygiene advice is good, but it is easy to dismiss as out-of-touch with the current reality. Here are some people and organizations to keep an eye on during this time, following by a list of articles you might find helpful.

VirusAnxiety.com is the very first resource I found that attempts to address mental health and well-being specifically related to COVID-19. Because it is easy to remember, I’ve been splattering it everywhere. I find the simple layout of the site soothing.

Grokker (the fitness app/streaming service) has put together a free course on COVID-19 Coronavirus Prpeparedness. It is a sane guide to fact-based knowledge, no hype at all. One of the videos is dedicated to reducing stress and anxiety. It’s free, and you don’t need a grokker account to watch.

Xen Strength. Founder Danielle Diamond is offering a free guided meditation with full-body relaxation. You can access it online here.

Marie Forleo is a force of nature, and a woman I admire greatly. How many people do you know who have been Reebok dance professional and go on to run a business empire?? Her collection of resources is called “Coronavirus Support Guide: How to Stay Strong & Navigate This Time Together.” It has a curated collection for several topics, including stress and anxiety, “feel good” stuff, how to work from home, how to educate and entertain your kids, and how to serve your community. The comments section is also worth a read. Something for everyone.

Brendan Burchard is also a force of nature (and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him on video talking to Marie!). He recently did a live stream focused on leadership and keeping focus while the COVID-19 situation develops. These are specifically geared towards people who are coaches, or in leadership positions, but I think anyone would find them valuable. “Coronavirus Response: Fear, Focus and Forecasting.” This is more of a tough-love approach.

Ramit Sethi the author and speaker, is hosting “Fireside Chats” every night at 8:30 pm eastern in IG live https://www.instagram.com/ramit He has a list of topics posted on his Instagram, with more to come.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some resources. They are largely aimed at specific populations. I found them a bit dry, but I didn’t click through to the children’s activities.

5 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety During the Coronavirus Outbreak.”  https://www.shape.com/syndication/coronavirus-anxiety? Valuable advice includes limiting your media diet and realizing that it is actually okay to be worried. (Everyone is worried a little bit, even if they are not anxious!). A quick read.

“How to Cope with Anxiety—Now, in 60 Minutes, and Long Term.”https://greatist.com/health/how-to-cope-with-anxiety This is more of a how to do it article, with a list of suggestions, but also instructions on how to execute them. It doesn’t just advise you to “breathe deeply” but instead offers a specific step-by-step. There are linked resources for apps, articles, and citations (backing claims with sources).

Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a website with a specific page dedicated to COVID-19. There are links to a bunch of different essays, news articles where members are quoted, and links to resources on PTSD. A number of resources specifically address talking to teens and children.

American Psychological Association has a podcast episode specific to COVID-19. The guest is “Baruch Fischhoff, PhD, is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and an expert on public perception of risk and human judgment and decision-making. He explains why we worry about new risks more than familiar ones, how to calm our anxiety and what are the psychological effects of being quarantined.”

AHA Voices for Healthy Kids. https://voicesforhealthykids.org/internal/coronavirus-covid-19-resources-you-can-use They describe this collection as a “list of coronavirus resources from our partners and grantees on the frontlines of helping families in underrepresented communities:”

“49 things to do if you’re staying at home due to Coronavirus.”https://medium.com/@neilpasricha/49-things-to-do-if-youre-staying-home-due-to-coronavirus-19b9e47a3cfe This list includes both adult thinks (like reading a long but worthwhile book) and kid-friendly ones, like making a pillow fort. There are links to online resources (the most popular TED talks of 2019, anyone?).  Many of these ideas are about establishing new habits, which seems like a good idea when your entire daily routine has been shot to hell.

“21 Productive Things to Do Today” https://www.urbandaddy.com/articles/43291/21-productive-things-to-do-today The subtitle promises that each one is “social distancing approved.” Some of these are humorous, but all are things you can actually do. Some are short (donate to your favorite charity) others are longer-term projects like learning a foreign language. This is a short, quick read.

