My first half marathon was a beautiful 13.1 miles through the countryside just outside of Abilene, Kansas on a crisp spring morning in April 2013. The Eisenhower Marathon is a small race, typically bringing about 500 participants from the 5k to marathon distances all together. The city of Abilene comes together for a pasta dinner Friday evening, and pancake brunch following the races Saturday morning. The expo is very small but the volunteers are extremely helpful and friendly.
The course is flat, fast, and fully paved with only one short but steep uphill section in the half marathon. The marathon course is a Boston Qualifier, double loop of the half marathon course. The start and finish are in downtown Abilene, near the Eisenhower Presidential Center, and head south out of town on a highway that follows the Old Chisholm Trail from the 1800s. Around mile 2.5 you climb the single hill on the course and enter Brown Memorial Park until mile 5. After another mile or so on paved country roads, you turn around to run the course in reverse which makes it an easy course for spectators.
I had two goals for this race: run the entire thing, and finish it! I didn't have a GPS watch, just a regular stop watch and an app on my phone to tell me my pace every mile. I was not great at pacing yet and my first mile was around 8:20. I remember telling myself to slow down, but not to a walk! The course was absolutely beautiful on this spring morning, with a fog visible over the fields as the sun rose. With the race being so small there were plenty of times I was running alone, which I was used to from training. I did have music as well as my app keeping me going.
After the race we enjoyed pancakes and waited around for awards. The great thing about small races... you're more likely to place! I took second in my age group (out of three... ha!). I finished in 1:55:35, with an overall pace of 8:49 per mile, and ran every step of the way! Not too bad for my first half marathon. At this point I hadn't yet decided to run in all 50 states but I did know I wanted to run another half marathon!
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