Monday, April 21, 2014

Double Weekend Part 1: Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

The Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon in Springfield, IL had been on my radar for awhile. It was a chance to visit a new state, see some historical sites, and earn a fabulous replica penny medal. A few other friends were also interested and we all finally decided that this would be the year we would fit it into our race schedules. Coincidentally, the race was celebrating it's 50th anniversary.

After planning had begun, I noticed that the Lincoln race was on a Saturday, and a half marathon was taking place in St. Louis on Sunday. Debate remains over how exactly this evolved from "let's all meet in the middle of the country and run a fun, small town race" to "hey, we could run in two states on one trip." What isn't debatable is that there was little resistance to this idea, despite the fact that most of us had never run a "double" before. The most important thing was that we'd have each other to get through it.

The trip started very very early on Friday morning with three of us on an early flight out of BWI to St. Louis. We were the first group of six people total flying in there that morning. We had managed to coordinate flight arrivals from BWI, Orlando, Dallas, and Austin within about a two hour window.

Everyone arrived on time, we hopped into rental cars, and we set off to the expo for Sunday's race. This way we'd have our stuff and wouldn't have to rush back to St. Louis the next day after the race in Springfield. We were also able to pick up bibs for our friends who were traveling directly to Springfield from Michigan, Boston (by way of Chicago), and Memphis. The expo was small, but had a nice variety of vendors. We then had a fabulous lunch and drinks at the nearby Scottish Arms Restaurant before heading out to Springfield. The weekend was already off to a great start!

It's about an hour and a half drive from St. Louis to Springfield. This was my first visit to the Midwest and I was fascinated to see how flat it all was. As we pulled into town, it was easy to spot our hotel, as it was about 24 stories tall with no tall neighboring buildings. This was handy while wandering around town. We didn't need to look at a map to find our way "home."

The six of us from St. Louis arrived at nearly the exact time as the car from Michigan with our Bostonian on board. We checked into our rooms and headed out for some sightseeing, mainly the Lincoln Home. After a great tour we tried to find some dinner. This is where some things kind of fell apart in our plans. It turns out there's not alot of options in downtown Springfield. We ended up a pizza place and all ordered some carryout to take back to the hotel. Sadly, our food took an hour.

The night before the race it was time to lay out race clothes. I really hemmed and hawed on this. I stalked the forecast all week and ended up packing pretty much every possibly combination of running outfits that I could. It looked like it would be in the low 30s with a bit of wind, so I laid out tights and a couple of long sleeve shirts. When we woke up the next morning, the wind was less and it was going to be a bit warmer. I was able to go with a skirt, and a short sleeved shirt with long sleeves over top, along with a pair of gloves. It was perfect!

The race start was right around the corner from our hotel, so the group of us met up in the lobby before heading over and lining up. After some encouraging words from President Lincoln, and the firing of a musket, we were off!

Carrie, Kelly, Patrick, and I started off together doing our 1:1's. We were cruising, but also trying to hold back a bit for tomorrow. The course took us by the state capitol, Lincoln's Home, some beautiful neighborhoods, and some city parks. It was lovely! The highlight was a loop in the cemetery where the President is buried. I was tempted to split off and view the monument closer up, but I had already lost a few minutes to a bathroom stop.

After crossing the finish line we were presented with a giant medal. In honor of the race's 50th anniversary, they deviated from the normal penny design, and instead used a five dollar bill for their inspiration. Everyone agreed it was a great race, and one we'd really like to come back for!

Our group finished and hung out for a few minutes, snacking on some of the post race goodies. We saved our appetites though, as we had a wonderful brunch waiting for us thanks to Megan's parents. We hoped back into the cars and headed back to St. Louis.