“COVID-19: Tips for Working Remotely And Combating Stress.”https://www.lizandmollie.com/blog/2020/3/12/covid-19-tips-for-working-remotely-and-combating-stress Yes, in 2020 it is much more common for people to “telecommute” than it was back when I was growing up in the 1980s. That doesn’t mean all of us know how to do it. Personally, I thought it would be much easier than it has turned out to be. This article has 7 suggestions to help those of us who are new to this way of working. (Heck, I don’t even have an office! I’m working from the sofa and dining table!)

“11 Tips for Staying Calm During the Time of the Coronavirus.” https://gretchenrubin.com/2020/03/10-tips-for-staying-calm-during-coronavirus Gretchen Rubin’s article goes well with a mug of warm tea or a mocha, in my mind. Some of the tips are standard fare (connect with friends and family, reach out to others to help you feel less isolated) but are, of course, sincere. My favorite tip is to tidy up, because even though it makes no actual sense, that has always made me less anxious. (Also since I just moved in November, and have a few projects going on, my house is in a shambles and needs it!)

“9 Ways to Make Working From Home More Joyful”https://www.aestheticsofjoy.com/2020/03/9-ways-to-make-working-from-home-more-joyful/ Whether you love working from home or resent being pushed out of your office, here are a few ways to make your working day better. Getting some sunshine has really helped me out.

“4 Tips for Not Touching Your Face, Since It’s So Hard To Stop.”https://www.shape.com/syndication/how-to-stop-touching-your-face? Why do we touch our own faces? I don’t know, but I know I do it too. It’s one of those things they tell you NOT to do as a kid, again again when you’re a tween or teen and your face breaks out. But it sems like we do it all the time without even noticing!

Can you find a few minutes in your day to unplug and unwind? (c) Styled Stock Society

How are you caring for your mental health?

What are your go-to practices and resources?

Disclosure: Portions of this post were provided by New Hope Network and are from Melaina Juntti’s article, “10 Ways to Say No to Plastic.”  I am a member of the New Hope Influencer Co-op, a network of health and wellness bloggers committed to spreading more health to more people. New Hope is NOT related to #PlasticFreeJuly, which is based in Australia.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen a lot of information about plastic recently. Whether it is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the fact that China is no longer accepting plastic from the United States for recycling, we are generating more plastic waste than ever.

Humans have generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since 1950, when plastic first came into common usage, according to a 2017 University of Georgia study. What’s more, almost 80 percent of that plastic is still sitting in landfills or junking up the environment. Plastic—even the “biodegradable” kind—is a permanent substance and in the United States we are using it to solve problems that last for just a minute. (Most biodegradable plastics just break down into smaller and smaller pieces, which might become fish food.) It clogs waterways, chokes out wildlife, and emits an unfriendly mix of chemicals (when it burns or breaks down) that leech into water and soil.

Join me for #PlasticFreeJuly

I just learned about the Plastic Free July Challenge, and I’m game. Are you? According to the Challenge website, the top four sources of plastic waste in takeaway/to-go items are bags, straws, bottles, and coffee cups (either the foam-like self-insulating cups, or the lids on paper cups).

Ideally plastic is like junk food: just don’t bring it home, and you can’t use it. In reality? I get it. There are some applications for which there isn’t a good non-plastic option available to you. (I can think of some medical items that I would rather not re-use, for example!) If you absolutely have to get a plastic thing, choose the least plastic you can, and choose the option that is reusable and try to re-use it as long as you can. Large yogurt containers, for example, can be re-used for storing leftovers (or broken crayon bits, or legos, or…).

Image courtesy of New Hope Blogger Co-op

Tip #1: Skip Even More Plastic Bags

Choose to Reuse–at ALL The Stores. If you’re a green shopper you probably already bring your own your own re-usable shopping bags to the grocery store. (Do you take them to Target, too?)  If you’re choosing paper, remember that you have to re-use them multiple times to reduce the environmenal impact of making them (otherwise the single-use plastic is actually more Earth-friendly, no kidding). I keep mine in the car so they are there when I go shopping, and keep a Chico Bag (or two–they’re small) in my backpack. Next up, do you really need to toss those individual green peppers into a disposable plastic bag? You’re going to wash them before you eat them, so letting them go free-range in your cart shouldn’t be a big deal. Other alternatives: get reusable mesh produce bags, or toss produce right into your cloth shopping bags while you finish shopping. And  hey, you don’t need that giant plastic tote from the running store either. Your shoes come in boxes, and you can choose a reusable bag instead–if you work out, you probably have a few dozen.

Avoid the Plastic Wrap Trap. You can save time (and money!) by using a reusable beeswax paper wrap such as Bees Wrap. Many beeswax wrappers will stick to themselves to seal. Just be careful when you wash them: make sure the water is not so hot that the wax melts, and use the softer side of the sponge. When you’re done, many of these wraps are compostable or at least repurpose-able (no more wax = fabric for craft projects). Not ready to commit to beeswax wrap? Try aluminum foil. If you don’t crush it you can wash it and re-use it multiple times. When it has reached the end of its useful life, give it a thorough bath, dry it off, and toss it into in the recycling bin.

Skip the plastic baggies too. At home, choose re-usable storage containers. While those made by baggie companies are reusable, invest in something sturdier that will last longer.  IKEA has plastic containers with rubber-sealed lids for $1 each piece, and the ones I’ve had for years are in great shape. You can also choose glass (glass lids are easy at home but tricky in lunches), though I admit it’s less than ideal for families with young children who mess around in the fridge. For lunchboxes, you can wrap sandwiches in waxed paper (which is also compostable, though not accepted by all municipal compost facilities). I’m using silicone “bags” that are resealable and reusable by Stasher. So far, they are holding up very well to multiple uses, reuses, and washes. As a bonus, they are dishwasher safe. Perfect for my pre-race and post-race snacks. They come in multiple colors, include fun limited edition shades.

At the races, skip the plastic bags! You’ve got multiple ways to skip plastic bags here. (1) Unless a race is FORCING you to use a plastic bag as your checked bag, DON’T TAKE ONE! If you run a bunch of races in the same series that insists on using plastic bags (such as Revel or Rock ‘n’ Roll) REUSE your bag. It’s the same identical bag, you don’t need another one. (2) Don’t use a plastic garbage bag as a warm-up in the corrals. Instead, either use clothing you’re willing to toss, or buy something very cheap at the thrift store (bathrobe, anyone?). Clothing tossed at start lines often goes to charity, and some races put it directly on the backs of local people experiencing homelessness (after a good washing, of course). (3) If you carry supplies in a plastic bag–which isn’t a terrible idea, since rain and smart phones don’t go together–choose a freezer bag, and then reuse it. Freezer bags are slightly thicker than regular zip-top bags, which means you can reuse it dozens of times before you will need to replace it. If you’re not going to use your phone to take pictures, a Stasher bag might work well too.

Skip the Plastic Bags at the Gym! Lots of gyms have a roll of plastic bags in the locker room to bag up your wet swimsuit or sweaty gym clothes. As nice as it is to keep those sweaty, wet things from getting loose in your gym bag, a plastic bag is not the best way. Instead, try using your swim  or shower towel to wrap those things. I lay the towel on the bench, layer on the wet stuff, fold the towel in half, and then roll it up like sushi.

Image courtesy of New Hope Blogger Co-op

Tip #2: Choose Wines That Use Real Corks

Celebrate Sustainably! Trust me, I enjoy a good post-race bubbly or glass of shower wine. I’m definitely NOT begrudging you yours! About 15 years ago, buzz began circulating that cork, the classic wine preserver, wasn’t so sustainable. There was concern that cork tree forests were being depleted, so perhaps plastic wine stoppers would be better. Well, the truth is cork production is pretty darned sustainable. The bark can be stripped and used to make wine closures without cutting the trees down, and this process actually makes the trees better able to offset carbon dioxide. Also, Mediterranean cork forests host some of the greatest plant biodiversity on the planet, according to the World Wildlife Fund. So next time you’re selecting wine, opt for bottles with real-cork corks, not plastic stoppers. As a bonus, many wineries will accept corks for recycling, or you can  get a cork box through TerraCycle.

Check Your Inner Wine Snob. As an intermediate option, don’t snub your nose at screw-top wine. While screw-tops used to be endlessly mocked as they were only used on cheap, poor quality wines, now even big and fancy wineries are looking at screw-tops. They make it easier to re-seal your wine bottle, but also tend to protect your wine better than corks. And hey, there’s always that old college staple. (No, not Boone’s Farm!) Boxed wine, while lined with a plastic bag, keeps much longer than bottled wine. If you only indulge every now and again, boxed wine might be your best bet…and the more people nudging the wine makers to recycle their packaging, the more likely it is that it will happen.

Stay Tuned for More Tips to Just Say No to Plastic!

In the meanwhile, what’s your top “just say no to plastic” tip? Do you have a tip that is especially applicable to runners?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog Team. Science in Sport provided members of the team with a sampler box of gels, but I had already placed an order–and accidentally ordered two boxes!–so I have two boxes to give away. Neither this post nor the giveaway are sponsored. All opinions are my own.

The biggest sale of the 2019 Rock ‘n’ Roll season is on NOW!

It ends at midnight, PST, December 13. Not only are these the best prices you will see all year, TourPass now comes in three options (3 pack, 10 pack, and unlimited), has tiered pricing (the sooner you buy, the less you will pay), and has a payment plan option. Plus there are new perks for TourPass holders. In addition, the first six of the designs for the new Heavy Medals have been announced. If you’re planning to run any Rock ‘n’ Roll races in 2019, NOW is the time to sign up.

Group photo at San Diego
The crew at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego 2018

As you know (and have likely heard unless you don’t know any other runners), 2018 was a rough year for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. Following acquisition by IronMan (which in turn is owned by a Chinese holding company), the San Diego area Rock ‘n’ Roll office was essentially eliminated, some staff roles were combined, and some personnel relocated to the Ironman offices in Tampa. Since Ironman has been putting on quality triathlons—much more complicated as there is a cycling and swim component in addition to a road race—I was initially optimistic about 2018. Ironman promised to bring Rock ‘n’ Roll back to its roots and focus on “the on-course experience,” touting improvements to courses, entertainment, and more. Unfortunately the organization’s hype inflated everyone’s expectations, and frequently failed to deliver the goods. (A laundry list of the problems would take multiple blog posts.) As a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, most of the year I had no idea what was going on, or only received information when it was too late to do anything with it, a symptom of the larger problem of poor internal communication and rampant disorganization. Worse, Ironman irritated the most dedicated group of natural series ambassadors, those who run enough marathons and half marathons to qualify for the Hall of Fame (15 races) by eliminating the unlimited TourPass  option, cancelling the marathon finisher jackets, and pumping out generic event shirts.

Photo stop at Rock n Roll Seattle
Clowning around at a photo station at Rock n Roll Seattle 2018

Mid-way through the season, Ironman made some attempts at course-correction, including improved, location-specific finisher medals and event shirts cute enough to actually wear again. After what I assume were some internal personnel shuffles and new hires, Ironman started to reach out to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s legacy runners, and get to work addressing other areas of runner feedback.

While Dallas, Raleigh, Carlsbad, and Los Angeles are no longer Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour Stops (and I still personally mourn the cancellation of Portland and Vancouver), it’s likely the series will continue to expand into the international market. Predictably, the series added a number of races in China in 2018, but also added races in Mexico and South America. I don’t have any inside scoop on this but I’m betting there will be new races added in 2019. If you’re interested in hopping a flight to China, the TourPass Unlimited may be your best option.

Yesterday’s announcement of the new TourPass options is a great indicator that the Ironman team is “getting it.” The return of the TourPass unlimited means more runners will Remix the weekends, running a 5k or 10k in addition to the full or half marathon. The difference between a 10-pack and the Unlimited is $300, so a runner planning to hit 10 Tour Stops is essentially getting each of the 5k/10k races at $30 each, a significant savings over individual event pricing.

Next year, I’m running San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. (I just announced I’m training for the Chicago Marathon, in addition ton conquering the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, so I’m kinda booked for 2019. Look for me holding a TourPass Unlimited in 2020!)

Important Tips for Planning your 2019 Tour!

The BEST price on all TourPasses is ONLY available on December 13, 2018. If you wait until December 14, you will pay an additional $50 for the 10-pack and the Unlimited. Wait until January and the price will rise again–and this year, the TourPass has a deadline to purchase. Get in early, or miss out.

The BEST price on all of the races is available on December 13, 2018. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series uses a tiered pricing model, where the price goes up the closer it gets to the race. Typically the very best price is offered at the expo for the race (e.g. I signed up for San Francisco 2019 at the expo earlier this year), and then registration is closed for a short time, after which the prices go up. Many of these races have already gone to higher-tiered pricing, and if you wait until after the sale you will have to pay the higher price.

Missed the sale? Register NOW to save yourself from the next price increases.

Got questions about the races? Fire away! I’ve run Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Arizona, Philadelphia, Chicago, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and more. If I don’t know the answer, I can help you find it.

Bain drinks chocolate milk
Pro Tip: finish your race with chocolate milk!

Registration for the Heavy Medals Program—bonus bling you earn for running more than one Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon or half marathon during the year—is FREE but is NOT AUTOMATIC. You MUST register separately for the Heavy Medals Program, even if you buy a TourPass.

Train with what’s on the course! Race day is not the time to find out your tummy doesn’t like the gels or electrolytes on course. To that end, why not enter to win a sampler box of Science in Sport, the official gel of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series?

Giveaway!

Prizes: I have two sampler boxes to give away, and each winner will also score some stocking-stuffer treats.

Rules: Open only to U.S. mailing addresses. (This is because postage is expensive, and because some countries have picky rules about what kind of food and nutritional supplements you are allowed to send in by mail.) Entries will be verified, so please follow the directions. Winners will be notified by email and be required to respond and provide a mailing address to receive their prizes. Failure to respond in the specified time will forfeit the prize.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Yesterday, the Portland Board of Marathon Directors announced that there will be no Portland Marathon in 2018. Further, the organization is dissolving, and all remaining funds will be donated to local charities. The 2500 runners who already registered for the 2018 event will receive full refunds.

I loved and adored this race.

The Portland Marathon was my first marathon. After moving to Oregon in 2001, I got involved in Volkssports, which in the United States largely consist of untimed 5k and 10k walks hosted by local clubs. Participants track the number of events they have completed in one booklet, and the number of kilometers in another. As soon as I learned there was a walking division for the 42k Portland Marathon, I started talking my friends into walking it with me. In the end, it was me, my friend Susan, and my Dad. During the marathon we called Mom every few miles to give her an update.

I loved that marathon, which gave the three of us a ton of things to laugh about later. At one point, Dad turned to Susan and asked how she was doing. Susan smiled and said, “I think I should have packed Advil, because I am in some MAJOR pain.” Later in the course we were greeted by a tiny grandmotherly women who caught up with us. She asked if it was our first marathon, and we chatted for a few minutes before she told us to enjoy ourselves, and “I’ve got to go now. Goodbye!” Still walking, she sped ahead of us and we saw the sign on her back: this is my 50th marathon, how ’bout you? Yes, we got looped by the friendly neighborhood powerwalking grandmother. After Susan drove us back to my apartment, Dad and I learned why you shouldn’t immediately sit down after a marathon–getting up was so hard!–and slowly climbed the stairs to my second story apartment. Then I dropped my keys. We both started to bend down to pick them up, and we both stopped. (If you’ve completed a marathon, you know why!)

The Portland Marathon was the first race expo I ever went to, in the basement ballrooms of the downtown Hilton. Now that I’ve been to hundreds of race expos, I realize it wasn’t even that large in terms of race expos, but it was very exciting. I remember seeing all of the vendors and their running stuff, the weigh-in for the Clydesdale and Athena divisions, and the barbell station for the “pump and run” competition. As a walker, this was all foreign to me. There were attachments to your bib to indicate you wanted to have your picture taken, and another to confirm we had paid the local AVA club so they could stamp our walking books.

The finish line was my first big race finish line, complete with big finish line goodies. After receiving the medal–a shiny wonder on a red, white, and blue ribbon that I cherish–we received FINISHER shirts. (My first race shirts. My first shirts from Leslie Jordan, the first big athletic apparel company founded by a woman–also a local company.) All runners received a rose, a tree seedling, and other gifts, in addition to the gigantic buffet of post-race food: bananas, snacks, water, gatorade, slices of bread…I was hungry but couldn’t contemplate eating the dizzying buffet that lined the post-chute area.

I loved the Portland Marathon so much I did it three more times, and talked other friends into joining me. One year I even made it to the after party. (The first year, after Dad and I showered, we slept for many hours. Too tired to deal with anything, we ordered a pizza for dinner.)

I loved the iconic course, which showed off the entire city. (Until the city ruined the course last year, more on that later.) Runners went through downtown, the gates to Chinatown, under the Steel Bridge, over the St. John’s Bridge, and covered parts of each quarter of the city. The course went through a variety of neighborhoods, where residents threw marathon parties with signs, and kids got out sidewalk chalk and pom-poms and acted like cheerleaders. It have views of the Cascades, Swan Island, and the city’s skyline. The course literally was the finisher shirt design for many years, which I also loved (though some people were annoyed that the design was the same from year to year).

I loved how much of the city got involved in the marathon. There was entertainment at literally every mile (and you thought the Rock ‘n’ Roll series invented that idea? Nope!). I remember belly dancers, classical musicians, a Christian rock band. The course was staffed by volunteers from all sorts of groups; I first got involved in the marathon as a volunteer with the Penn State Club, as the Big Ten Clubs of Portland manned a water stop and several course monitor/directions posts.

I loved how much the marathon gave back. For years the Portland Marathon hosted “marathon school,” to teach other race directors how to put on a world-class event. The Portland Marathon was a world-class event. People came from all over the world to run it. Runners World consistently listed it as a destination race and a bucket list race. The marathon gave money to local charities, too.

For years after I started running, any time someone asked for a race recommendation, the Portland Marathon was at the top of my list. When I moved back to Portland in 2017, I was excited about the possibility of running the 50th annual Portland Marathon. I wasn’t the only one in love with this event, which The Bleacher Report called an “exceptional all-around event.”

A few bad apples spoil the cider.

Unfortunately, underneath this all a gigantic mess was brewing.

First, former Portland Marathon director, Les Smith, had embezzled a boatload of funds from the non-profit marathon. (Source for this fact and others in this paragraph. I should point out he ended up working out a deal and so wasn’t convicted of any crime and did not admit any guilt–but you don’t agree to pay back $845,000 that you didn’t take in the first place. Fortunately he’s banned from serving on non-profits, planning races, and practicing law as part of the agreement.) Like hundreds of thousands of dollars. So much that the Oregon Department of Justice was involved. In addition, there was a questionable relationship between the non-profit Portland Marathon and a for-profit company called Next Events that Smith partially owned. That investigation isn’t quite over. It’s pretty understandable that once this news broke, runners were uneasy about signing up to run the Portland Marath0n.

Second, that iconic course? It died an ugly death. The final year for the fast, flat (other than the lead-ups to the bridges) course was 2016. The first thing every announcement cites is “declining registration.” I am positive the destruction of the beautiful course directly resulted in a decline in registrations. The 2016 race also hit a snafu when the safety plan didn’t get approved by the Portland Fire Bureau, which seems kind of unthinkable since the race had a 40+ year history and surely the organization knew what it would take to file a proper plan, and on race day had not circulated the approved plan to the race officials and volunteers–the course was almost shut down. The race also directed runners to run extra mileage.

(That op-ed piece from The Oregonian–Portland’s newspaper–also documents other problems, including handing the first place trophy to the third place winner. In the end, Oregonian staff called for Portland to find another organization to organize the 2017 Portland Marathon.)

Sometime between when I moved to California in 2008 and 2o17, Portland became very antagonistic to races. I had barely started to run a 5k here and there by the time I left, but at that point all of the races I did were downtown, with a start and finish convenient to local brunches. When I moved back, I was shocked to learn that many of those courses, such as Pints to Pasta, had not only moved out of downtown, but had moved to other cities! This is baffling to me, as many runners meet up with friends after events for drinks or brunch (or both), and I definitely did some shopping after some of those races.

After the 2016 race, the city of Portland forced the course change, supposedly on the grounds that there were not enough Portland police officers to take care of the epic, historic course of the Portland Marathon. (When Runners World is publishing the scoop to the entire running world, that has to hurt registration too.) I’m not privvy to the internal discussions on that, but I have definitely been to races that used trained volunteers and police from other jurisdictions where the host city couldn’t supply the number of police the city required. The 2017 almost didn’t happen because the marathon organization ignored the requirement for a new course (and I’m guessing did not submit any alternative proposals for police coverage). Just a month out from the marathon, the event did not have a permit. According to that Runners World article, the marathon also still owed a police bill from the 2016 race!

In the end, the 2017 was pretty awful-looking, and I was glad I had not signed up to run. Instead of the gorgeous loop that showed off the best of the city, the course was largely an out-and-back along main roads and the freeway. Yuck. If I had been registered, I would have been pissed, despite the then-director’s attempt to spin the course as flatter and faster and even more BQ-friendly. Big ol’ bowl of NOPE there.

The 2017 race almost did not happen–surely another cause for declining registrations for 2018. For those who didn’t read about it in Runners World (the article is linked above), the city officials and race officials had a terrible working relationship after the 2016 event–no surprise even given the little I know–and by June 2017 the Oregon Department of Justice was investigating Smith. (That’s actually what kept me from registering in the first place.)

The Portland Marathon’s official statement regarding the cancellation of the marathon and dissolution of the organization is here. I find it is less than transparent, and downright dishonest in some aspects. Can you blame the city for wanting to “move in another direction” after the serious problems in 2016 and the discovery that the former race director embezzled nearly a million dollars from what was supposed to be a charitable group–one that was the face of Portland to thousands world wide? How is it that the Board of Directors failed to notice that the organization was breaking the law? (Smith and his partner, Mamie Wheeler, were the only two officers of both the non-profit Portland Marathon and their for-profit Next Events–creating a massive conflict of interest–in violation of Oregon law. Since Smith had been race director for 30 years and was also an attorney, he definitely knew better.)

In the face of what amounts to a dumpster fire, I believe the Portland Marathon organization had no choice but to dissolve. It abused the trust (and time and work) of runners and volunteers alike. The city had openly solicited proposals for another group to produce the event. After a rest, I’m hoping the city finds another race director who has the experience and integrity to give Portland the marathon it so richly deserves.